I don’t pretend to know what suffering is like.
That’s what I’ll tell you on any given day. On any other given day, I might tell you that I have experienced a great deal of suffering and that it’s more than I can bear. One moment, I feel like I can’t go on, and the next moment, I laugh at myself for thinking that I have any suffering to speak of. I cannot imagine looking in the face of someone who has a terminal illness or a life-altering injury or a death in the family, and even thinking to mention the relatively minor chronic pain I experience day-to-day. And yet, there are times when my pain is all I see.
Without a doubt, God has carried me down a winding, rugged path of questions and groanings in regard to the physical suffering I know on a regular basis. I have only just begun to attempt to speak about them. To formulate thoughts and to consider reasons and to rest in the work he is doing. It is no easy task.
But a peculiar concept God gave me one day was a lesson I never expected. He didn’t say to me, “You just need to trust me.” He didn’t remind me to allow him to carry the weight of it all. It wasn’t that he wanted me to see my suffering as a part of his plan that I simply must accept. A “thorn in the flesh” about which I must plead earnestly.
No, I had already been told all those things by one concerned party or another. But that day, it was a new and strange lesson.
Your suffering is a gift.
A gift. A privilege that few experience. If suffering takes you to a precious place with God that nothing else does, who wouldn’t want it?
That day, my perspective turned a corner. I had worked for so long to try to ignore my pain. I wished I could forget about it, dismiss it, move beyond it, redirect my life accordingly, and pretend like nothing ever happened. And now, by God’s grace, I daily force myself to accept the good gift God has given. I say “force” because it doesn’t come naturally. But oh the joy it brings to this honored recipient.
That was the first step. My perspective took yet another surprising turn when I read this:
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. Rom 8:18
Funny. I think the first thing we do when we read this passage is to compare our sufferings with the glory to come. At least that’s what I did.
And that’s exactly what it says not to do. In so many words, it says, “You could compare your sufferings with glory, but why bother?”
Get this. The glory is so great, the suffering falls out of the equation. Now that’s a thought for a weary soul.
And so I take a step back. While I may have the “ability” to see my suffering as gift, I’m not sure I see it as so minuscule in comparison to the glory to come, that I don’t even compare the two.
How I pray for eyes to recognize a gift so graciously granted to me on this earth: my suffering. And when you ask me about my gift, please remind me that I shouldn’t bother comparing it with glory.
[image credit: pixabay.com, journeyoftheword.com]