Suffering takes on so many forms. Some of us know it as a lifelong struggle with anxiety. Some know it as the unexpected loss of a parent or child. Some know it as a blindsided blow from someone they trusted or unexplainable abdominal pain that earns them an overnight hospital stay. Far too many know it as a cancer diagnosis. One thing is for sure, none of us are exempt. While these examples of suffering that I have heard just this past week were not what God intended when He lovingly created us, because of disobedient choices (that I likely would have made myself), we all walk through them.
I am certainly no expert on the topic of suffering, but a recent timeout in our BSF study of the chapters of Revelation to focus on the relevant theme of suffering has my mind and heart parked on the subject lately. Prior to a ten month journey through breast cancer, I felt as though life had been pretty easy breezy. Great childhood, great husband, great (healthy) kids. Even my journey through breast cancer was free from many of the complications that I often hear women describe. But as soon as suffering began to touch my life, I determined I was gonna let it change me. I knew from day one of the journey that there was a purpose because I knew God could be trusted with my life. But I hadn’t exactly been tested in that conviction so I figured it was time to see how deep the roots ran and how much traction the rubber was going to have as it met the road.
I wonder now where I would be had the suffering of a breast cancer diagnosis not touched my life when and how it did. I may have missed out on all the beautiful parts of identifying with Christ in His suffering. His whispers of comfort in the midst of my despair reminded me that my Savior is always with me. His whispers of sovereignty over each next uncertain step pointed out the absurdity of the idea that I really have any control over what happens. His whispers of unfailing love in the meeting of my every need through others opened my eyes to my own lack of compassion. And His whispers of victory gave me a longing for heaven that I did not possess up to that point in time.
To hear that suffering provides a framework for proper understanding of life in a fallen world completely makes sense to me. Would it make sense if I had not known suffering and hung on His every whisper during that time? Probably not. Would I have hung on His every whisper if it had not been for the suffering? Probably not. That’s the thing about suffering, it takes us to the end of us and leaves us with a choice to reach out to the One who knew ultimate suffering on our behalf. We have a choice to make seeking Him the dawn of our daily lives as David did and to rejoice despite our bloom-less fig trees as Habbakuk did.
When we make these choices our testimony, we see past the suffering itself and get a glimpse of heaven. We realize that our own suffering is equipping us to show up for others in the midst of theirs. And this, my dear friends, is the fruit, the character, the HOPE that our trials are meant to produce until the day. In case you haven’t heard about the day….
“I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” Revelation 21:3-4 NLT
Few people’s writing on suffering have impacted me the way Kara Tippett’s has. I look forward to adding to my collection of her writing on March 1st when And It Was Beautiful releases. If you are in the midst of a Breast Cancer journey, check out The Hardest Peace. If you love someone who is in the midst of a Breast Cancer journey, check out Just Show Up. Good stuff!
Thanks, Mark. That means a lot.