Turning to God in Our Pain: Chapel Reflection with Pastor Shannon Jammal-Hollemans

Pastor Shannon Jammal-Hollemans knows what it is like to live alongside pain.

Speaking to members of the Kuyper community gathered in the Vos Chapel on January 23 for a twice-weekly service, the pastor of First Congregational UCC of Lowell recalled begging God to heal her father’s cancer.

“Tears streamed down my face as I prayed, and I felt God respond. I knew He was telling me that it would eventually take my father, but only in His timing and that everything would be ok,” she said, her voice tinged with deep emotion.

Jammal-Hollemans emphasized that God did not answer her prayer by removing the disease, but by giving her more time with her father. 

And, most importantly, by filling her with His peace.

“God gave me assurance in the midst of my agony, when I needed it most,” she added.

Referencing Psalm 62, she noted that this is a pattern found in Scripture as well. Here, we see the psalmist turning to God while in pain and expecting Him to answer, not with an end to it, but with His divine presence and comfort instead.

“The Psalmist says that God alone is the source of our strength, the one in whom we find hope,” she said.

This is an easy thing to believe and draw comfort from when things are going well, Jammal-Hollemans said, but it’s much harder when circumstances are difficult. Often, we prefer to be soothed by the things of this world.

However, she added, God offers us a much truer, more beautiful kind of comfort: that He is with us no matter how dark life gets.

Though, as Christians, we know that God will one day remove all suffering and pain, she said, this does not mean that He promises an easy shortcut through it.

Jammal-Hollemans added that, “What I’ve learned over the years is that so much of life and ministry is about learning to thrive in the midst of pain and disappointment.”

It may be easy to look at the trouble of the world and throw up our hands in despair, Jammal-Hollemans said, but, like the Psalmist, we can be confident that God sees us and is with us. 

“What a privilege we have to be a part of what God is doing right here, right now, to speak trust and hope into each other’s lives and live it out before the very presence of God Himself,” she said, smiling.

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