Prior to Christ capturing my life, I lived a life filled with harrowing twists and turns. I craved the stability and consistency of the Christian life. I saw Christianity as a means to combat the fluctuating and shifting nature of the world. The Bible would serve to keep me rooted and grounded and the church would be the faithful compass pointing me in a direction that would keep my life moving forward on a healthy, firm spiritual trajectory.
I got married.
I had children.
I dove into God’s word, seeking growth and direction.
Life had a methodical rhythm.
I learned how very easy it is to praise God in the routine of regular days. It wasn’t really challenging to come up with a list of things that I was grateful for in my day. I felt a deep sense of reward in my relationship with God. I never questioned His plan or purpose for my life. My life was scripted out so clearly…so much so, that I found myself casting judgement out in the Christian universe to those who found it challenging to overcome hurdles. I just knew that should adversity strike, I was ready. I had the ever present Holy Spirit to bolster and reinforce me.
Life did not prepare me for adult children…agents with free will breaking loose from the thresholds of their family structure and vowing for their independence.
Nothing can bring a momma to her knees faster than a child trailblazing off course. With one solid foot off the planned course, my adult child launched me into a whole new atmosphere of hurt. It was a whole territory that I had never traversed. It brought on heartache like I had never experienced.
The grief was profound.
The loss of connection that I experienced with my child mimicked death.
My daily goal became really simple: stop sobbing.
The solution to my disappointment seemed so simple. I would let God in on the plans that I had so carefully crafted for my child and He would honor the desires of my heart. I prayed. Circumstances didn’t really change. I began to question my relationship with God. Had God left me in the midst of my excruciating pain? I had believed that I would be impenetrable to loss and suffering as a child of God.
This agonizing journey would not be short lived. It lasted for years. In some respects, there’s still not complete closure.
In this season of trial, God revealed to me that our pain has a bigger purpose. God uses suffering to strengthen our faith in Him. It’s these life junctures, filled with pain, suffering, exhaustion and emotions, where we deplete ourselves of our ability to change the circumstances. God used this scenario to teach me about how much of my life, and the lives of my family that I still had not relinquished to Him. I had a death grip on “expectation.”
God also helped me to see my greatest connection with my community, both believers and non-believers, is through vulnerability and brokenness not in perfection and togetherness. Some of my dearest relationships were forged through affliction and suffering.
God does not give us purposeless suffering.
God allows His people to go through this life with pain and suffering so that we can be a source of hope to this world. God does not give us purposeless suffering. On the contrary, He redeems our suffering by giving us what we need to endure it, for the purpose of drawing attention to the power of the gospel. People around us are watching and witnessing how we handle suffering and they will learn from us.
We learn in 2 Corinthians 4:16-17 when we struggle, without losing heart, we give weight to our present troubles being small and time-limited in exchange for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. The translation for me is that I have come to understand that this world is profoundly broken and that we are designed to long for Heaven. Suffering serves to teach me how very incomplete my existence is here on earth. In these moments, I am reminded that my pain is confined to this life, which pales in comparison to the eternal life that I have with Christ. God uses the agonizing effects of sin to develop in us an appetite for a new Heaven and new Earth, where life is will be complete and fulfilling beyond measure.
One of the most valuable outcomes of my suffering is that God uses these points in time as teachable moments to remind me that my pain is not always about me. He instructs and equips me to minister to others who share similar experiences. Pain has served to develop a deeper sense of compassion and mercy in me which has gifted me a tender heart toward others who are in pain.
That painstaking memory with my child is now in the distant past. However, there would be more excruciating tragedies to come. With each detour, God has helped me to grow increasingly more grateful for the suffering as He draws me in closer, and gives me many more glimpses of Himself, through every valley. I am learning to surrender my plans and expectations and allow God to direct my course. He has continued to direct me to walk the valleys. He has also graciously allowed me to ascend some peaks. I am beyond grateful for the painstaking paths through the valleys because it makes the view from the peaks so much sweeter.