A cancer diagnosis is not easy. Neither is the death of a child or divorce. Financial ruin and joblessness aren’t a walk in the park either. Relationships fail, bankruptcy happens, and some of us are stricken with life-threatening illnesses. Catastrophic storms occur and lives are uprooted every year. Depression and anxiety cripple millions. Accidents happen. Death, disease, and disasters are common. These things are the realities of the world we live in and they will continue over and over again so long as we are here on Earth.
John 16:33 — “In this world you will have trouble…”
Biblically, we have been promised to go through hard times. We have been guaranteed to experience suffering. There’s no way around it; We live in a fallen world. For the entirety of our lives, calamity will be around every corner. Many wonder why and begin to question God’s goodness when their lives are stricken with grief and struggle. After all, if God is good and He loves us, why do bad things come our way? And furthermore, if God is strong enough to move mountains, part the ocean, and calm storms, why then does He allow us to experience suffering? He is capable of healing, yet sometimes He doesn’t heal.
Have you thought about what life would be like without suffering? What it would be like if all of our dreams came true and we never experienced loss? I’d venture to say that we would live in permanent infancy, unaware and naive. There would be no need for growth, and we would live stagnant lives. There would be a resounding lack of purpose and no need for God. As one who has suffered greatly, I now find gratitude amid my struggles. No, I am not a sadistic lunatic and I do not enjoy grief one bit. However, in my suffering I am driven deeper and deeper into the arms of the One who loves me the most — my Savior.
There is purpose in our suffering. There is purpose in our grief, and in our pain, and in our struggle. It’s imperative for us to remember that. If we lose sight of the fact that our difficulties are being used for a bigger purpose, we can soon become bitter and hardened by every blocked road and detour in our journey. We’ve all experienced someone who oozes bitterness. Someone who clearly has been shackled to their situation and, whether by choice or subconcious, exudes an attitude of seething abhorrence for their life. My heart aches for those burdened in strongholds of grief and sorrow, for I know that though life is full of devastating troubles, there is still hope for something better. For someone better.
John 16:33 did not end by simply promising us troubles. There is more — “…but take heart, I have overcome the world.”
Reflect on that. Though we are guaranteed to struggle in this world, we are equally guaranteed a God so powerful that He overcomes our hurdles. Though our circumstances are impossible for us, with Him the possibilities are infinite. He shatters statistics, derails diagnoses, triumphs over tribulations, and overcomes obstacles. Our hope should not lie in our circumstances but in the One who rises above them.
Through our suffering, we have a magnificent opportunity to bring glory to the Lord. When we suffer, people follow our grief. The world watches to see how we will respond. Will we crumble and give up? Will we avoid and ignore? Will we become shackled? Or will we stand strong in faith with hope no matter the trial? Our suffering is a platform, and in our troubles we are on a stage. Your audience may be your immediate family. It may be your school, neighborhood, or community. It may be those you pass by in the grocery store or the stranger down the road. The world is watching. In your suffering, how will you respond? When people follow your grief, will you lead them to Jesus?
Suffering is purposeful. From the daily annoyances to the life-altering circumstances, there is reason in your struggle. Adversity is not encountered by random chance. Your story is not a mistake. My diagnosis of this rare and aggressive cancer was not unintentional. I have been given an opportunity to suffer well and with purpose. To lead others in my grief. To usher those who suffer alongside me to a hope that is bigger than what I face on Earth. There is opportunity in our suffering. Our struggles bring us closer to Jesus, for He suffered the most. We suffer so that we can become more like Him. We suffer so that we may be molded in His likeness. We suffer so that what doesn’t matter is stripped away. We suffer in order to understand what love really means. We suffer so we can stand by others in their grief. We suffer with purpose.
Life isn’t easy and never will be this side of Heaven. Pain is promised. Suffering is sure. Testimonies exist because of the tests that precede them. There is purpose in our grief. Will you suffer well?
1 Peter 4:12-13
“Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner.”
Pete & LoriApril 8, 2015 at 1:57 PM (8 years ago)
Stephanie, you continue to teach and inspire all of us. God is good… and you are good. We love you!Reply
HeatherApril 8, 2015 at 6:36 PM (8 years ago)
Cassie RodriguezApril 9, 2015 at 1:06 PM (8 years ago)
First can I just say when I met you tenish years ago through a mutual friend and you and my friend parted ways I was so sad bc I loved hanging out with you has did my family.Reply
I could not have ever dreamed where we would be 9 years later. God has granted you such wisdom and you definitely have the scars to prove it! Has I battle with Fibromyalgia and other diseases I have come somewhat to the same conclusion that without suffering and pain we would have no need of someones help, and I would rather have pain and Jesus right next to me then a perfectly perfect empty life. During weeks like this one though I am less sure and want anything that will take the pain away and give me my health back. I want to be useful and have a life instead of sleeping all day or sitting on the couch staring into space.
But I love how you describe it.”An opportunity to suffer well with purpose”. This will be my new life motto if you don’t mind. My new life is useful but in a more longterm kind of way. We don’t have a worldly profession of hair stylist or interior designer, but what would you call this profession?
Thank you so much for your brave words and for being so transparent. It is so nice to hear from someone that isn’t pretending and expecting you to pretend too. Life is hard and we shouldn’t have to pretend we can handle it on our own and if we can’t we are immature or less then everyone else.
Prayers heading your way to continue the remission forever!!
Sherry ReillyApril 10, 2015 at 5:02 AM (8 years ago)
Stephanie, I read this story today. You don’t know me, but I want to say that you inspire hope in the midst of suffering. Suffering is a platform and in it we do have an opportunity to bring God glory. We have a choice and as one who has suffered several years now following a car accident, it is a daily and sometimes moment by moment choice, isn’t it? Sometimes we feel we are in survivor mode, but always, we are growing closer to our Savior who suffered on our account and in those most difficult moments we cry out to him and he is near. Thank you for this beautiful reminder today.Reply