The last two months have been perhaps the most challenging of my life.
- An unexpected seizure
- Ambulance sirens
- A trip to the ER
- Nearly every medical test known to man
- ER again
- More tests
- Three life-threatening blood clots in my brain
- Easter weekend in the hospital
- More tests
- The discovery of an autoimmune blood clotting disorder
- 3 weeks of shots in my stomach (thanks, hon).
- More doctors
- More tests
- Even more meds
In the midst of our chaos, everywhere I go people are constantly asking how I’m doing and telling me how their family, or their small-group, or their church, or their grandmother in North Dakota (ok, I made that one up) has been praying for me. This is the beautiful side of social media, I suppose. In times like these, there’s nothing more comforting than knowing you’re not alone.
But prayers and encouragement aren’t the only form of solidarity I’ve felt these past few months. Suffering is everywhere. From broken relationships, to broken dreams, to broken cultures and broken bodies, suffering finds us all. If you don’t believe me, you’re either naive, one of the X-men, or you just haven’t lived long enough yet.
So I thought I might share a few words of encouragement with all my fellow humans out there today, starting with a beautiful note my wife’s 84 year old grandmother sent to us as my prognosis unfolded:
“He has not promised an easy voyage, but a safe arrival.”
As I’ve pondered “Granny’s” words again and again these past few months, it’s surfaced a few important things I needed to remember about suffering.
1. Suffering is hard. You don’t have to repackage it, glamorize it, or minimize it. It sucks. Don’t pretend it doesn’t to sound more spiritual.
2. Suffering was promised. As a kid, I always pushed those scriptures aside as an unfortunate reality most certainly reserved for missionaries in dangerous foreign fields, not middle-class suburbanites. You may never wonder where your next meal is coming from or experience the ravaging effects of a global pandemic, but you will experience suffering.
(Um, I thought this was supposed to be encouraging? Hang on).
3. Suffering isn’t Karma. Bad decisions can certainly lead to bad outcomes, but difficulties in our lives are not some cosmic repayment system for our past sins. If you’re suffering in some way today, it’s not because there’s something uniquely wrong with you or because you just don’t have enough faith to make it all go away.
4. Suffering recalibrates. It exposes all the places I’ve place my trust outside of God Himself. Suffering is a relentless reminder that we’re broken, that we need help, that the world is not yet as it is supposed to be, and that we are most certainly not the ones who can fix it.
5. Suffering points us to the “suffering Savior.” Jesus didn’t parade into history as untouchable royalty, looking down His nose at we poor, sinful plebes who just don’t have it in us to climb our way up to Him. From all His majesty He came to us a “suffering servant,” acquainted with our sorrows and familiar with our grief. He doesn’t moralize from on high about our suffering, He shares it. He’s been there, and His grace is found where we finally reach the end of ourselves.
Whatever suffering you’re facing today, unbearably great or comparibly small, I pray you find more than trite comfort here.
You’re not alone.