I really didn't want to write another blog about suffering. I'd much rather have my blog be funny and lighthearted, like my writing tends to be when I'm in school. But the reason I write is because I feel I must, and particularly when a subject comes up that I can't get out of my head - well, then I think I should probably write about it. The problem with yesterday's post was that it got me to thinking that there might be people reading my blog who are suffering. I tried to ignore that thought. And then when I was reading this morning and trying to think of funny things to write in today's blog, I read Romans 5:3-5.
"Not only so, but we also rejoice in our suffering because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit whom He has given us."
Crap. The verse actually uses the word "suffering". I tried to ignore that, too. Then I read today's excerpt in my copy of Streams in the Desert, which included a poem. I won't include the whole thing, but here's the part that stuck out to me:
"When is the time to trust?
Is it when all is calm,
When waves the victor's palm,
And life is one glad psalm
Of joy and praise?
No! For the time to trust
Is when the waves beat high,
When storm clouds fill the sky,
And prayer is one long cry,
"Oh, help and save!"
At this point, I felt that if I kept trying to ignore that gnawing feeling, I just might get struck by lightning or something. Since my hair already looks like I've experienced electric shock, I thought I should sit and write.
How can we be glad of suffering? Yes, it produces perseverance, character, and hope. So what? When I'm suffering, I don't care about all those things. Unfortunately, God does. He wants me to persevere, to have strong character, and hope. I know, I know, what a bully. It's like those parents who don't give their children whatever they want because they don't want them to be spoiled or something...what kind of love is that? (Okay, okay, so I can't get away from my sarcasm, no matter how serious my writing is supposed to be....)
"God is near to the broken-hearted, and saves the crushed in spirit." Psalm 34:18
If you don't believe in God or have any interest in following Him, the above verse might not mean much to you. But if you desire to be close to God, this verse presents a reason why we can actually be thankful for those times when we are broken-hearted or crushed in spirit - God is closer to us! Don't get me wrong - God is also close when life is great and easy - but He is particularly close when it's not. That's when He really gets to love you, to take care of you, to save you. And He likes doing that. I know it's silly, but I think Sam loves me even more when I'm going through a hard time because he gets to demonstrate his love and feel like he's taking care of me. He feels needed. I'm not a theologian, and I don't claim to know why God does what He does, but perhaps it's the same sort of idea.
Suffering also allows us to trust God even more. Anyone can trust God when the sun is shining and birds are singing. As the above poem suggests, the time to trust is during the storm - that's when true faith makes its appearance. That's when you see if your faith is indeed just a house of cards, as my friend C.S. would say.
In the same way, if you trust and persevere during those storms, others will be blessed. If you take the opportunity to learn from your suffering, you can be an example to others of how to stay strong and hopeful in the face of storms. For instance, if I'm trying to lose weight, someone who is naturally skinny and doesn't even have to try is not my role model - I'm more inspired by someone who has worked hard to get fit. When it's hard to be a selfless wife, someone who has an easy, problem-free marriage doesn't help me - my example would be a woman who has struggled through hard times and learned through them. My precious mother-in-law undoubtedly encouraged hundreds through her writing during Sara's battle with cancer. Her faith, her hope, her trust is far more inspiring than that of one who hasn't experienced that level of tragedy. And maybe she inspired strength in other parents who were facing the same painful situation.
Suffering sucks. It's as simple as that. I wish suffering didn't exist, especially for those I love. But for me, the knowledge that maybe someday God will use my suffering to encourage and bless someone else makes it easier to get through.
I don't know if that helps or not - or if any of you are actually suffering. Maybe not. Maybe I should have written a funny, silly blog today. But just in case, I wanted to write.
Even if it was just to avoid that lightning strike. It's Oregon, people...you can never be too sure.