The blessing of suffering

I wrote at the end of September about suffering, and today I sit down to write about blessing. Yet, before the words are even written, I know that this post will be sewn together by the topic of suffering. Truly, one cannot experience the fullness of blessing without the fullness of suffering.

I have a few dear ones in mind as I write, who are suffering in these dark days. Dear ones, I am excited for you. Excited. Because there is great blessing in identifying yourself with the Cross through suffering, and I experience this blessing daily. The point of suffering is not to get through it, or get over it, learn to prevent it, or make it go away. I will not have triumphed over suffering the day I forget my grief. The point of suffering is not to wallow in it or to let it determine your goodness. The point of suffering is not to teach a lesson (though many lessons do we learn through it). The point of suffering is to walk with Christ, in the moments before salvation was accomplished, adoring the blood on His brow, treasuring His pain, taking it as your own. For in so experiencing the Cross, we experience blessing.

In the last couple of months, some bad things have happened to us, and lots of good things have happened too. This is life. These bad and good things had interlaced in a confusing way for me, and I found myself despairing in a way that was even worse than the raw days following Sam’s funeral. Satan, the son of a bitch, swooped in readily offering lies, “You have somehow been pushed to the outskirts of God’s concern. Somehow God’s grace has skipped over you. That is why bad things happen to you. Maybe… maybe you did something.” And in my talks with God, I told Him in eloquent and spiritual words that if nothing good happens to me, then I will know that He doesn’t care about me.

And then good things happened. Lots of good things. Things that we have been waiting for years to happen finally happened. Finally, I could be sure that God did, indeed, care about me.

Yet I still wasn’t sure. Still, I stayed in my funk, feeling distant from God. I was sure good circumstances would reassure me, but they did not. It was not until I began to revisit my pregnancy with Sam, which was a time of intense, intermingled joy and suffering. It was not until I delved into the time of suffering, allowing myself to weep again and again, instead of attempting to put it behind me, that I found my joy. My joy today is this: I serve a God who walks with me not just during the times of good circumstances, when I am pleasant to be around, but during the times of loss and suffering. This is a far greater blessing than good circumstances. This is a promise to cling to in a broken world. This is the rock upon which our house is built, the very reason that our story is not a tragedy but a triumph. The sand of good works, religious observances, and earthly expectations washes away with the storm. Our faith remained.

When our time of blessing comes to an end, which may be in the next hour, or the next year, or years from now, I know that my God will walk with me at all times. My blessing cannot be taken away. Dear ones, those who are suffering today, God is with you even as you writhe and ask, “Where are You? How could You?” As you bleed, as you experience pain, as you feel the betrayal of your dearest friends, as you lose all the world, contemplate your suffering in light of the Cross, identifying yourself with it. There is gain in this better than riches, better than health, better than earthly happiness.

As we contemplate our blessings, we realize they may radiate from us to bring joy to others. I am finding that those who have stayed close to us, suffered with us, are the ones who are given the joy of our blessing first. They suffered first, and they are blessed first and most potently. Others turned from us, and we lost friends along the way. They did not weather the storm with us, or bleed with us. I am so sad that they are not here. Because they were far away for the suffering, they are too far away to feel the full joy of our blessings. I wish they were here. Tears fall from my eyes as I write, and I wonder if it is a fraction of what God feels for the people who choose not to enter into the suffering of the Cross, endeavoring instead to gain control to prevent suffering for themselves. It is so heart-wrenching. I feel such compassion for them, but they cannot experience the fullness of our joy because they did not take part in the fullness of our suffering. I pray for them, that they will be set free from the fear of suffering, so that they can take part in the most brilliant of blessings that come with it.

Readers, already God has taken this horrifying tragedy, a baby born still with too many chromosomes and a broken body, and is making it beautiful. He has made Sam whole. He is making me whole. He has connected me with other mothers who have carried to term as I have, and I get to know them and pray for them. He has given people eyes to see our little boy. One of my greatest fears when we learned that Sam would not live outside my womb was that no one would love him, that he would be regarded as a burden or someone who never actually lived. Yet, even before he was born, people fell in love with him, praying for him, treasuring him. They sent toys and books for him. My box of letters from people I have never even met is enormous–Steven has to lift it when I want to open it because it is too heavy for me. Sam was loved beyond my greatest expectations.

I think it is tempting for me sometimes to think that perhaps Sam was it. Perhaps Sam was the story God wanted to tell through me, and the rest of my life will be a long dwindling away until heaven. But I believe for me there is a story to tell even beyond Sam’s life and death that might be really fantastic. Steven held Sam up the day he was born, and declared over him, “His story is not over.” I believe today that God holds me up, and declares over me with the joy of a father, “Her story is not over either.” I listen to Sam’s song, and the lyrics which rung true for Sam when he was alive and we loved with with so much hope, now seem to ring true for me now, It started out as a feeling, which then grew into a hope, which then grew into a quiet thought, which then turned into a quiet word, and then that word grew louder and louder until it was a battle cry…

I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living.
Psalm 27:13

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