One day, they told us, an enormous snake—much longer than a man—slithered its way right through their front door and into the kitchen of their simple home. Terrified, they ran outside and searched frantically for a local who might know what to do. A machete-wielding neighbor came to the rescue, calmly marching into their house and decapitating the snake with one clean chop.
The neighbor reemerged triumphant and assured the missionaries that the reptile had been defeated. But there was a catch, he warned: It was going to take a while for the snake to realize it was dead.
A snake’s neurology and blood flow are such that it can take considerable time for it to stop moving even after decapitation. For the next several hours, the missionaries were forced to wait outside while the snake thrashed about, smashing furniture and flailing against walls and windows, wreaking havoc until its body finally understood that it no longer had a head.
Sweating in the heat, they had felt frustrated and a little sickened but also grateful that the snake’s rampage wouldn’t last forever. And at some point in their waiting, they told us, they had a mutual epiphany.
I leaned in with the rest of the congregation, queasy and fascinated. “Do you see it?” asked the husband. “Satan is a lot like that big old snake. He’s already been defeated. He just doesn’t know it yet. In the meantime, he’s going to do some damage. But never forget that he’s a goner.”
(story from Christianity Today online, reposted on Patheos: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2011/03/30/the-thrashing-snake-is-dead/)
When we are facing terminal illness, it can be easy to lose hope. We forget that the pain, the sadness, the fear are only temporary. Yes, pain and suffering are the case here on earth for a little while. But, in reality, Satan has already been defeated. We can take comfort in the fact that Christ reigns and, one day, all pain and suffering will be over. Our tears will be no more.
Romans 8:18-28 -- “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
When you don’t know what to pray, when the days feel hopeless, remember the Spirit of God is interceding on your behalf. God knows your heart and is eager to come to your aid. This momentary suffering is not the end.
Megan Clark, M.A. Christian Counseling, is a wife, mother to three young children (one with multiple disabilities), and sometimes-counselor on Inheritance of Hope Legacy Retreats. She believes we can find hope, joy, and peace even in the most difficult of circumstances. She is grateful to Inheritance of Hope for always reminding her of that.