What I’ve Learned Through Suffering
by: Erin Warren | February 16, 2017
The symptoms started about a year ago; my husband, Kris, was sick all the time. It wasn’t too serious at first, but by May 2016, it started getting worse… rapidly. By July, we found ourselves in the ER and five days and countless tests later, we ruled out a lot of scary possibilities and left the hospital with a diagnosis. We were honestly so happy to have answers, we didn’t fully process what the journey ahead of us held. These last seven months have been some of the hardest I’ve walked.
When God heals our illness, sometimes we find ourselves saying “God is so faithful!” But the reality of my husband’s illness is that he may never be healed. In fact, right now, there is no cure. Does that mean God isn’t faithful to us? This has been a huge part of the reason behind exploring God’s faithfulness. Here’s what I’ve learned: God’s faithfulness is not doing “good things” in our lives. God’s faithfulness is God keeping His promises. So far this month, I have explored three promises of God and today, I have three more. And these are a little different than the previous ones:
Promise #1 – The world has suffering.
During the Last Supper, Jesus was clear with His disciples: this life isn’t going to be easy. John records five whole chapters of Jesus preparing the disciples for what’s about to happen. He tells them to stay connected to Him, that the world will hate them, that the Holy Spirit is coming and then this:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” John 16:20-22
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation.” John 16:33a
John uses childbirth as an example here: it’s really painful, but then you have incredible joy because you see the result of your pain was good. I don’t believe we will always know the “why” of suffering; I only know that He promises we will have it. It’s not a very comforting promise, is it? But here’s what I’ve learned on our journey so far: God can absolutely do a work in us through suffering; it just may look different than we think it should. God has absolutely done a work in our lives through our suffering – drawing us deeper in our relationship with Him. We can find joy even when our circumstances seem dark. We can have peace, even when a war is raging in our lives. Satan wants us to believe that suffering is God’s punishment or lack of love toward us. The truth is that suffering could honestly become a great gift in our lives. Here’s why:
Promise #2 – He has overcome the world.
Here’s the second part of verse 33:
“But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33b
You see, if we didn’t suffer… if everything just always worked out and was good, what would we need of God? We need Him… desperately! And He has overcome this world. He had a plan to redeem us before He even created the earth (Ephesians 1:3-4). The Greek word used here for overcome means conquer, to come away victorious. Satan is defeated. Death is defeated. Evil, sickness, trials, suffering… it’s all been defeated through His death on the cross and resurrection from that death. And take heart? That means be of good cheer or be of good courage. Life is hard, but we can have joy knowing that He’s got us. Does it make the process easier? Maybe not, but it does help us approach suffering from a posture of joy and thanksgiving instead of despair.
Promise #3 – You have overcome the world.
I always just stopped up there with John 16:33, but John takes this a bit further in one of his other books:
“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” 1 John 1:1-5
You see, overcoming the world doesn’t mean we don’t have trouble. It means we get heaven. It means eternal life. As His children, adopted into His family, it means that we have ultimate victory because HE has overcome. And going even further, God uses the suffering in our lives as part of our testimony, and He uses our testimony as part of the conquering too:
“And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” Revelation 12:11
For Kris and I, we press forward. It’s a controllable illness, and we have a plan of attack. Praise God he has improved greatly over the last couple months. Our story isn’t done yet, but we are headed in the right direction. God is right here with us, and we have peace knowing that.
When we choose to live from a posture of victory, we keep Satan from getting a victory in our life. When we choose to see God’s handiwork in our suffering, we allow His power to do its work in our lives. Take heart, my friend, Satan isn’t going to win this one. That’s a promise.