This past year has been… well, different. I had a relatively easy life up until January 2017 (and honestly still do!). I had not gone through very many hard trials before. Life was good! My family was all healthy; we had everything we needed… Things were going well.
But I kept reading in the Word and hearing sermons about suffering. I would hear sermons where the pastor would say, “If you aren’t going through suffering right now, brace yourself, because it’s coming!”
In a strange way, I WANTED some hard times to come. I had grown kind of stagnant in my walk with the Lord, and I knew going through trials was necessary to come to the end of myself and be completely dependent on the Lord. I even remember praying a crazy prayer, “God, bring whatever circumstances into my life, even if it means suffering, so that I can draw closer to You. Let Your will be done in my life.”
It wasn’t long after that, when one night I had a sudden feeling of heaviness in my body. My left arm went numb and tingly like it was asleep. I had to lay down, as I felt immediately exhausted. My first thought was a heart attack, but I quickly dismissed it. The feeling was still there the next day, so I went to the E.R. After 3 MRI’s and a lot of bloodwork, they couldn’t come up with a conclusion and sent me home with some steroids.
Over the next few days, the heavy numbness and tingling feeling spread to my whole body, and it has been constant to this day along with a lot of pain, weakness, fatigue, and a whole host of other symptoms. I have since been diagnosed with 2 autoimmune conditions, but the doctors still think there is something else causing the whole-body pins and needles, which remains a mystery.
I reluctantly had to step back from leading the Children’s Ministry at C4, though God had been putting it on my heart for awhile. I had to step back from our homeschool co-op. I had to simplify my life down to the very minimum so I could just get by. My life, as I knew it, was suddenly flipped upside down.
My middle son, Isaac, has also been suffering with a severe case of whole-body Restless Legs Syndrome. I would seriously give anything to take it from him. Even worse than my own physical suffering is the helpless feeling I have watching my son suffer without any relief. We are exhausted!
I recently heard a story about a man with Parkinson’s and his blind wife who lived in a village in Brazil. The man would often fall-- sometimes into a fire, sometimes into water, sometimes near a road. He read in the Bible that we should “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) and decided to take this to heart and apply it. Every time he fell, he would pray aloud, “God, thank you for always being with me. Thank you for helping me get back up. Thank you for loving me. Thank you that I can depend on You. Thank you for healing me.” This act turned the entire village around-- they knew they had no right to complain about THEIR circumstances, and they also began thanking God in all things. What a beautiful picture!
When I am tempted to complain about my circumstances, feel lonely or misunderstood, or host a pity party for myself, I remember that there are people going through MUCH harder trials than I am. I am thankful that God has spared me from so much. I remember that JESUS went through way more suffering than we ever will on the cross-- for you and me.
I remember that it is THROUGH these trials that God will draw me to Himself.
Look at what the Word says about suffering:
- James 1:2-4 says, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”
- Romans 5:3-4 says, “. . . we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.”
- Romans 8:18 says, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”
- 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 says, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
A few things Isaac and I found to be thankful IN suffering are:
- We have learned to have true compassion and empathy for those that are suffering.
- We have drawn closer to the Lord.
- We can’t WAIT to be in Heaven! Nothing is holding us down here on earth.
- We have spent more meaningful time with one another.
- We know God wants us to use our suffering for His glory.
- We are still alive and kickin'!
Notice that none of these verses say we need to be thankful FOR the trials we are going through. But we are to be thankful IN the trials we go through. Being thankful truly changes our perspectives and attitudes-- have you noticed? God is definitely doing a work in me through this, because I am a natural complainer, for sure. But He reminds me daily to just be thankful and to keep my eyes on Him. Romans 8:28 says, "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose." Isaac told me last night, speaking of believers, "You know, God doesn't allow something bad to happen to someone unless He will bring something good out of it."
God is good, all the time. And all the time, God is good.