I find myself in a very unique season. It is a season where I am experiencing some suffering. The fact that I call it a “unique season” reveals that much of my life has been comfortable and easy. I have not faced a lot of severe adversity. My seasons of trial and hardship have been pretty quick and painless. Part of this is simply the grace of God. But part of this is also my approach to trials, hardship and suffering.
Because when it comes to trials and suffering, I race to get through it. I brace myself, lower my head and blitz through it as fast as I can.
So when I found out that I would be going through dialysis for two more months than expected, it floored me. There was no quick solution. I would have to bear with this struggle for a season. It actually plunged me into despondency.
I called out to the Lord. I lamented my situation to him. And he answered me. He told me, “You are in a special season, Doug. I am inviting you into it. You will find blessing in your suffering.” I regained hope, but I was also confused. What did this mean?
A couple of days later, I was having a conversation with a very wise friend about my situation and the topic of suffering. She told me that whenever she is suffering or going through a trial, she immediately spends a lot of time to reflect and listen to the Lord. She said that God teaches you things in suffering that you can’t learn when things are going well. And once the trial or suffering is over, you’ve missed that opportunity to learn if you aren’t paying attention.
So while my other Christian friends comforted me with their well-wishes and prayers that I would be healed or get through my suffering quickly (and I so appreciated their encouragement), Tami took a different approach. She inspired me to “pay attention” to what God is teaching me through this unique season. Because for the Christ follower, suffering isn’t just a pain or inconvenience that you try to “get through.” Suffering is a gift that you “learn from.”
No one enjoys suffering. It’s hard in any shape or form. As a result, we tend to avoid suffering as much as possible. We prefer comfort and ease and life going as we expect. And if I go through suffering, I want to get through it – as fast as I can. If I can’t make it painless, at least lets make it quick!
But here’s the deal: the Bible looks at suffering differently than our instincts or how the world sees it. One of the most counterintuitive passages in Scripture is James 1:2, which says to “consider it pure joy when you encounter trials/suffering of all kinds.” In Romans 5:3, Paul says that we should “glory” in our sufferings, because it produces unique fruit in our lives (perseverance, character and hope).
And Jesus is our example. While we avoid suffering, Jesus stepped into suffering. He stepped into our suffering. He is known as the “Suffering Servant,” the “Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief.” The writer of Hebrews goes as far as to say that, even though Jesus is the Son of God, he actually “learned obedience” from his suffering (Hebrews 5:8). Now that’s remarkable! Needless to say, there’s something about suffering that is holy and special and unique.
We all will suffer in this life. Maybe you are suffering today. It might be something huge or something small. It could be a health issue or a relationship struggle or a financial hardship or a tough decision that you’re facing. Suffering comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. But don’t look at your suffering as something you just have to get through. Also look at your trial as something you can learn from. . Whether you realize it or not, you’re in a special season where God wants to do something deeper and powerful in your life.
In the next several blogs I’ll be sharing more specifically some things that the Lord has been teaching me in the “school of suffering.”
Health update: Thanks for your prayers. I’ve felt less nauseous and have had more energy this past week! Yay! I just took some labs. Pray for my levels of phosphorus and potassium to go down, and for my hemoglobin to go up.