Wednesday, February 5, 2014

What does suffering look like for you?- A Heart Series

Did the title get your attention? 

It gets mine.

For the past couple of weeks our Sunday School class has stayed on the same lesson…  Suffering. 

As we talked about how so many Christians portray Jesus as the end to all your troubles and easy streets from here on out, the honest truth is that with Christianity comes suffering.  It’s a Biblical promise. 

Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.

James 1:2-4

We continued to talk about suffering and that we should be focused not on our circumstances, but the bigger picture and not the “why” it’s happening, but the “who” we are really dealing with.  The Lord.  The author of the Sunday School lesson book gave a great explanation of this.  When dealing with suffering we often want to know “why” is this happening.  “Why” doesn’t dry your tears, bring back lost time, nor offers comfort and peace, but The Lord does. 

At the end of class, people were sharing about the silver lining of their suffering.  I almost spoke up to share that Lane and I were different people because of our suffering.  That it was in the midst of our deepest suffering, preparing to say goodbye to our 3 month old son, we completely surrendered everything to God and proclaimed that whatever had to happen to Glorify His Name was our ultimate desire.  And from that ultimate surrender in the midst of our suffering, our hearts found peace and our son found healing.

But I kept my mouth shut.


Because it is such a hindsight response.  Not an answer for someone right dab in the middle of suffering.  Not too many suffering people are excited to hear that they are suffering to become better people.  Everyone wants to be a better person, but few of us pray for the suffering that creates that kind of growth. 

Don’t get me wrong-  I will never discredit the miracle that took place in our lives a little over 6 years ago.  But life is not a sprint, it’s a marathon; and day to day presents its new struggles to conquer in the name of the Lord.   And although God’s name was glorified in a life changing way in the midst of those very dark days, wasn’t I back in the midst of suffering a couple years later begging God for a baby;  not being able to worship because my heart was so full of pain and anger; the decisions facing me too heavy for me to bear; fear and desperation surrounding me, drowning out the voice of the Holy Spirit?  Letting my circumstances seem bigger than the Lord and asking why instead of who?  Am I not back in those same very dark days again?  Suffering once again after surrendering all?

But suffering looks different for me now.  Instead of surrendering to the suffering, I am surrendering in it.

So what does suffering look like for me?

Well I can tell you what it doesn’t look like.  You will not see me shying away from church and friends, sloughing off my prayer time, or shaking an angry fist at God.

What it does look like is me reaching out and being real with my friends, and asking for their prayers and encouragement; making sure I’m active in my church and Sunday School so I can be there to soak up every bit of love the Lord has placed in my path that day; being vulnerable to my husband, taking in his reassuring words and letting his comforting hugs last longer instead of rushing away to do chores; letting him pray for me and letting him know that he is needed in my life.  What suffering looks like for me is squeezing my babies longer because even though it’s another child I ache for, I am so in love and thankful for the two I have that I feel like my heart could explode; praising my Savior with tears in my eyes and remembering that He is bigger than this suffering.  Surrendering to Him, not the suffering.

What suffering looks like for me is some of the most tender and precious moments of my life.

Precious friend, I don’t know the suffering you are facing today.  Whether it’s days of depression, the pregnancy test that refuses to show 2 pink lines, a husband or wife you can’t see eye to eye with, a stack of bills and long line at the unemployment office, the devastating diagnosis at the doctor’s office… or maybe life has been easy for a while and you can’t remember what suffering is like… Whenever suffering comes, not “if” it comes, but “whenever”, the days can be dark, far from easy to get through, and circumstances may seem too heavy and unbearable.  Don’t let the suffering harden your heart.  Let your suffering be a tender and precious time of growing.  Don’t focus on the “why”, but the “who” and let your suffering change your life in a beautiful way.  Do not surrender to the suffering, but surrender to Him in it.