20 Sep Lessons on the Path of Suffering
The path of suffering is a road no one enjoys taking. Your suffering may look different than mine, but chances are you have had or will have difficulties in your life. Although not particularly enjoyable, our times of suffering do provide us with opportunities to grow closer to Christ.
My path has primarily been one of ongoing pain and medical issues. As I am writing this piece, I have a broken bone that hasn’t healed in three years, my jaw is recovering from a recent painful dislocation, and I am just days away from having a second surgery to treat a life-threatening sleep disorder.
As I have traveled down my own road of suffering, here are a few lessons I’ve learned along the way.
God is with His children no matter what.
When my son is hurting, it is not comforting to him if I stand back at a distance and philosophize on why he is hurt. Of course not. My son is most comforted when I embrace him, holding him close, listening to his heartaches. Then I remind him that he is dearly loved and that we will face whatever battle he is fighting together. This is exactly what God does for His beloved children. Isaiah 41:10 says, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
While God does not always change our circumstances, He often uses our circumstances to change us.
God is powerful and good. But He doesn’t always intervene during our struggles. I don’t know all of the reasons why He doesn’t always miraculously heal or change each situation. But I do know that my ongoing physical challenges have changed me, as well as loved ones around me. For example, I am much more grateful for the opportunity to be alive than I used to be, and my husband and son are more compassionate toward the hurting. These are character transformations that probably wouldn’t have happened had we not experienced suffering firsthand.
God wants all of our emotions.
We do a great disservice to ourselves and others when we demand Christians only show happiness. Many faithful servants of God have openly lamented about their suffering. The Psalms model time and time again how to grieve losses and be honest with our Creator. Jesus openly grieved when his friend Lazarus died, even though he knew he himself would raise Lazarus from the dead just moments later (John 11:1-44)! We can be honest with God about all our emotions as we wrestle with various hardships in our lives.
Suffering reminds us we are designed to do life together.
Being connected within a church community helps ease the load during times of difficulty. We need one another. Over the last few years, there have been times my suffering has been so unbearable that I have felt abandoned by God. It is during those times especially that the tangible ways others have reached out strengthened my faith. Each meal delivered, text or card sent, and each prayer reminded me God was still there. Suffering is more manageable when others are on our journey with us.
Our stories of suffering may bring someone closer to God.
As it has been said many times before, God works in mysterious ways. We never know how God may use our stories of suffering to encourage someone else. If my broken life is an opportunity for someone else to see the grace of God, it is a high honor to live with such a calling.
Carrie Crabb lives in Overland Park, Kansas, with her husband and son. She is a former teacher and women’s ministry leader. She blogs about living the Christian life with chronic medical issues at carriecrabb.com.