28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
Yesterday, a post from my friend Ryan Callahan got me thinking again about the suffering that I have endured during my lifetime. (You can read his post here.) In his post, Ryan shared a note that he had written to himself a few years ago when God was speaking to him about his depression resulting from a battle with a chronic illness. God had spoken some encouragement to him and Ryan was gracious enough to share it with us readers in the hopes that it would encourage someone else also.
The Lord took my mind down a little bit of a different path than what Ryan may have intended, but He used it for good, as He always does. The kind of suffering that I have experienced in my life is not a battle with chronic illness, but it comes from the pain of various life experiences, especially the loss of many people that I have loved. (This has resulted in some depression, so Ryan and I have that in common.)
The Lord took me back a few years, though, to when He gave me a word about my suffering. He said, “Only a strong person can sing a song of sorrow.” At the time, those words made me angry. I didn’t want to sing a song of sorrow, and I certainly didn’t feel strong enough to do so. I didn’t even want to be strengthened to sing the song that I’d been given; I wanted to sing a nice happy song, something with a catchy tune and a beat to it.
I wasn’t given a choice.
After wrestling with the Lord a while over this point, I finally accepted that this was the path I’d been given so I may as well make the best of it. So I went along on my merry way.
Yesterday, however, the Lord showed me that my “acceptance” of this point was really just resignation. I had merely resigned myself to this unwelcome fate. That, my friends, is not the same thing as acceptance.
I started asking the Lord how suffering is used to bring Him glory. He reminded me first of all that ALL of us suffer in some way, be it physical suffering or the suffering of the heart and mind or even the fear of losing your life for following Christ. After all, He did tell us in John 16:33 that, “In this world you will have trouble.” Therefore, I shouldn’t be surprised when suffering, or trouble, comes my way. I’m not immune to trouble and suffering, even as a follower of Christ.
Next, He took me back through my own suffering to remind me how He had used it. As a young person and early teen, the losses in my life propelled me closer to God as I struggled to understand what was happening and why. Then, with the loss of one of my best friends to a drunk driver, I shook my fist in anger at God and turned away from Him – for the next 20 years of my life. Ultimately, though, He used even that moment of shaking my fist at Him to draw me closer, and then He used the suffering of the 9/11 attacks to crush the walls I’d built around my heart. That all led me to the place where I was able to fully surrender my life to Him on October 14, 2001. Nothing brings Him greater glory and joy than for His lost children to come home to Him!
Please hear me on this next point: God does not cause all of our pain and suffering, although many times He does allow it. (See the book of Job, for example.) Many people who are way smarter and more learned than me have plumbed the depths of why God allows pain and suffering and you can read their works if you’re interested in learning more. I personally don’t fully understand it, and probably never will, but I trust the heart of the One who allows the pain and suffering in my life. I know that Romans 8:28 is not just a nice, Christian-y platitude – it is rock-solid TRUTH.
One thing I’ve written about before that I’m learning is instead of saying, “Why me, God?” when something painful happens, I now say, “God, what do you want to do in me through this?” That is a shift from being distrustful of Him to trusting Him, even when things are hard.
Friends, if you are in a season of suffering, know that the God Who created you sees you and loves you. He is near to you (Psalm 34:18); He binds up your wounds (Psalm 147:3); He catches all your tears and saves them in His bottle (Psalm 56:8 NLT) because they are precious to Him. I would be honored to pray for you also if you’re going through this kind of season. Please comment below or message me and I’ll keep you in my prayer journal for daily prayer until your season is over. Don’t lose hope and don’t give up! Your heavenly Father will use even this for your good and for His glory. Blessings and peace to you!