When I was really sick, people used to ask me what God was teaching me. I guess they assumed that since I was experiencing great suffering God must have been downloading vast amounts of wisdom into my tiny brain.
The truth is, my tiny brain was fully occupied with the business of survival and the majority of the time I felt like God wasn’t teaching me anything. Actually, that’s an understatement. I felt like God had dropped me into a pit of agony and left me there to die. I tried to reach out for him but there was no answer, no reassuring sense of peace or divine comfort.
The Bible teaches that “all things work together for good to those who love God,” including suffering. Unfortunately, Christians often act as though that promise means that our suffering won’t really hurt. That God will be sitting beside us with a magic wand turning our most agonizing experiences into happy memories of divine love. This could not be further from the truth. Pain hurts. It really, really, really hurts.
Here is what Tim Keller has to say on Romans 8:28,
“Romans 8 must not be read in a saccharine way. It does not say that every bad thing has a ‘silver lining’ or that every terrible thing that can happen is somehow ‘actually a good thing if you learn to look at it properly.’ No, Paul says in Romans 8: 28 that all things—even bad things—will ultimately together be overruled by God in such a way that the intended evil will, in the end, only accomplish the opposite of its designs—a greater good and glory than would otherwise have come to pass. Only God now has that eternal perspective and vantage point from which he can see all things working together for our good and for his glory—but eventually we will occupy that place and will see it too.”
This is a robust hope that can stand up to real pain and sorrow! It is the hope I clung to even when I wasn’t sure I believed it. I certainly didn’t feel like it was true. No one could see things working together for my good. It sure looked like things were working together for my destruction.
When the years of intense suffering abated they gave way to grief and confusion. Now the grief and confusion is finally giving way to hope. I don’t yet see how all the details of my dreadful illness have worked together for my good and I don’t expect I ever will on this side of heaven. But I am starting to catch glimpses of my pain being worked for good.
I’m starting to see things I didn’t see before and discovering some genuine gifts that came through my suffering. My marriage is stronger and sweeter than most marriages ever get to be. Brett’s online business was born out of necessity and yet it has blessed us with enormous flexibility.
I notice beauty that I used to just pass by, like the cute little paw prints in the mud or the frost on the grass. I take great delight in things that I used to take for granted, like being with friends or working out. Lots of things that used to worry me don’t really worry me at all anymore, like material possessions and food.
I used to have an antagonistic relationship with my body but now I revel in the joy and wonder of being embodied. I used to have an opinion on almost everything, now I listen more and try to be a little bit more humble. I used to blindly trust other people’s interpretation of scripture, now I seek to trust God and ask Him for wisdom. I used to think I understood people, now I know how to ask good questions. I used to worry about what people thought of me, now I don’t care as much.
My sickness took us out of life and everyone went ahead without us. It was scary to get left behind but it set us free from the frantic pace of modern life. We’re definitely not going to waste the rest our lives rushing from one thing to another. We’re free to focus on what really matters and we’re not afraid to do things differently anymore.
None of these things undo my losses or answer all my questions but they do build my hope. I haven’t yet tasted enough good to feel satisfied that my pain was worthwhile. But if these truly good blessings can be born out of my suffering in less than 6 years, imagine how much good can God work in 6,000 more years?
So, whether you’ve been suffering for one month or 50 years, take courage that God really can work it for your good. It doesn’t mean you’ll see Him transform your pain into blessings before your eyes. It just means that in the middle of your doubts and agony you can trust. You can trust that someday you will see God turn all of this evil back on itself and use it to accomplish the very opposite of what it set out to do. Cling to that. Cling to it even when you don’t believe it.
By the way, Brett and I made a beautiful PDF of my favorite resources for suffering souls. I created the content and he made it look fancy with his superduper graphic design skills. It’s available for free to my email subscribers. Click here to sign up and receive 5 Resources for the Suffering Soul.
I have no words, but hope this communicates my love for you ❤March 28, 2018 at 4:41 pm
Aww!!! I love you too Laura! ❤️March 28, 2018 at 5:30 pm
HEY I JUST WENT FURTHER INTO YOUR SITE . NICE JOB YOU AND DEAR HUBBY FIGURED OUT HOW TO CASH IN. THE HOSPITAL BED PHOTO NICEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!! I CANT BELIVE I HAVENT THOUHT OF SOMETHING LIKE THIS. THANKS FOR THE IDEA EASY STREET HERE I COME.PARIS.ROME.LONDON MADRID.ETC HERE I COME PARTY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!April 28, 2018 at 3:23 pm
Awwww…touching. Love you Ana!March 28, 2018 at 4:49 pm
Aww! Thanks Erin! Love you too.March 28, 2018 at 5:31 pm
This was beautiful, Anna! This has encouraged me so much, not just with the physical suffering I’ve been facing, but also with my emotional pain. Very much needed for me to hear tonight. Thank you for writing it! <3March 28, 2018 at 5:50 pm
I’m so, so glad to hear that Bella. This is why I write. God be near to you dear sister as you suffer. 💕March 28, 2018 at 6:30 pm
True words, and a great way to look at Romans 8, and any time we suffer or struggle as Christians. In the Bible, Paul wrote about some truly horrific things he went through (including the left-for-dead-in-a-ditch part, which always puts things into perspective for me), and he doesn’t sugar-coat anything. He says it like it is, that it happened, that it hurt, but he rejoiced not in the pain, but that he was counted worthy to suffer for Christ, and could go on serving Him anyway. Not all suffering is “for” our faith, but our faith will always affect what we take away from all our sufferings. Just glad to be pressing on one day more. 🙂 Praying for you, Ana!March 29, 2018 at 3:12 am
Thank you so much for your comment and your prayers Ruth! 💕March 29, 2018 at 12:38 pm
Love to read your honest perspective. It is truly inspiring! Healing and wholeness is my prayer for you. Hugs!March 29, 2018 at 7:54 am
Thank you so much Ana! Hugs back! 😘March 29, 2018 at 12:38 pm
Ana, dear… We have caught up on the last postings which we missed and it was neat to see the creative ways you did things in your months of camping… i.e. taking your baths! lol For never camping before, you and Brett are now complete experts in your unique ideas of working with what you had and the difficult situations you faced! And we are thankful that you are feeling much better and improving daily and pray for God continued strength, encouragement and healing. Thanks, too, for all you shared above in what God has taught you in these very difficult years of suffering… so very powerful and ministered to us! Sending much love and prayers to you and Brett ! Chuck, Ann and Gabriella xoxMarch 29, 2018 at 9:25 pm
Aww! Thank you so much! It’s so good to hear from all of you. I love you and am so thankful for your prayers. I’m glad you were able to catch up on the blog. 💕😊March 30, 2018 at 4:59 pm
Thank you for this encouraging post!March 30, 2018 at 2:15 am
You’re welcome Jen! I’m so glad to hear it was encouraging.March 30, 2018 at 5:00 pm
Thank you again for sharing the truth on physical suffering for believers. I too, have suffered for long stretches of undiagnosed pain for at least 10 years. I was floated from doctor to doctor and only given hands up diagnoses. No one seemed to want to take the time to do the research on me. Maybe it was my age as I was nearing 60. I even had great insurance. I finally accepted it as part of walking closer to God and I tried to always thank Him for His love and discipline. Up until six months ago, I was getting through, but always in pain, fatigue, and a lot of internal sufffering. Six months ago, I was hit by all the reecurrring elevated pain, my joints all stiffened, I became bed bound again, totally unable to function outside of a high level of opiates to just maintain. I had regular visits with my general MD with no resolve. Finally I was recommended to a Rheumatologist with 25 years in his expertise. I went reluctantly, but willingly always being hopeful for help. From the minute he walked in, he never stopped asking questions about me and my history. He was an absolute walking encyclopedia of knowledge on auto-immune diseases. Within one hour, he knew what it was. Since he had so much historical knowledge on these diseases, he had seen it before. He immediately started me on long term of low dose prednisone. Within a few hours, I was seeing drastic results. Used pain meds for only 3 days and I am 95% free of pain. I can walk, do my chores, help others and, most importantly, give our God every glory and blessing He always deserves.
If anyone is interested in seeing or contacting this doctor, He has been on University of Washington staff for years and practices out of Valley General in Renton, Washington. His name is Dr. Pedro Trujillo and I would guess you would need a referral. Only twice in my almost 70 years, have I met such doctor that lives and breathes his specialty and his intent is to cure you, not too keep you the same.
Thank you Ana for your ministry to others.March 31, 2018 at 9:16 pm
Wow! Thank you for sharing your story Jean. I’m so sorry you had to suffer for so long. So happy to hear you found something to alleviate the pain. Praise the Lord! God bless you sister! 💕April 1, 2018 at 4:24 pm
Ana, I read your posts on regular basis. I miss you and Brett and Ramona. Love, tamamApril 3, 2018 at 10:33 am
Thank you for writing this. Thank you for not sugar-coating anything.April 8, 2018 at 3:36 pm
I just wanted to say that I’ve been reading your blog from almost the beginning and your honesty and hope while working through so much refreshes and challenges me! Thank you for writing through the ups and downs.September 10, 2018 at 6:05 am