Brace Yourself for Suffering: Lessons from a Broken LegFriday, May 3, 2013
I arrived at the hospital shortly after he was admitted to the emergency room. The pain was so intense that Weston didn’t open his eyes while I was there. But we were able to talk. He was sweating and shaking. Even with medication, the pain was unbearable.
When the doctors came in to do the X-ray, we stepped outside the room. They had to move his leg into several positions in order to capture the images. For several minutes, we heard Weston screaming out in pain.
Moments later, when we walked back into his room, Weston was still shaking from the pain. But now, he was singing the Doxology: “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.” Later on, he sang Blessed Be Your Name:
You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name.
I’ve always sought to be a good example for my younger brother. But in this situation, he was the one teaching me.
In that brief moment, I caught a glimpse of the inexplicable power of joy in the midst of pain and sorrow. Weston confessed his trust in God’s work in his life, even when the pain was intense. He said he knew that every trial we go through is “Father-filtered,” meaning that nothing takes God by surprise. Every tribulation that comes our way is permitted by the God who holds our future in His hand.
Get Ready for Suffering Before It Arrives
As I watched Weston suffer in a way that brings glory to God, I was reminded of how important it is for Christians to prepare for the storms of life before they arrive.
Preachers like to say that people are in one of three stages:
- About to encounter suffering
- Going through suffering
- Coming out of suffering
If this is true, then we should prepare people for all three stages. Why? Because suffering well is one of the best ways we witness to our faith and joy in the Lord.
Good Examples of Suffering
A couple of years ago, Corina and I watched the Matt Chandler video curriculum on Philippians – To Live is Christ & to Die is Gain. In one of the lessons, Matt explained the power of joy in the midst of suffering.
While we were watching the DVD, we realized that, at the time of filming, Matt already had the brain tumor that would cause his seizure on the next Thanksgiving morning. He was already sick; he just didn’t know it yet. As Matt was equipping us to encounter suffering, God was equipping him.
Last year, we watched the steady degeneration of my father-in-law as cancer laid waste to his body. During the trial, visitors often commented on was the way he prayed:Father, I thank you for the portion of health you’ve given me today. Before asking God to heal him, he would express gratitude for whatever health he had left.
In the last 24 hours as we sat next to his bedside, my father-in-law’s prayers became short and labored: My Father… My Father… My Father… with every breath. He was prepared for suffering, which in turn prepared him for glory. And we saw glory in his suffering.
The Suffering Class
No one wants to take the Suffering Class. We steer clear of studying about this subject. We don’t want that course checked off our list. We start thinking, If I’m prepared for suffering, God is going to send a portion my way! Better to ignore it and deal with it when it comes, right?
Take the suffering class. Study what the Bible says about suffering. Don’t neglect Job, the psalms, or the words of the Apostle Peter.
Let’s prepare for suffering so we can be a powerful testimony to the grace and goodness of God in the midst of pain.