The Gift and Glory of Suffering

In a year that feels like a plague, in a season of peri-menopausal flare-ups of deep depression, debilitating internal lies, and fits of unmerited rage, in a moment wafting between a hospital stay and a test to determine, a cloud of anguish lays low. But it’s not for me… or the state of the world. It’s for a friend, whose precious, beloved husband is on a ventilator out of reach, in a medically induced coma fighting for his life.

I haven’t stopped thinking of her. Or him. Or them. I almost feel guilty with my healthy, loving husband, who I probably deserve much less than she does. She lays her head to rest every night on a pillow next to his empty one, wishing now more than ever for the comfort of her best friend’s hand resting in her’s. I am undone by her pain. I wake up thinking of her, and fall asleep thinking of her, and begging for it all to just go away.

Then I crack the Book. Something about opening the Bible seems to cast all of life in a proper perspective. I am reminded that the best of Christians have endured suffering. There is something so shallow in the soul before we have to get gritty with our pain. I was reading through old journals recently, and was stunned at the brutal wrestlings of my prayers towards God. We were in a season of endure great emotional abuse from someone who should have been supporting and protecting us. Over and over again, I saw the scratched out pen markings of a woman who was begging God for a softer heart. Sure, I wanted deliverance from my pain. But what I wanted more was to love. To endure. To bless in return.

Souls like that are forged in fire.

I won’t pretend like I’m always like that. Sometimes I think I used to be more mature than I am now. I hope I’m wrong about that, but who knows. But what I do know is that my soul was made better through that season. In fact, when I reflect on my life, my soul has been made better through every season of suffering. There is a huge part of me that wants deliverance from all I am going through now (especially the peri-menopause), but the deeper, richer part wants holiness instead.

I want so badly for my friend’s husband to miraculously rise up from his hospital bed, get discharged, and come back to full strength immediately. But what I know is that, regardless of how this turns out, God is doing something deep in her soul. He is carving crevices where no one has dared tread for His glory and grace to move deeper, to fill more, to permeate all of her pain and transform it into a place where she knows and treasures her God more than ever before. A place of intimacy with her eternal Best Friend!

Something about suffering makes the soul weather like the erosion of a canyon. It becomes deeper and more beautiful through the friction. “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes” (Ps. 119:71).

Even if I don’t believe it at the time, there’s always the Scripture to tell me what’s true despite my feelings. “This is my comfort in my affliction, That Your word has revived me” (Ps. 119:50).

So, for anyone going through something hard (which is pretty much all of us this year!), all I can say is “Cling to Jesus! He makes it all purposeful and glorious for His beloved ones.”

Space 11/28/20

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