It’s likely the last twelve months of my life have been harder than anything I’ve encountered in the last 18 years. I wasn’t sure I would emotionally survive to ever make sense of it. And only now am I beginning to see the beauty in suffering.
It doesn’t matter what my circumstances were. The drudgery of walking through challenging seasons that threaten to destroy our will to keep going is common to all of us. When our life is marked by chaos, trauma, or unforeseen events, and we can barely put one foot in front of the other, it’s not uncommon to want to hide in a closet somewhere until the storm of life passes. But we don’t have that luxury, do we?
A lost job
A life-threatening illness
A wayward child
A broken heart
What is it for you?
I boast of being able to juggle many tasks and roles at once. I generally have a clear plan for achieving my goals and I am rarely caught off guard. That prideful little resume is a recipe for emotional destruction when a series of arduous events is hurled at you. I had become very comfortable with the routine of my life, and quite idolatrous of the absence of heartache. I had forgotten John 16:33 and its reminder that in this life we will have trouble.
When things began to unravel, I felt myself taking a step into hopelessness and despair. I cried. I whined. I reflected. And then I cried more. Father, what are you doing in our family? Why is all this happening? Why does it have to be this hard? There was no answer I could hold on to, just the deafening silence of my perforating soul, drowning in a sea of senselessness. I read God’s Word. I prayed. I did all the right things. And yet I felt God was overlooking me. Have you ever felt like this?
One morning in my quiet time before the Lord, during my daily petition for Him to please show up on my calendar and put things back together, my spiritual ears heard His message. What if there is no other way?
(Picture me with a tiny pinky finger squeaking out whatever had seemingly muffled my hearing.) What if there is no other way? What are you trying to say, Lord? And then I understood.
It had been a long time since I felt this desperate for a work of God. For days and nights, I cried out to the Lord to radically move in the lives of the people I love most, begging Him to do a work so intense in my own heart that I would not, could not, be the same. I had abandoned all the worldly wisdom and just hurled myself at His feet. Desperate.
Suffering has purpose. Desperation has its mission. The hard things are producing a dependency on Him I may not experience in the happy-happy-life-is-easy moments; so suffering somehow becomes worth the tears. Perhaps there is no other way for the Lord to accomplish His purpose in my life – to bring me to Himself, and reveal the depths of His love and faithfulness to me. Maybe there is no other way I would’ve released my grip on the familiar to chase the unexplainable. And if there is no other way, then Lord Jesus, let it be.
You may find yourself in the same place, looking around and waiting for life to make sense. Friend, as followers of Christ, let us be willing to release our grip on things we cannot control, and open our hand to receive – fully and completely – whatever He is doing in us, despite the circumstances. His desire for our good is the only certainty. The chaos around us may not immediately subside, but we can endure hardships with the perspective there may be no other way for Jesus to make us more like Him.