Today marks the two year anniversary of the day I almost lost my husband. He went in for a routine surgery and almost didn't come home.
This yearly anniversary is always a bitter sweet day for me, as it is a place where my greatest fear and my deepest gratefulness collided. It doesn't take much to resurface the pangs of the deep emotions and fear I felt during those very difficult days in the ICU. It is 2 years later and I still fight back the fear of ever having to relive those moments again. Suffering changes you.
We are no strangers to many kinds of suffering, no one is, even though we all want to be. If given enough warning we would turn and run before it could ever reach us. We desperately want to protect ourselves and our children from it, taking every precaution we can to avoid it. For some, that becomes a life mission.
Suffering can also be also a tempter. It tempts us to numb out, to run, or to get ahead of it and try to control it. While these are all noble efforts, they are all flawed. They are flawed, because that is not the plan. We are going to have suffering in this world, whether we like it or not. It is the world we live in, and even though we were given fair warning about it, we still fight it (John 16:33).
Suffering often hits us in our most vulnerable places. It is a pain that washes over us like a tidal wave about to take us under. Its current drifts us so far from shore that we don't know if we will survive or not. It steals our focus, and at times the only thing we can think about is surviving. I believe that is specifically why God has given us a command to weap with those who weap. We need each other in our suffering. We need the friend to cling to, to cry with, to endure with. We help ease one another's suffering.
What we can not forget in our suffering is the greatest gift we have by far. The gift of a Savior anchoring us down being sure we won't drift too far. A Savior that stands with us in the stormy waves of life and holds us up, even just enough, so we can continue to breathe. What we want the gift to be is the removal of the suffering, but the real gift, as long as we're on this earth, is that we do not have to endure it alone.
Suffering can not be avoided, nor is it easy to rejoice in as we're commanded. But, there is often a beauty that comes with suffering. The beauty in knowing that nothing is irredeemable. There is no suffering so great that Christ can not overcome it or redeem it (John 16:33 again). Suffering often ushers in some of our greatest joys. The pain of pregnancy and childbirth has given many of us our greatest treasures. Would you be willing to give that treasure up just to avoid the pain? I believe there are many women who would welcome in that suffering at any time. In fact, it is the lack of that suffering that is causing their current suffering. Those precious women are the ones who have eyes to see what we can not. They see the gift in the suffering, the purpose behind it. God has those same eyes, even greater. He knows what is to come. He knows our suffering is only a blip on the line of life. He knows our suffering is an opportunity for His greatness to be known and His glory to be seen. He knows what suffering can produce in us.
Every person that has come through our doors has done so because of suffering. It has been their pain that has allowed us to show love, compassion and truth. It is their pain that allows us to bring ease, comfort and the return of joy. None of those things would be possible without suffering. To not suffer is to not love, and as long as we love, we will continue to suffer. On such a small scale, we are able to see the often beautiful outcomes of suffering. If people are willing to trust us with their pain, do you think we can all trust that God is even more trustworthy? Can we trust that He has the perfect redemptive plan for our pain and suffering? After all, He knows suffering. Suffering was the plan He chose to give us our greatest gift, His Son.
Oh, how we hate suffering, but without it we would have no need for a Savior. It is pain that often drops people to their knees. It provides the realization that they can not handle what they're going through on their own. Oh how great an exchange, suffering for eternity. A gift accessible to us all.
As we all move forward in life, may we learn to suffer well and suffer strong, knowing that a great redemptive plan is already in place, even if we never see it on this earth. May we also learn to never suffer alone.