Tuesday, July 23, 2013

About Suffering...

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths" prov 3:5-6

It has been a summer, indeed a year, of ups and downs as far as my autoimmune condition has gone. I now go to town hours away and spend 4 hours in the hospital having a drug infused slowly into my bloodstream to try and stem the tide of this disease.

It’s hard to say if it is helping or not. I have had some of the worst flares ever, when the barometric pressure drops. I sleep more than I am awake and have no stamina. Walking through the house winds me now. I am weaker than I have ever been in my life and flares are incredibly, unbearably painful, swift and oppressive. I bounce back in between, however, although the weakness and fatigue stays with me. 

Luckily, Randyman walks this valley with me. He understands when I am unable to function and instead of berating or becoming discouraged with me, he supports me and picks up the slack, caring for the animals, yard and our personal needs. I can be practically comatose for 24 hours, then suddenly wake up feeling refreshed and ready to do something. On those days I do laundry, can foods, bake bread, fix a nice dinner or whatever I am able to do. Yesterday was the highlight of my summer so far. Sushimoo, my yearling heifer, jumped the fence and wound up in the pasture with the bull and his harem. Being much too young to be bred still, she had to be captured and separated again. The first time in months, I was strong enough to walk out to the milk pasture where the horses are, not just once, but THREE times. I captured my old Quarterhorse, got him saddled up, rode down and in the space of about half an hour or so managed to bring all the cattle up and separate Sushi and EmmaLouMoo and put them in the corral. The rest of the day I spent recovering, as it triggered a great deal of pain in my shoulders, wrists and hands and I was worn out, but emotionally I was riding a wave of joy that I cannot even describe. For a brief moment in time, I was able to once again do what I most love, with the desired result and uninjured. Life is made up of these kinds of moments.

Pain is relative. Everyone experiences it, be it in the form of disease or injury, failure, betrayal, death of a loved one, loss of a job, insecurity, death of a child... it comes in many forms. Many people who have not met the Savior ask, “How can a loving God allow such suffering in the world?”

It’s a valid question and one I used to ask, myself. The answer can be complex, but simply put, we live in a fallen world. This is not paradise. It is neither Eden nor Heaven. When sin and rebellion entered the world, it separated us from God and His perfect creation was damaged. Disease, death and wickedness took root and grows, still, today. But He is yet in control. He holds back evil, allowing in only what can work toward His purposes. Death is a loathesome enemy, be it the death of a child or adult, wild animal or beloved pet. But He defeated death. Death does not have the final word.

As far as human suffering goes, there are a couple of things someone told me early in my walk that helped me understand suffering’s purpose. The Roman Centurion was not convinced Jesus of Nazareth was who He claimed he was. After observing His crucifixion, in excruciating pain and agony, offering grace and redemption to the very world who tortured and murdered him, the Centurion said “Truly, He must have been the son of God”. It was watching how He handled suffering that opened the Centurion's eyes.

 As my friend said “It is not always how we live, but sometimes how we die, that convinces an unbelieving world”. When others see He sustains us in our suffering, they see the awesome power of God. Joni Eareckson Tada, who became a quadriplegic in a diving accident at the age of 18, says 
“I would rather be in this wheelchair with Jesus, than on my feet without Him.” 
Pretty powerful words coming from a woman who has spent 40 years in that wheelchair, unable to do the things most of us take for granted. 

Unlike the televangelists who promise all manner of wealth and comfort if we only follow their formula, the Bible says, in fact guarantees, we will have tribulations in this life. 


Finally, the best explanation of the true purpose of suffering was given to me by a friend when she explained to me the refiner’s fire. This is a term used over and over in the Bible, referring to the crucible of suffering.

A woman stopped to watch a silversmith at work. He was smelting down silver in a crucible, burning off the dross to purify the precious metal. As she was asking questions of him, he explained it was necessary to pay constant attention, so as not to overheat or damage the silver. It had to be done with great care. She asked him how he knew when the process was finished. His reply was
“When I can see my reflection in it”.

As the silver reflects the image of the silversmith, so we begin to reflect the character of Jesus as we come through the crucible of suffering. Notice, that He never once takes His eyes off as we are being perfected, but stays close, ever watchful, until all the impurities are gone and He can see His own image in us.

Take heart, your suffering has purpose.

"being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." phil 1:6