the Beauty of Suffering

Last year, I went through an intense period of doubt and crisis of faith as I battled so many internal and external challenges that left me feeling weak, burdened, weary, exhausted, exhilarated, angry, defiant, stubborn, upset…the whole gamut of emotions. I was often irritated with God, and I realized it mostly centered from praying at the beginning of last January for God to give me a word to focus on for 2015, and that word was “Faith.” For some reason, I naively thought that would be “easy” because I already had faith, but oh how wrong I was!

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I ran from God for the majority of 2015, until I finally began to surrender in my own way and wrestle through the fear and the doubt. It was a scary time, but so impactful and so beautiful. I started to understand what God meant when he says he’ll turn ashes into beauty, because he has taken the broken pieces of my life and as he holds them, he’s allowed his light to shine through. God is still changing my heart. He has woken me up and has called me to be present with people – to share my struggles and to share my emotions, to show up even when I’m hurting and to be honest, to share the crazy ways that God is working in my life and speaking to me. And somehow, in all of this mess, I do get to share God because he is showing up.

I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer. You yourself are the answer.

“I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer. You yourself are the answer.”

I’ve been struck especially hard with this simple fact – my life is about sharing the glory of God. Even deeper, though, suffering has to happen in order to experience the glory of God. Seriously – suffering has to happen in order to experience the glory of God. This is my life. I have wrestled with this very fact of why do I keep going through hard things? Is it because I missed the lessons I was supposed to learn? Is it because I’m doing something wrong? Is it because I don’t love God enough in the good times? Maybe. “Yes,” may be the answer to each of those questions. However, as I was in church a few Sundays ago listening to a missionary share her story, I was struck that hearing stories of God doing the impossible reminds me of his power. Hearing God doing the impossible in Africa and revealing himself to people through dreams and literally changing peoples’ hearts and minds to follow him remind me that same God is also for me and he also wants to do the impossible in my life. If I am encouraged and inspired by hearing of God do the impossible in someone else’s life, even someone I have never met face to face, then maybe my experiences with God can also help someone else believe God for the impossible in their life. If my suffering and wrestling with God can give someone else the freedom or courage to start facing their brokenness and experience God’s power and love and peace, then how can it not be worth it? If my testimony at the end of all this is that God is who he says he is and he does have the power to restore and redeem the impossible in your life because he’s done it in mine, then yes it is worth it. Suffering is inevitable because it pushes us straight into the arms of God. Does it suck? Yes, it sucks tremendously. It hurts and it’s uncomfortable and it’s messy. (Trust me, it’s really messy. When my response to God is, “Well, this is your doing. You told me to show up and this is what you get. Good luck fixing this mess,” boy am I thankful he is gracious and> sovereign!)

 "The most difficult time in your life may be the border to your promised land."

I’ve learned that I can either believe God is at work or believe in coincidences. I’ve learned some people don’t get front row seats into my story, and that’s okay. I’ve learned others do, even when it’s not easy to have them around. I’ve learned a cheering section is vital; it has taken me over 6 years to admit this, because for 6+ years I have fought and fought against this belief – I believed I could do it on my own, I didn’t need anyone else. That belief was rooted in knowing that it hurt too much when I trusted someone and he or she left. Yeah, it does really suck when people leave. But I became a shell of myself by only partially opening up to people, and I am just now coming alive again. What keeps my soul alive on the hard days are the people who come alongside me and believe when I can’t. There are days I’m exhausted like Moses and I need other people to hold up my arms for victory to be won. I can’t do it alone. I’ve also learned I don’t have to leave, that maybe there’s another way. I’ve learned God is big enough and gracious enough to handle all of me, and he still shows up. I’ve learned God is moving and he is so present and active in my life. I’ve learned I can either believe God speaks and he will do what he says or believe he is lying, and he is still faithful when my faith is so small.

"Your concept of God will be reflected in you. You cannot live beyond the truth you believe."

“Your concept of God will be reflected in you. You cannot live beyond the truth you believe.”

I am humbled because I don’t get it, and I don’t have everything together or figured out. However, I am empowered because my God does, and he calls me to trust him. I am humbled because I fight with God and I fight with people, and I am realizing I usually do this when I’m scared. I am also brave when I show up anyway and choose to communicate my fears. I am strong, I am beautiful, I am capable, I am competent, and I achieve a lot – and I am learning this is all okay to communicate and own because it is a part of who I am, just like the mess is. I am more than my shortcomings, and I forgot that for awhile. It’s important for me to remember them, but I am so much more alive when I live in my gifts instead. God has given me a lot to share with the world, not because I’m good at life or because I’m a badass or because I’m better than the next person – he’s given ALL of us a lot to share with the world; the question is, are we listening? Am I listening for what it is? I believe, at least right now, these words and these ideas and these connections God gives me through my joys and sufferings are what I’m to share with the world. Or with my world – whoever may cross my path.
"Abiding in Jesus is trusting that he really is loving us at every moment and that everything he revealed about himself and our future is true." - John Piper

“Abiding in Jesus is trusting that he really is loving us at every moment and that everything he revealed about himself and our future is true.” – John Piper

I will close with two key verses from Hebrews I read last year and still come back to about faith:

 

“We desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may [be] imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” (Hebrews 6:11-12)

 

“So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place.” (Hebrews 6:17-19)

 

 anchor

God is my anchor. He keeps me grounded. He keeps me from drifting too far away from where I need to be. Or where I need to stay. His character is unchangeable – it is impossible for him to lie, so his promises are true. His promises that I will inherit through faith and patience.

 

 

God is changing my soul. You may not see it on the outside, but I hope one day you do, because then I can share with you my testimony of the glory of God. He is real, he is steadfast, he gives hope and peace, he redeems, and he truly is love. If you’re unsure, ask him to show you. Ask him to help you with your unbelief – all he asks for in return is faith the size of a mustard seed, and I promise it’s worth it. 

 

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