29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake,” Phillippians 1:29
A little over a week ago, I stood before a group of women and taught them on what it looks like to suffer in light of the Gospel and eternity. I shared honestly with them, knowing that the last five years of my life have held intense suffering and knowing full well that my specific trials do not have a definitive end.
And then a few days later, I woke in the middle of the night to find my little guy having a seizure. My heart broken and afraid, pleaded with God to take this burden of epilepsy away. I desperately wanted Him to lessen the physical pain that Pierce has to endure and to lessen the emotional pain that we, his parents feel as we watch him suffer. And yet, like many times before, God answered me with a gentle and sovereign no.
Fortunately last week’s scare didn’t result in emergency brain surgery, which has been the case in previous times, and for that we are thankful. But it did expose the deep wounds that have formed throughout the past 5 years of repeated trauma. Anxiety. Depression. Fear. Doubt in His goodness. All things that I’d like to think disappear when you proclaim your trust in the goodness of the Lord. And yet, it’s in that brokenness that I’m reminded:
We don’t have to be perfect in our suffering; God is gracious. We don’t have to be strong in our suffering; He is glorified through our weakness. We don’t have to defend God in our suffering; His truth stands. And we don’t have to be afraid to wrestle through the paradoxical nature of His promises in the midst of our suffering; He is patient with us in our despair.
Indeed, suffering forces us to wrestle with the Truth. It causes us to define what we believe and to realize the fleeting pleasures of this world. All of those are good things.
If you read any of the Apostle Paul’s letters in the New Testament, it won’t take you long to realize a general theme: suffering is for our eternal good to spread God’s glory to a broken and fallen world. In fact, the spreading of God’s glory at all costs is at the very core of Christianity. We are called to die to ourselves and to live for Christ.
But how can we do that if we’ve never been reminded of our need to die to ourselves? Suffering reminds us of this very thing. It highlights our weaknesses and our dependency on God. And it reveals to us a longing for something more. For it is in our pain that we are jolted out of the American fairy tale and reminded that this world is not right. When we live in light of that, suddenly the things of this world grow incredibly dim.
And therein lies the precious gift of suffering, gently calling us to discover that even though the trials of this world may seem crushing, all of your pain and suffering is working for you an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison (2 Cor. 4:17). Dear friends, may we cling to and wrestle with this Truth every day of our existence.