I spent our last “date night” crying over the memories of being on death’s door. So cut off from life and so utterly helpless for so long. My body started shaking as I remembered the sad fear that the dreams we had for our married life might be slipping away forever. That secret dread I tried to so hard to suppress each night. Would I wake up again? Brett hugged me close as I continued shaking uncontrollably.
I remembered the desperation when I started to forget what it was like to be healthy and feel alive. Memories were the only thing I had left and even they were slipping through my fingers. I didn’t want to forget! I started making a photo book for Brett that I got too sick to finish. I wanted the happy memories of our relationship to survive even if I didn’t. It was a hellish time. I kept on shaking and crying as I remembered it. The people in the restaurant stared but I didn’t really care.
Eventually the grief subsided and I came back into my present life.
Grief has been a necessary part of this recovery journey. I’ve had to learn to bring prayers of lament to God. I’ve had to let myself remember the physical and emotional agony of those years of illness. I’ve had to let myself weep over all our losses.
I think we often skip over the tears in our eagerness to get to the healing. Sometimes we forget that the grief is a very important part of the healing. We can’t expect real wholeness if we’re not willing to feel our brokenness and ask the hard questions. I’m so glad I chose to open my heart to the sorrow.
Even as I continue to face moments of deep sadness, I feel like I am starting to emerge from the grief with a new perspective. I am starting to see the benefits of suffering. I’m finally breaking through to the other side. It feels harsh to say it to you, my dear readers, but those things they tell you about how suffering can make you wiser and kinder and braver and happier… They’re all true.
It’s impossible to see it when you’re in the throes of pain. But when the sky finally clears and you get the chance to really weep, you might start to see the benefits of your suffering too. You might wake up to discover that Jesus has used your pain to make you more like him and to bless you with a hope you didn’t even know was possible.
So next time you hear another person talk about how thankful they are for their painful experiences remember that it may have taken them many years to get to a place where they could honestly talk like that. And if you happen to be the person talking, try to remember the unanswered prayers, the questions, and the desperation. Don’t make it sound like suffering is a beautiful spiritual experience.
It took me six months of grieving after 5 years of unrelenting physical pain to even start seeing meaningful benefits from my suffering. I am only now beginning to discover the gifts that come through pain. I suspect that, had I suppressed the grief and simply tried to move on, I would have missed out on many of these gifts. Perspective comes through honest reflection, honest prayers, honest wrestling with truth and many honest tears. Don’t skip over it friends.
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
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.