“Hard times come for all in life, with no real explanation. When we walk through suffering, it has the potential to devastate and destroy, or to be the gateway to gratitude and joy.” -Elisabeth Elliot
I did this piece of artwork back in October. You see, I was sick with rsv, sepsis, and asthma, and had just been released from the hospital with those dreaded words, “You’re still contagious for 2 weeks.” For a people person, that’s REALLY hard to do! As if struggling for a year and a half to just do anything productive in life because of this mystery cough and subsequent breathing problems, fatigue, and other accompanying symptoms weren’t enough, now I couldn’t leave the house?! I remember saying, “God, what is one to do?” And I felt peace with these words from the title of this newly released book I was reading from the late Elisabeth Elliot, “Suffering is Never for Nothing.” I suddenly felt like being home alone ‘not doing anything productive’ was a gift.
I thought of my friends and those I love to work with who have special needs, how they suffer everyday, yet “persevere with endurance the race marked out for them.” (Hebrews 12:1)
Evidence that “suffering is never for nothing.”
I think of their families, who day in and day out, care for their loved ones, putting their family member’s needs before their own, reminding me of John 15:13 saying, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s own life for his friends.”
Evidence that “suffering is never for nothing.”
I think of my young mom friends who are home all day with their kids, exhausted from being up all night with their babies or worn out from the weight of balancing pregnancy and family life, and am reminded how, with The Spirit’s help, their love shown to their family, too, “is patient and kind.” (1 Corinthians 13:4)
Once again, evidence that “suffering is never for nothing.”
I am reminded of friends who have recently been through or battling through scary diagnoses and am reminded of their Heavenly gaze, showing me that “the human spirit can bear sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?” (Proverbs 18:14)
Another piece of evidence that “suffering is never for nothing.”
I am reminded of stories of our fellow Christians who are being martyred for their faith. How they are being “hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. (2 Corinthians 4:8-9)
I think of God sending Jesus to suffer the ultimate penalty of sin and death, innocently, beaten, mocked, scorned, and hung to die an excruciating death on a cross for me and you so that we might spend an eternity with Him if we believe and be given His Spirit here on earth to help guide us through this life. (John 19-20)
The ultimate evidence that “suffering is never for nothing.”
I quickly snapped out of my little mental funk, and started thanking God that my situation wasn’t any worse. I thanked him that although, things weren’t ideal, at least I’m not paralyzed by my depression and addictions anymore, wondering if Jesus was even real…like too many are around me. I wasn’t lost anymore, I had been found. My eternity secure. My suffering will have an end.
You see, just two years prior, I saw no way out of my suffering. I had spent 5+ years drowning in my depression and addictions to self injury and an eating disorder, one suicide attempt after another, and spent more time in psych wards and rehabs than at home. God brought back memories I had become numb to, but reminded me how through all these less than ideal situations I had already lived through, I was drawn to Himself. That is a miracle.
“Suffering is never for nothing.”
God used those promptings by the Spirit, His Word, friends’ texts and phone calls, sweet get well cards, meals, caramel apples, and Starbucks dropped off by such Godly friends in my life while I was home alone back in October recovering while my parents worked, to all minister to me and make me realize that what I am going through is NOT wasted…”suffering is never for nothing!” Not because of my gains in attention, but my gain in perspective, and my gain in time with The Lord. It was a reminder I needed in, not only that moment, but in the moments to come. Not just for the next few months, but for whatever God has planned for my life. I want to work with people with special needs, and all these life experiences can help me relate to them on a more personal level having experienced a little tasting of suffering in my life. Suffering not only gets us closer to each other, it brings us closer to Christ and reveals His glory to us. “Rejoice in as much as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed.” (1 Peter 4:13) So in a sense, God can allow as much suffering in my life as He wants, because I believe He’s not done revealing His glory to me, nor will He anytime soon.
So, whatever YOU may be going through in life, I echo to you these words from Elisabeth Elliot’s book:
“There have been some hard things in my life, of course as there have been yours, and I cannot say to you, I know exactly what you’re going through. But I can say that I know the One who knows. And I’ve come to see that it’s through the deepest suffering that God has taught me the deepest lessons.”
“The gift of love has been the gifts of suffering. Those two things are inseparable.”
Your “suffering is never for nothing.”