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“Bruchko,” he said, “my body hurts.  I hurt everywhere.”  “Shh,” I said.  “You need to be quiet.  We want you to be well.  We want you to be strong.”  He shook his head, barely moving it.  “No, Bruchko.  I’m not well and I’m not strong.  I have closed my eyes.”  His eyes did close, and he slipped off.  I stayed near him.  Later he opened his eyes again.

“Bruchko, I heard a voice like the spirits that talk when they try to kill you.”  I nodded.  “But this voice called me by my secret name, by my real name.  No one alive knows my real name, but this spirit called me by my real name.  So I called to it and said, ‘Who are you?’ and it said, ‘I am Jesus, who has walked with you on the trail.’ . . . So I told Jesus that I hurt all over, from my head to my toes.  And Jesus said that he wants me to come home.”  His breath was coming with difficulty.

“Help me, brother!” he whispered, looking at me.  “Help me!”  Then he turned his eyes away.  “But you can’t,” he said.  “I’ve been embraced by death.  I’m leaving, Bruchko.  I’m leaving.  I can’t see.  There’s only pain.  God is here, and he wants to take me on the path we couldn’t ever find on our hunts, the path that goes beyond the horizon to his home.”  Then he smiled, and his face looked for a moment like the one I knew.  “Not alone,” he said.  “Not alone.  I won’t walk it by myself.  There’s a Friend who wants to take me.  And he knows my name, my real name.”

Then his body sagged.  He clutched my hand, and his fingers gradually went limp.  I set his hand down beside his body and walked out of the home.

Bruce Olson, Bruchko (Orlando, 1995), pages 174-175.

Not either/or, either pain or God.  But both/and, both pain and God. 

So be it, for the glorious display of his strength in our weakness.

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4 thoughts on ““There’s only pain. God is here . . .””

  1. FreedbyJC says:

    Thank you for this blessing … I held my wife as she went home 2 years ago and this could have been the script of her final moments. So many lauded my strength through the ordeal and I told them only of her strength and my absolute surrender and trust in Him to be my strength. My waking thoughts every morning was my prayer to Him, “Lord, I am a blubbering mass, do Your will and have Your way in this, You are my shield, my strength and my fortress, my Rock and my Salvation …Soli Deo Gloria!” God is SOOOOOOO Good!

    1. Ray Ortlund says:

      Thank you so much for letting us know. God be with you.

  2. Chrystie says:

    Beautiful! I loved, “And He knows my name, my real name.” And, now I have to go buy that book. Thanks!

  3. Barry says:

    “When someone we love suffers, we suffer with that person, and we would not have it otherwise, because the suffering and the love are one, just as it is with God’s love for us.”

    -Frederick Buechner, ‘The Hungering Dark’.

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Ray Ortlund

Ray Ortlund is senior pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville, Tennessee, and serves as a Council member with The Gospel Coalition. You can follow him on Twitter.

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