I ran into an old friend today. He is suffering. Every time I see him he is suffering from physical and emotional maladies. His life seems to feel more and more hopeless as time moves along, and I just don’t really know what to say. It’s hard, but the suffering is expounded by the hopelessness. I pulled out of the parking lot, just praying he would find hope and purpose in Jesus. Wondering if I should have tried, just one more time, to convince him of the hope he could lay hold of, if he would just surrender to the God he shakes his fist at.
Three days ago, I stood on the other side of a soap table from a lady with shaking hands. With a smile on her face, she told me she had Parkinson’s Disease (a much fiercer diagnosis than what my friend is dealing with). She told me WITH A SMILE ON HER FACE. I asked her if I could ask a seemingly unrelated question. She said “Of course”, so I asked if she loved Jesus. “Oh yes, I do, with all my heart!” she said, as her smile brightened to the wattage of a football stadium light. “I knew it, because you were able to tell me about your Parkinson’s with a genuine smile on your face! Your suffering is not in vain. You are telling people of the worth of Jesus, simply by suffering with the joy only a Christian could truly have.” She would be one of three Christians who would show me that same joyful-in-suffering smile, amidst great physical struggle, over this past weekend.
I want to put these three saints on a billboard, above my old friend’s driveway. I want to show him that he can suffer with joy. That his suffering can have purpose. It’s promised in the Bible to those who love God and are called into His purposes. I’ve seen it a thousand times over. Some of the most jubilant people I’ve ever seen were suffering Christians! Some of them were even headed to their own execution.
Apart from Christ, suffering is just painful, obnoxious, hopeless suffering. In Christ, it is a peephole to glory, and a manifestation of grace!