Have you ever had an inexplicable feeling that some kind of suffering is coming?
The first time I experienced this, and truly experienced it (in other words, it wasn’t a depressive feeling born out of pessimism but rather a preparation from the Lord), was in the Fall of 2014. I even posted about it on Facebook a few times, as did my husband, Campbell. We both, unbeknownst to each other for awhile, began studying biblical views on suffering, him by diving into the book of Job and listening to sermons by Dr. Stephen Davey, me by pouring over the many verses in the book of Psalms about David’s suffering, (not to mention how every other major player in the Bible, Old Testament and New, suffered in one way or another), listening to podcasts by John Piper on suffering on his website, DesiringGod.org, and then studying several of his sermons and posts on the subject. (His mother was tragically killed when a truck hit her as she was walking on the sidewalk. She was only 56. John was in his early 20’s.)
We had no reason to study it. Nothing tragic had just occurred. In fact, we were a year out from my bout of Post Partum Psychosis, and felt good enough to want to plant a church. It made no immediate sense. We just felt an inward tug, a gut instinct, a nudge from the Holy Spirit to study suffering.
After speaking with Jonathan Raveneau, my brother-in-law (who is married to my identical twin, Maggie), about it that Fall, he wrote a song called, “Sovereignty,” which is on Spotify and iTunes (so proud of him). Some of the lyrics are–
“Even if you cover me with sores, even if you make my body weak and frail, even if I die just for a time, I know with You I’ll rise again. You are everything I have that is worth anything. I will trust Your plan and Your sovereignty.”
Six months later, Campbell was diagnosed with CML. Incurable cancer.
It was a blow neither one of us could ever have imagined in a million years. He had just turned 35. He was incredibly healthy, riding his bike over 25 miles everyday to work and back (he was a high school math teacher at the time), even competing in the occasional triathlon and working out regularly. (If he has one weakness in the health department, it’s Whataburger, but honestly, who doesn’t? Whataburger is amazing.)
But God prepared us.
I’m not telling you this to make it seem like we’re prophets or should get a pat on the back for being extra holy and in tune with God or something, or have some kind of spiritual power or piety that should be envied.
Trust me, we are regular Joes. People tell us all the time that we are so strong. Thank you for the encouragement, dear friends! But we fail all the time! And cannot take credit for any strength or victory. All we are is because God has made us so. “What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7)
As Joseph put it in Genesis, it was not “in him” (Genesis 41:16) to supernaturally interpret dreams; only God could do the miraculous. He warned Campbell and me because He loves us.
And He knew we would need it.
I am experiencing that same feeling again. On the heels of the most difficult year of my life, I feel ready for it. Solid. At peace. He has given me treasure in preparation for the coming loss, whatever it may be. I am not worried or scared. I am “leaning in” to Him. I am on high alert. I am prepared, because He has made me so.
This does not mean it won’t be hard. This does not mean I will escape unscathed. I want to be scathed. I want to be shaped and changed by suffering. Otherwise, what is the point? Just as labor and my stretch marks and the hip that hurts on occasion and the severe mental illness I still suffer from as a result of pregnancies are beautiful badges of motherhood that I wear proudly because they are a product of love and make me think of my precious children, the wounds and scars of this world remind me of my Lord and His scars for me, which He still bears to this day, and will forever.
See, suffering for me is not a matter of fairness, but rather an honor. He has chosen me for the difficult mission. The dangerous one. The one with great glory and reward and joy at the end. (Even though I want all glory to go to Him because He deserves it!) “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” (2 Corinthians 4:17)
I suffer so others may be blessed and see the miracle of God in me; that HE is faithful and has kept me near Him and will keep me near Him, as He is with me always, even unto the end of the Age (Matthew 28:20). It’s why you read about incredible stories of compassion and undeserved, supernatural forgiveness from Christians like this one, which went viral and touched Americans, believers and non-believers alike.
So when this suffering arrives, when the cloud bank approaches from the horizon, as I know it will, I want you to remember this post as a testament to God’s power and His grace. As I will! I will need these precious reminders.
I will fail in the pain, I know I will. I am not perfect. But my God is. And He is my strength, and He is enough, as He always has been.