I despise suffering.
It took me years to gumption up the courage to go through the pain and suffering of getting my ears pierced! Call me crazy, but isn’t it funny how so many of life’s most glorious achievements and assignments are often laced with suffering?
Your little cousin Michael finally dares to stretch and miraculously snag the prize silver ring on the merry-go-round ... but falls off the painted stallion and loses a tooth.
Your enthusiastic church youth group has car washes and bake sales to fund a life-changing summer mission’s trip overseas … but all succumb to hellacious dysentery on the second day of ministry.
At last, the perfect man of your dreams asks you out ... but when you wake up from the whirlwind romance, you realize your dream’s a nightmare!
Hallelujah, the powers that be finally give you the overdue raise and promotion … but the accompanying insane work hours force you to miss your son’s game-winning touchdown.
Yes, after years of believing for a child, the little white strip finally smiles, “pregnant,” but slowly your body feels like and resembles an alien mutation! The truth is ... a pregnancy is a setup for a baby. That adorable heaven-sent, cooing infant is accompanied by mounds of diapers, sleepless nights, projectile vomiting and no instruction manual!
Perhaps, that’s why so many life assignments are disguised in their inception as parties, celebrations or glorious Kodak moments, but in reality they open our hearts to not only unfathomable love, but the certainty of suffering the wide open door of opportunity and many adversaries.
For instance ... who doesn’t love a beautiful wedding? The engraved invitations, carefully chosen soul-stirring music, fragrant blossoms, flickering candles, tuxedoed groomsmen, satin-gowned maidens, the charmingly nervous groom and the radiantly stunning bride in angelic, luminous, breathtaking splendor.
The truth is … a wedding is a setup for a marriage. That romantic honeymoon can sometimes morph into moments of sleeping single in a double bed! A wedding is nothing short of storybook. A marriage really is A Tale of Two Cities—“the best of times and the worst of times.”
Haven’t we all experienced the emotional contradiction … you walk down the aisle to say, “I do” on the arms of a divorced father who said, “I don’t.”
The baby’s born while grandma dies. The cradle and coffin clasp hands.
Isn’t it interesting that Jesus’ first recorded miracle was at a wedding? When Jesus hand selected His motley crew of weathered fishermen, teenagers and a tax collector, they probably were so elated at His water-to-wine miracle at Cana’s wedding feast. “Wow, this Jesus traveling ministry thing is going to be one big party! Everybody will just love His miracles and love us because we’re His backup band!” Perhaps Jesus, knowing their naive thoughts, sighed, “Wait till the honeymoon’s over guys. Wait until the hour of suffering.”
The suffering, James and John, of your lofty pride of position being revealed.
The suffering, Peter, of cursing and denying the One you loved the most.
The suffering, Thomas, of the dark night of your soul in questioning the multiple testimonies of His resurrection.
The suffering, Judas, of your kiss of betrayal and selling the King of kings for the pittance of a mere slave.
The suffering of paralyzing fear, self-loathing and condemnation.
The torment of what could have been.
In spite of their weaknesses and frailties, Jesus’ rag-tag band of disciples rose to greatness and evangelized their known world. Their suffering helped to transfigure them into other world believers who literally embraced their cross of martyrdom for a better resurrection.
There are certain sufferings that simply are part of the mystery of life, but there are profound truths about unnecessary anguish in one of our favorite old hymns ...
What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear,
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer.
O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.
Isn’t it foolish when we stumble attempting to carry the weight of the world on our shoulders instead of casting our cares on Him because He cares for us? Isn’t it comforting to know that whether the wounds are from living in the combat zone of planet earth or self-inflicted in ignorance ... we have a Friend who understands, empathizes and heals our shattered hearts? He alone has the ability as Divine Creator to work our collected experiences and fashion us into His mirror image of love, goodness and glory.
We were shaped through His suffering to become His representatives to the universe; to re-present the true God of absolute, loving, revealed redemption.
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God” (Romans 8:18-19).
My cousin, Michael, treasured a little hand-carved wooden box enshrining a silver ring and a broken tooth. Such is life ... the priceless and the brokenness in precious earthen vessels— shaped in suffering.
From the April 2011 issue of Homecoming Magazine
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