Where do I begin? I am in awe of the course of events that have shaped, painfully cut, and molded my life. Was I expecting to go through such pain in life? Not particularly. Quite honestly, the suffering I have experienced is a small drop in the bucket compared to many people.
You see, I had built a relationship with the Lord that I had formed, making God into what I wanted Him to be. When life’s heartaches came blowing through like a spring storm without warning, I found myself wallowing and even doubting Gods pure and perfect love. How could God allow my dearest friend, who loved the Lord with all her heart, die an excruciatingly painful death? Why would God let my mother pass away 2 weeks after our family arrived back from the mission field? A prodigal child? Lord, that is for other families, not mine! I believed I had done all the right thingsto ensure a happy and “blessed” life. It was God’s turn now to keep His end of the deal. How carless and sinful this thinking was! It was nothing short of hypocrisy.
God does not oweus anything. I didn’t dare SAYthese things out loud, but the way I was living my life and the shock that I experienced when faced with suffering was a clear reflection of my heart. The moment these trials came rolling in I felt God was holding a barometer next to my heart. Where did I measure? Well, let’s just say the pressure was so high at times that I felt like my heart would explode. Literally. As a matter of fact, a few weeks after my mother’s death I ended up in the office of a cardiologist who proceeded to monitor my heart over the next couple of weeks. If truth be told, my heart was broken. I was shocked that God would allow this to happen to me.
But should we be shocked? God says, “It has been granted to you for the sake of Christ that you should not only believe in him, but also suffer for his sake.” And again, “For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.” Jesus also said “Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” I mean, really? What did I thinktaking up the cross actually meant? Jesus clearly showed us what taking up the cross meant. It was the most grueling and painful act of suffering that a human being could possibly bear. I don’t just mean physical suffering. Everything in scripture points to the cross, the climax of the greatest story ever told. At that moment, even though God could have sent legions of angels to rescue Jesus, He did not.
So, mothers, the next time you find yourself asking why? Remember that we do not understand the full. We see only dimly what is to be revealed. Paul says, “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.” With this in mind, may we as women cry with humility “May Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven,” and may we take joy knowing the future that awaits us!
We are never prepared for those experiences that cut to the very core of our soul, are we? The key to walking by the Spirit is a having a clear perspective of who God is. Unfortunately, I wasn’t walking in the Spirit nearly as closely as I thought I was. I was barely putting one arm in front of the other, dragging myself through the mud, tears streaming down my cheeks, with desperation written all over my face. It was in those moments that Jesus drew near. My cries and questions were not ignored by God Almighty. My heart resonated with what the psalmist said “He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.” After all, is this not what Job had to grapple with? Who is God to you? What attributes of God are written across your heart? REST in what you knowto be true of Him.
Frankly, there are no words to describe how He “covered me with His feathers.” During moments of questioning, He would respond with a still small voice. Other times, I was reprimanded, being reminded of my place. There is not enough space to express how the Lord has drawn near to me through moments of deep grief and sorrow. Nonetheless, dear mothers, I wanted to share a few of my own personal thoughts on walking through suffering.
Before I begin, I simply want to state that walking through suffering as a believer is starkly different than those who are without Christ. If you are walking through suffering and do not have a relationship with Christ, come find me or someone you know who does. Here are a few thoughts…
Ask yourself who God is. You will find that scripture is overflowingwith descriptions of His character and promises to you. When you read the Bible, ask yourself these questions – What does this tell me about God? What does this tell me about myself? The Psalmist tells us “He is near to the broken hearted and those crushed in spirit.” Whether you “feel” His nearness or not, that is dependent on you, not Him. He has promised this, claim it! If you ask for Gods nearness through your suffering and you choose NOT to rest in His promise, you will become like a wave of the sea tossed to and fro by the wind. What type of wife and mother does your family need you to be? Rest in His promises, even if you have to say that promise out loud 100 times a day to your doubting soul.
When trouble, like a gloomy cloud,
Has gathered thick and thundered loud,
He near my soul has always stood,
His lovingkindness, oh how good!
— Samuel Medley
Read and meditate on scripture daily. Start everyday with worship and prayer and humbly come before the Father to hear what He wants you to act on for the day. If you cannot start your day with scripture, do not end the day without it! He has promises, encouragement, challenges, conviction, and much more for you if you will dig into the treasure of scripture! There is no greater counsel! “For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” Why would we want to seek man’s wisdom first when we have the inspired, Holy word of God specifically written to us at our fingertips? His Word will remind you to pray, tell you when to be quiet, encourage your weary soul, and satisfy your greatest longings. I LOVE His word!
Entrust your suffering to the Lord. This is perhaps the most difficult act of obedience. I have had to entrust my pain and suffering to the Lord more times than I can say. God never asks us to carry the weight of suffering alone. “Fret not yourself: it tends only to evil.” When you try to carry the burden alone, what is your attitude like with those around you? I love a good challenge and I love to fix problems, especially when they are not my own. At some point along the way I realized that God didn’t intend for me to “fix” everything. There are things in this life that only God can do – heal a prodigals heart… whatever the age may be, cure disease, comfort, restore,… and the list goes on.
Listen, Lord, a mother’s praying low and quiet: listen please.
Listen what her tears are saying, see her heart upon its knees:
Lift the load from her bowed shoulders till she sees and understands,
You, Who hold the worlds together, hold her problems in Your hands.
from “Clouds are the Dust of His Feet” by Ruth Bell Graham (1992, Crossway Books)
God wants us to entrust our suffering to Him. His shoulders are the only ones broad enough to bear the burden and actually do something about it! Why wouldn’t we want to give it all to Him anyway? There are some things that God gives us as mothers to do, but some are simply to be left to our Savior. It’s simply “not in our wheelhouse.”
Have Joy in the perfection of His timing. Time operates according to a “heavenly schedule.” I don’t know about you, but I’m happy to let the Lord keep the schedule of when He wants things to happen. HE is sovereign. I will trust Him! But oh how difficult it is when I want my prayers answered yesterday. “It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.” Why is it so very difficult to have joy in suffering? I believe that much of this has to do with our fleshly mind. Romans tells us “ …letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.” We can actually experience joy and peace when we decide to set our minds on “heavenly things” as Colossians 3:2 talks about. It is vital to meditate and memorize scripture. Scripture will renew our minds, give us endurance as we walk through dark days, and give us true joy! IF we believe that God is sovereign, we can experience contentment in knowing that He is in control and that He will ensure that every circumstance bring Him glory and our joy.
“There is no situation so chaotic that God cannot, from that situation, create something that is surpassingly good. He did it at the creation. He did it at the cross. He is doing it today.”
Take heart, dear mothers, reach out for the Fathers hand and join Him in the work that He wants to do through you as you suffer. For you KNOW the future hope that awaits you!