I well remember the day I packed my bags to move to the Land of Affliction. I had lived in the Land of Ease for 35 years and, to tell you the truth, I took most things for granted. I never really appreciated the fact that I could just pick up and leave the house and go wherever my little heart wanted. My life up to that point had been effortless, pretty simple with few difficulties. And then the pain arrived like an unwelcome guest that settles in then decides to never leave. It became increasingly difficult to function like others in the Land of Ease so it was appointed that I should head to the Land of Affliction.
As I approached the gate I saw a quote engraved in the stone above the entry. It read, “Those who suffer are deemed worthy by the King”. I have to confess that at the beginning of this journey I was terribly scared; this was a whole new world for me. But I did have some measure of hope when I saw the sign. I was deemed worthy by the King. The King? I was so glad to be reminded that the King lives here, in the Land of Affliction and that I am His daughter.
The first night I didn’t sleep well. Really, who am I kidding? No one ever sleeps well here. In the Land of Ease, sleep came so easily. I would just lay down at night, and very soon it would be morning. Effortless. However, in this new land sleep was difficult for everyone. All through the night you might see lights turned on at various times in various rooms. Folks trying to cope with their ailments the best they could. It doesn’t take long to realize that afflictions don’t sleep even though you might want to.
The next morning I took a walk around the town. I saw so many people with obvious physical impairments. The thought struck me, “Perhaps I don’t belong here. The King made a mistake. Maybe I am just a temporary guest”. But then I saw people who looked perfectly fine. They looked quite normal. Like me. I realized we were the folks with invisible illnesses. Our afflictions cannot be seen with your eyes, things like chronic pain, emotional distress, mental brokenness. However, as I got to know people better I realized it didn’t matter whether your ailment was visible or not. We all shared the same thing. A sense of loneliness. All of us were lonely for our old lives. We were far from what we knew, our ordinary daily routines. We had experienced enormous loss. Many of us had lost our jobs, lost our energy, lost touch with friends, or lost the ability to care for ourselves, even lost the capacity to think clearly.
It was overwhelming and confusing at first. Growing up I always thought afflictions were for the elderly. But looking around I saw people there of all ages and backgrounds. You can imagine my surprise when I saw so many children. Very small ones with various ailments. I found it interesting that they always had their parents with them. I finally realized “Of course, as a parent you bear your child’s affliction as heavily as if it were your own.” So they lived there with their child, there in the Land of Affliction.
As the days passed I was welcomed warmly by the permanent residents. There was an immediate feeling of deep care and understanding from each of them. It was reassuring to realize I didn’t have to explain myself. They just knew I was suffering and they comforted me. My absolute favorite times were when they would share Words of Wisdom from the King. Nothing better.
If you were to visit the Land of Affliction for a day, I think the first thing you would notice is the pace. Everything moves much slower here. Many of us are using all of our energy just to figure out how to make it through the day. Over time I have become frustratingly aware of my weaknesses. It is humbling when you simply can’t do what you used to do. However, the good news is that any time I accomplish anything now I know I am aided by divine strength…strengthened by the King. This is acceptable service.
The next thing you might notice is that I don’t look anything like I did in the Land the of Ease. The changes aren’t just physical either, I am different on the inside. There just seems to be less of the old me, like I am fading. Gone are the days that I was into everyone else’s business. Gone is the energy to accomplish grand feats to please others. It is as if I have been emptied so I could be filled. Unexpectedly filled now with an abundance of quiet and peaceful days. This is a good thing.
I have just looked over what I have written to you, dear reader, and I can see that you might harbor some fear about coming here to live someday. Put aside those fears. That was never my intention. The opposite, in fact. If you are called you must come. I admit that adapting to this new home is a process and sometimes you must wade through resentment and bitterness but also you will be blessed more than I can tell you in this short note. You may think those of us living here should be pitied. You would be wrong. We have something very special here that none of us enjoyed in the Land of Ease. Every day we have the luxury of time to walk and talk with the King. Yes, in this Land He is remarkably close to us. Our quiet lives allow for times of sweet fellowship and we develop a constant dependence on the Servant King. He was a Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief Himself, thus He is the most amazing comforter you could ever want. He makes His home with us here. All of us here know that when you live in the Land of Affliction you live close to the King. That is what makes it so wonderful – The Wonderful Land of Affliction!
As time has passed I realized what the King, the Lord, had known all along. I am never going back to the Land of Ease. This is home now. It was He who ordained that I should dwell here. I truly believe, now, that it is the best thing for me. Living a life of pain changed me like nothing else could. I have become desperate for the Shepherd King and now He draws me close and walks next to me every day. And it’s a good thing. You know, there are some days that I think I can see His home from here. He has said that He is even making a special room there for me. How great is that! I thought recently that if I loose my battle with this disease and the time comes for my final move I really won’t have far to go – I live that close!
There is so much more to say, dear one, but I am weary now and my closest friend called “pain” is demanding my attention. It might be important for you to know that writing is NOT one of my natural gifts. In fact, I avoid it whenever possible. However, the King has laid it on my heart today to tell you my story and I am so grateful you have taken the time to hear it.
Praying blessings on you wherever you live…
BARBARA COLEMAN is a ministry wife serving alongside her husband Mike for over 40 years. In the past, she has led Bible studies and been a women’s retreat speaker. Now she spends her time painting. Barbara has three grown sons and six grandchildren. She lives in Bowie, MD.
Radical hope. Compassionate change. Equipping those affected by chronic physical and mental illness through community and education rooted in Jesus Christ.