Friday, February 2

The Strength in Suffering

Someone once said that, "Deep unspeakable suffering may very well be called a baptism, a regeneration, the initiation into a new state".
Just about three years ago my husband and I first visited the perinatologist and heard our unborn baby's diagnosis. I was numb and thoroughly shaken. We sat still and silent side by side in the truck in that grimy parking garage outside the specialist's office. This would be the first of many visits with specialists and innumerable ultrasounds and amniocentesis. Tears streamed down my cheeks and landed silently on my growing belly. My husband Sean squeezed my hand, his heart as shaken as mine.
The author we know as Paul, who wrote the book of Romans in the Bible encourages us to rejoice in our sufferings. That day in Syracuse there was no rejoicing to be found in my heart. What purpose could there be to this?
Sean and I had been completely excited at the prospect of welcoming a third child into our family. This third little one would join his big brother and big sister in the joyful mayhem of our home. But then, in a routine ultrasound, the doctor noticed that one of our unborn son's kidneys was enlarged and off we were sent to the specialist.
I survived the first few days of our new sons's life with much prayer and worship. His diagnosis worsened after his birth. When the room was silent and my thoughts were my own, terror and fear of losing this little life filled my heart. I spent one night singing sweet songs of healing and praise over my precious little boy's life. Earlier that day we had been told that he was showing signs of kidney failure. By morning he was well. I dared not tread into my own thoughts again, instead continually reminding myself of God's faithfulness and the purposes I knew he must have for this child's life. The book of Psalms was my spiritual food. "Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me, for in you my soul takes refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed," and "Because you are my help, I will sing beneath the shadow of your wings". When the Psalmist wrote these songs generations before Christ's birth, I am sure he had no idea what comfort it would bring thousands of years later to a young mother with a sick son. My heart immediately hung fast to these verses and I saw in my mind's eye a perilous and stormy night, lightening flashing and lighting up the sky and cliffs and valleys. And up amongst the cliffs, in the very height of peril, a small bird singing its heart out joyfully beneath the shadow and comfort of large wings.
These past two years have been like a whirlwind: delivering our third child in a strange hospital, grim specialists poking and prodding him, three surgeries in his first two years, and lots of tubes poking out of my precious boy's body. After all this emotional roller-coastering and pleading with God for healing and life we are wondrously left with an intact sweet blond haired boy. I am also left with an unshakable faith.
It wasn't until this year, re-reading Psalms 57, that I noticed verse 2. "Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me, for in you my soul takes refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed. 2 I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me."
Does disaster or suffering fulfill the purposes of God? It did in Job's life. I used to believe that Christianity for the most part was like the kid's board game CandyLand. Lots of sweetness and everyone makes it to the end all right.
What did my brief glimpse of suffering develop in me? I have trust, patience, a firm foundation and the knowledge that I know that I know that I know where my strength comes from. Those are priceless things to me.
Paul writes to us in Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 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.
The thought that strength lies in suffering would seem foolish to the world, but for me and my family no thought rings truer. The continual cry of my heart is, "Lord, develop your character in me!" Looking back over these years, I rejoice in what God has done in my life; I rejoice in my sufferings.
A man named Albert Camus once wrote, "In the depth of winter, I learned that there was within me an invincible summer." My invincible summer is that strength found only in the Lord brought by way of suffering.

1 comment:

Jen said...

Thank you for this verse. In my life I have felt I have suffered (although thankfully not to your depths) and it is nice to see that it was not all for nothing. That there is a Greater Purpose behind it.

Best wishes
Jen in Oz