“So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold-though your faith is more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” 1 Peter 1:6-7
i have been contemplating suffering a lot lately. probably because i feel that i have been suffering. i had been very depressed, and was ready to throw my hands in the air and yell “uncle”. you win, Lord. you’ve finally given me more than i can take. the proverbial camel’s back is broken (though there were many straws). and then i decided to take a bike ride alone. just me, the singing oak at city park, my bible, a book about fear, and 1000 gifts. i must have spent about 3 hours under that tree just trying to feel something. anything other than fear and despair. the more i read, the more i began to pray. the more i prayed, the easier it was to breathe. i thought “i can do this. i’m ready to try again”. and then, i realized my bike had a flat.
i called zach to see if he could borrow our housemate’s car and come pick me and my broken bicycle up. he called back and informed me the car battery was dead, and to keep my chevro-legs moving towards home. halfway there, the before mentioned housemate arrived via bicycle with a intertube patch kit. he took off the tire and patched it, reattached it and pumped that sucker full of air. only for it to be pancake flat within seconds. i could feel all of that togetherness i had finally found in the park beginning to crumble. little by little i was slipping backwards all over again. and yet, i continued to walk.
“We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.” 2 Corinthians 4:7-10
the array of emotions i felt on that journey was immense. i was angry, dejected, incensed that God knew i was incapable of handling any more terrible things. one more thing to fix with money we didn’t have. one more pain in the ass thing to work around. we don’t have a vehicle, and now my transportation is gone. i was upset, overwhelmed, inconsolable within myself. i withdrew because i didn’t know how to let it out without falling apart. and then suddenly, i reclaimed that feeling from the park. i began to remember that God gives gifts. i thanked him for my legs that were walking. for ice cold water from the housemate. for the golden marlin i saw hanging in a side yard. for birdsong. that it wasn’t raining even though the clouds looked dark and full to bursting. i arrived home without the chip on my shoulder. without the anger in my heart. and enjoyed the rest of my day.
since then, i have had several conversations with my husband about suffering. why we suffer. how we suffer. why others suffer. how does God know how much we can bear. why don’t we seem to understand we are capable of enduring much more than we actually do? why does our world crumble so often? how our complaints pale in comparison to Christ’s suffering. and most recently, why, as christians, do we try to ignore the suffering of others? why can’t we all suffer together, in order to comfort one another? what happened to rejoicing AND weeping together? why is it so difficult to listen? to empathize? to comfort? is it because it is God’s job?
i say no. we are to find comfort in the Lord, and through his love comfort others. i cannot understand why we all find this so difficult. what is so hard about loving one another? accepting one another? respecting one another? believe me, i am no saint. but i find comfort in the trying. the seeking to become more, better, enough. to find the light that the Lord places within each of us so that we may become the city on the hill. a beacon for others. a sign that it’s warm in here, with good food, and dry clothes. welcome. we’ve been waiting for you, what took you so long?!
“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. ” 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 (emphasis added)
Lord, i pray that you remind me in times of trouble to seek you for comfort. Help me to remember that through you, i may be a comfort to others. help me to comfort my husband and daughter during these days that are so difficult. i need help remembering that this suffering is not for lack of love, but because you love so deeply. help me to claim my inheritance by looking to you and trying to love like you. fill my heart and soften my words. help us to shine, if only so we may see you more clearly. Amen.
Suffering, but Loved,