Suffering is a way of life for so many. Much can be learned from our brothers and sisters in Christ who suffer. By God’s grace they persevere and find their strength in the God of their salvation. The weeks ahead I will be posting the stories from those within Crossway Church who are suffering. The goal is to see and celebrate God’s faithfulness and care through some of the darkest moments of life. In addition, it helps us know how to pray and care for those who are hurting.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 1 Cor. 1:3-4
Question 1: How are you suffering / How have you suffered?
Let me start by saying I would be much more comfortable answering questions related to being a cheerful pastor’s wife, or scrubbing floors with bleach. It is hard to consider myself as one who is suffering, let alone answer probing questions to that end. But my hope is that the Lord would use my little life to bring glory to Himself and encourage someone’s faith. So here goes…the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Six years ago I was diagnosed with Lyme disease (being the outdoorsy gal that I am). This resulted in periods of debilitating weakness and frequent Migraines. About three years ago I was admitted to the hospital with Pancreatitis. Interestingly, Pancreatitis is usually only found in alcoholics (which would account for everyone in the hospital asking when I had my last drink). :-) Subsequent to the Pancreatitis have been ongoing abdominal issues, along with flares of weakness, and Migraines.
Perhaps the hardest part of the suffering has been the unknown. I have seen many specialists, had a ridiculous amount of tests, and a staggering number of appointments with no clear diagnosis. This has revealed much sin in my heart: fear of the unknown, fear of man (what if people think I’m just a whack-o and it is all in my head), self –sufficiency (I want to get my to-do list done), pride (demanding that God answer me…my way). I am continually asking God to cause me grow in humility, embracing this suffering, but with this prayer has come much wrestling and undoing. This is a good place to be.
Question 2: How has God helped you endure through suffering?
The Lord has caused me trust him in ways that, before illness, had been untested.
When I first began to have flare ups, I was certain God was going to give me a quick fix…kind of a “get er done” attitude. But as time went on and symptoms persisted, I began to realize that God had me in a process. Chapter 7 in the Sovereignty of God was pivotal in helping me interpret suffering more biblically.
Powlison says, “How does God’s grace meet you in your sufferings? We can make the right answer sound old hat, but I guarantee this: God will surprise you. He will make you stop. You will struggle. He will bring you up short. You will hurt. He will take his time. You will grow in faith and in love. He will deeply delight you. You will find the process harder than you ever imagined-and better. Goodness and mercy will follow you all the days of your life (PS. 23:6). No matter how many times you’ve heard it, no matter how well you can say it, God’s answer will come to mean something better than you can ever imagine.”
He has shown His faithfulness to me in very sweet ways. I love the song by Matt Redman that says, “Never once did we ever walk alone. Never once did you leave us on our own. You are faithful, God you are faithful.” Another song that has convicted me and ministered to me is, “What reason have I to doubt? Why should I dwell in fear? All I have known is grace. My future in Christ is clear.” All I have known IS grace, why should I doubt God’s ways.
Pete has been a constant encouragement to my soul. He has pointed me to God’s character repeatedly. He has seen me at my worst and still tenderly loved me. My in-laws are true servants that have served our family at a moment’s notice. My girls have done a great job cooking, cleaning, watching siblings. They step in whenever needed. I have benefitted from the prayers and concern of so many. Lois Sensenig prays for me every Sunday. Melissa Stoltzfus has been my road trip buddy. The pastors’ wives have seen me at my worst: no make-up, no shower, no coherent thoughts; yet they have walked with me through this. It has been an amazing expression of Christ’s love to me.
Question 3: How can folks prepare for suffering?
I think the best way to prepare for suffering is to preach the gospel to yourself and to look for gospel connections in everyday life. This way when suffering comes, your soul will be anchored in the truth of God’s character. A great resource for this is The Gospel Primer. It makes the gospel personal and applicable. Here is one of my favorite quotes from this profound but easily read book,
“More than anything else could ever do, the gospel enables me to embrace my tribulations and thereby position myself to gain full benefit from them. For the gospel is the one great permanent circumstance in which I live and move; and every hardship in my life is allowed by God only because it serves His gospel purposes in me. When I view my circumstances in this light, I realize that the gospel is not just one piece of good news that fits into my life somewhere among all the bad. I realize instead that the gospel makes genuinely good news out of every other aspect of my life, including my severest trials. The good news about my trials is that God is forcing them to bow to His gospel purposes and do good unto me by improving my character and making me more conformed to the image of Christ. Preaching the gospel to myself each day provides a lens through which I can view my trials in this way and see the true cause for intelligent rejoicing that exists in them. I can then embrace them as friends and allow them to do God’s good work in me.”
Question 4: How can we pray for you?
By God’s great mercy, I am feeling very well. My “flares” seem to be less frequent and less intense. So much so, that one of my daughters asked what I was doing. I answered that I am writing a blog about suffering. She asked why I was writing about suffering saying, “is having 5 daughters suffering?” I told her it was about my health. She said that she had forgotten about that. That would not have been the story a year ago.
Please pray that I would trust the Lord with my health. I want to honor God in the quiet of my heart, in the place where only he knows. When I am feeling unwell I can question him.
This is a path that I would not have chosen but one I would not change. God has been so faithful.