The other day I went to visit a dear friend who is suffering with shingles in her eyes and on her head.
She was in utter agony...face scrunched in pain, pale and gray in color.
I went there bearing tulips (her favorite flowers) and balloons and chocolate (her favorite food) seeking to encourage her, kind friend that I am.
I don't know what I was thinking...probably that I had something to offer...some word or prayer that would make everything better.
But what confronted me was such suffering that I trembled before it...tears in my eyes and sadness in my heart that such a woman of God should suffer in this way.
I mean really, she's been through so much already. How much is enough, Lord?
You need to know that she is THE one earthly person I most aspire to be like when, and if, I ever grow up.
She is wise...loving...caring for all creation and people passionately.
She knows how to comfort and her empathy knows no bounds.
Is she perfect? No. And she'll be the first to tell you! But I think she's pretty gosh darn close on an earthly scale.
So, where is all this going you ask?
Because today I want to ramble on the subject of suffering.
Because if you and I haven't already suffered, our time is coming. Count on it.
And we need to be ready.
A great deal of preparation for suffering is simple, but it must be done now, before suffering comes in like a tsunami and we are left reeling.
First, we must have a deep enough knowledge of the Bible. We will be able to recall in the darkness what we have learned in the light.
Secondly, we must develop a strong and vital prayer life. It will be our lifeline to God when everything clouds our thinking.
I've been reading the book Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering by Tim Keller.
I thought it would better equip me to help others...a very noble gesture on my part.
But now I see it's not about everybody else...
It's about me.
And the relationship I need to be building now with God...before the suffering comes.
When I will be forced to learn that...
Suffering humbles us and removes unrealistic pride and self-regard.
It allows us to see that contrary to what our society says, much of our lives are out of our control and are dependent on God.
Suffering reveals our true selves.
Crabby now? Critical now? Impatient now? How about bitter? All will be thrown into relief during suffering.
Suffering shines a spotlight on the state of denial we've been living in and gives us an opportunity to begin working on these ungodly traits.
Suffering will profoundly change our relationship to the good things in life.
It opens our eyes up to see which things, other than God, have become too important to us.
We have been given many gifts and blessings, but none can be more important than the Giver of these gifts.
Suffering can strengthen our relationship to God like nothing else can!
C.S. Lewis once said that in prosperity God whispers to us, but in adversity He shouts.
Suffering can be a wake up call to finally invest in a loving intimate relationship with God.
We will be forced to answer some tough questions that up until now we have been able to avoid...
"Did you really love Me? Or only what I could do for you? Give you?"
Suffering is a requirement if we are ever going to be of any use to others.
Suffering tenderizes us...we become more empathetic and sympathetic, remembering our own time in the furnace.
I love 2 Corinthians 1:3-7...take a moment to read it with me...
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts and encourages us in every trouble so that we will be able to comfort and encourage those who are in any kind of trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
For just as Christ’s sufferings are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ, it is truly more than enough to endure what we must.
But if we are troubled and distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted and encouraged, it is for your comfort, which works in you when you patiently endure the same sufferings which we experience.
And our hope for you is firmly grounded, since we know that just as you share as partners in our sufferings, so also you share as partners in our comfort."
And then the church becomes a "community of profound consolation, a place where one can get enormous support for suffering and where people find themselves growing, through their troubles, into the persons God wants them to become."
And now I need to finish painting the picture of my time with my friend.
Through clenched lips and unstoppable pain, she spoke of God's working in and through all of her suffering...that she knew He was present in the midst of it...and that good would come out of it.
And while she whispered her words of trust and hope, I sat there. Humbled. Marveling.
And that's the moment I knew.
I really, really want to be like her. Now. Not just when I grow up.
I pray your husband reads this to you dear friend...you have given me a gift that I am now passing on to others.
And all because you suffered well.
I love you.
photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/19396658@N00/8586347706">338-365 (Year 6) My First Bible</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/">(license)</a>
cactus- photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/98323495@N00/7169846572">desert flower</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/">(license)</a>
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