Suffering

It was over a year ago that I heard from the Lord that He would bless us in our trust in Him. God was speaking to us about Samuel, even before he was conceived. My sweet boy did not arrive in the way I thought he would, and I questioned what Steven and I heard from God separately, then together, When you have this baby, I will bless you. Perhaps I misheard, I wondered. But I know now. I have no doubt that I heard what I heard. I have been blessed. I will be blessed.

I have come to understand that God’s blessings are deeper and wider than my understanding of blessings. I have seen the sands of my striving wash away to reveal the Rock that is my Christ (Matthew 7), and so my house is fortified. I have come to know Jesus so intimately, because I have tasted suffering and I have had the privilege of carrying one of the least of these, my baby boy Sam. I got to be the one who told his life story. I got to be his mama. I got to fight for him, for his life, while he was on earth. I get to love Sam’s daddy, Steven, and I get to help him carry his grief as he helps me carry mine. I walk in the Valley, and I believe it is beautiful in all its danger. I am not afraid to venture into its depths, where the suffering and bereaved reside, to offer hope because God walks with me down here. I get to know sorrow, and so I know the Man of Sorrows, and He knows me.

We continue to experience loss, even after the loss of our first son, yet Christ is our gain. I did not understand that truth before because I think it is too big to fit into mere words, but I am beginning to understand. The brokenness of the world invites me to strive to prevent suffering. It tells me to eat right, take prenatal vitamins, avoid any possible danger–your babies will survive. It tells me to strive for spirituality, to prevent God’s punishment. Then, when those are proven lies, Evil tempts me to stuff my grief, to pretend like this is no big thing, that perhaps if I can’t control my circumstances, I can control my sorrow–it tempts me to find joy in my own resolve, outside of God’s offering. Evil tells me that I might have control, which is a poisonous lie. God was good enough to wrench this control out of my hands, and gave me the gift of suffering. And so I saw with brilliance that not only is suffering and healing out of my hands, but salvation, which is greater than any treasure I might gain on earth. There is nothing I can do to bring prosperity to myself, for God alone giveth and taketh away. He gave to me, and He took away for He is sovereign. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

The joy of the suffering is so real when the suffering finally find it. It is not happiness tinged with fear, for all “good” things come to an end. It is an authentic comfort in one’s own skin–simply because of the knowledge that God is the giver of life, and skin, and circumstances, and goodness. I don’t like the pity I get sometimes because I pity those who have never known suffering more than I believe I deserve pity. I grieve. I cry so often, yes, because it is so sad that my son is not in my arms. Oh, I grieeeeeeve, I say through clinched teeth. But I do not deserve pity. Have you seen the fruit God has allowed me to bear? Have you felt how alive I am becoming when you stand near me? Have you seen how creativity blossoms in my home? Have you looked at my art? Have you read the words that I write? Have you helped me carry my beautiful burdens? Have you witnessed my relationships, how messy yet redeemed they are? Have you seen what God is singing through me? Have you seen Lazarus emerge from the tomb, still wrapped in burial clothing, astonishing the mourners?

Everyone knows suffering. Readers, you will know suffering if you don’t already. Yet this is the miracle–that suffering becomes blessing because of Christ’s suffering on the Cross. This is not out of my resolve. It came and is coming to me by death, which is smelly and ugly and painful. Those who are close to me know that there has been thrashing around during this transformation, and even still I thrash because I am in the midst of it. Yet this spiritual death is gain for me, says Philippians 1, and to live is Christ. This is better a better place to dwell, this house upon the Rock. There is life in here.

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