So much of the Bible is full of people praising the Lord in spite of their suffering.
It’s almost like it’s a rite of passage as a part of the people of God.
Growing up I dealt with a lot of suffering, and I clung to the Lord through most of it throughout Jr. High, High School and college. Like most, some of it was suffering at the hands of others. But a whole heck of a lot of it was suffering due to my own sin and straight up stupid choices. And some was just the general suffering of being a fallen human being. I remember spending days and nights in tears, literally clinging to my Bible, reading and praying as tears fell on the pages. I remember writing in journals, prayers upon prayers, desperately crying out to God and focusing on Him instead of my circumstances. I have dealt with depression and anxiety for as long as I can remember. I tried to commit suicide twice in High School. I self-harmed. I struggled with eating disorders. I remember fighting those thoughts of worthlessness, guilt and shame by memorizing Scripture and putting verses and truths about who I am in Christ every where I could see them. But that was then. For a decade I walked away from the Lord. By His grace, and the pursuit of His Spirit, He finally brought this wandering sheep back into the fold. He’s renewed me, completely changed the way my brain functions, my attitude, my heart. I’m finally living in that new life that He promised in freedom and grace, that I had somehow hadn’t fully experienced yet. Throughout that time “without Him,” (I use the quotes because He was always there. I was just ignoring Him) I was suffering. I had gotten married, had dealt with some epic problems in that marriage (don’t worry, spoiler alert! We are still married and our relationship is better than ever). I had become a mother and had not found much joy in that. A screaming banshee baby girl, breastfeeding issues, post-partum, isolation, etc. Then another baby. A premature little boy and everything that comes with that. Still a failing marriage. Thoughts of suicide, debilitating depression and anxiety, being diagnosed as bipolar, a LOT of therapy. Even MORE marital dysfunction. I was totally miserable. But this time there was no turning to the Lord. There was just me. Laying in my bed. Wanting to die. Being angry with Him that I existed. Truly feeling like I had failed Him, myself, my family and friends. That there was somehow no redemption for me at that point. I was suffering because I had walked away from God. Okay, so some of this is true. That life was a selfish life. I wasn’t truly living, let alone thriving, as Christ intended. I wasn’t leaning on Him, praying, living a life of worship. What would it have been like if I had? I honestly don’t know, but I can guarantee it wouldn’t have been as bad as it was. Now I’m back, like I said. And guess what? My life is GOOD. I mean, like REALLY good. My husband and I are blessed. We have a beautiful home, our children have blossomed. (We still have the parenting issues that anyone with a 5 year old and 3.5 year old would have). We are blessed financially, we have a nanny, and now we have a flourishing relationship, and a beautiful and wonderful church family that we are serving with. We are living a life I never dreamed possible, because God can do even more than we can ask or imagine. But almost all of these blessings came (minus the flourishing marriage, the joy I have in the Lord, and our church family) before. I don’t know if it is still my bad theological upbringing, or just my own anxiety, or the devil and his schemes (or all three?), but I’m sitting here with my fabulous life waiting for the suffering to come. Because none of my faith has truly been tried until I suffer, right? Am I the only one who feels this way? I have a testimony of the epic transformation that Christ has done in me and my life and family, and I can testify to how He got me through all that suffering and pulled me out of it. But is that enough? Is it even for me or anyone to say?
As I was discussing this with a friend, we went back to an idea that the Lord had shown me years ago, which is holding all things with an open hand. Really it is just a posture of the heart. It is holding onto those blessings and those you love dearly, but with your hand open, knowing that it is all a gift from the Lord. So if He decides to take something away, forever or for a season, or if He decides to make something look differently than it once had or in the way you imagined it, you remain stable. If you are holding onto things so tightly out of fear, if it does get taken away there is a huge struggle. You’ll be tossed to and fro and pulled in every direction until it is free. It will hurt far worse. And, in the end, it will still be gone. This is a really hard place to get to, to live with my hands open. I’m not sure they are quite there yet. Because I look at these things I love so dearly: my husband, my children, my friendships, my church family, our home, my parents, the list goes on and on. But ultimately I must love the Lord my God above all else, and chose to follow Him no matter what. If He is truly what I treasure the most, then when suffering comes, I will be able to rely on Him. I’m really preaching to myself here. Because I’m still fearful. But fear isn’t from the Lord. I will continue to pray for God to help pry my hands all the way open in obedience to Him.