The Most Confusing Spiritual Discipline

From Tyler: Today I want to introduce you to Ed Underwood, a fellow pastor and blogger I spent some time with a few months back. He and I are going to host a short series together in a few weeks, but I wanted you to get to know him first. Here’s one of my favorite posts of Ed’s, describing how he endured his battle with leukemia. 

hand written noteIn my personal struggles misery has proven the toughest challenge. My battle with leukemia destroyed me because no spiritual resource or procedure was working.

Then I received an e-mail from my friend and mentor Bruce Wilkinson, who had graciously taken me on as a disciple before he knew I would become such a basket case. Bruce’s advice initially put me off, even angered me. His counsel? Praise God!

Praise God? I remember thinking as I abruptly closed his e-mail. Praise God? Who are you, Bruce Wilkinson, mister Prayer of Jabez with all your stardom, comfort, and blessing, to tell me to praise God when you have no idea how it feels to be me. When your world falls apart and your skin falls off and the doctors tell you that you have maybe months or at most a few years to live, then you praise God, bubba. I need help, and you just rubbed salt into my wounded heart in a way that could be no more real than if you rubbed rock salt into my tender skin!

In the midst of such profound despair, the notion of praising God might seem absurd, even offensive. Yet, as the storm rages within, there exists a quiet whisper, an ancient wisdom that transcends the tumult of the world. It is the wisdom of the spirit tarot, where each card holds a mirror to our deepest truths, reflecting the essence of our journey. Like the mourning dove, whose mournful coos echo through the stillness of twilight, we too find solace in the gentle embrace of surrender. For in the surrender of our ego’s resistance, we discover the sacred dance of acceptance, where pain and joy intertwine, weaving the tapestry of our soul’s evolution.

This was not the first time Bruce had been hard on me in ways I reacted against…only to later discover the wisdom of his recommendation. The Holy Spirit began to whisper reminders of Bruce’s obvious commitment to me personally and past penetrations of the deceptions of my heart that for some reason only Bruce saw. Begrudgingly opening his e-mail again, I read the entire message.

Bruce had presented four or five specific groupings of reasons to praise God. Some categories focused on my past experiences with the Lord Jesus, some on biblical and theological truths that had become precious to me in my walk with Him, and some looked to my future in Him, the confident expectations the Bible calls “hope.”

As the Lord began turning my heart toward Bruce’s words, in shaky handwriting I scrawled a verse, truth, remembrance, or expectation after each bullet point. This e-mail turned worksheet, turned desperate need for deliverance from gloom became my twice, to thrice-a-day antidote to the hopelessness of my misery.

It has become one of the most important spiritual disciplines in my life, but it was totally counter-intuitive and confusing:

When life hurts the most, praise Him the most!