Choosing to Embrace Suffering
Mother’s Day, 1994. My life forever changed. But to understand the dramatic shift, you need to know a little more about me. I was raised in the church. I have had the same pastor since I was five years old. I prayed to receive Christ as my savior as a young child. I knew a lot of Sunday school answers and even memorized whole chapters of scripture. Somewhere along the way, I got the idea that God was some kind of Grandfatherly type of God who would protect you if you did your part to follow after Him. My life circumstances seemed to back up this theory because I managed to make it to young adulthood without any major trials or suffering.
All that changed on Mother’s Day 1994. My husband and I were married about nine months and expecting our first child. We were as excited as any couple would be, but maybe I was even more excited than the average mom-to-be. My mother cared for other people’s babies in our home. I grew up surrounded by babies and learned to love and care for them at an early age. Even my career choice was geared for caring for babies. Finally, I was going to have my own baby.
I quit my job to prepare to be a full time mom in the final weeks of my pregnancy. But that particular Sunday after church things went terribly wrong. I was not feeling the baby move at church during the songs as he usually did, and he still was not moving after lunch. I went to the hospital to be checked only to find out our baby had died. Early the next morning I delivered a baby boy who was 6 lbs 5oz. He was perfect in every way, only he was not alive. His name is Joshua.
How could God let this happen? I tried to please God all my life. I thought God would take care of me and protect me as some kind of reward for my life of obedience and love for Him. I was not afraid to express my hurt and disappointment. I felt angry, and that God betrayed me. God was mean. This was not the God that I knew. This was not the God that I believed in. About a year later I had twin boys, but that didn’t bring the healing that I hoped for. My anger grew into bitterness and it began to poison my relationship with my husband and my children. I lost 3 more babies over the next couple of years and the wall between God and me was immovable.
As my anger and bitterness seemed to be growing worse; I knew I needed help. Four years after the loss of my first baby, I went to a Bible study at church. I was hurting deeply. I was very honest and open about my struggles, and I didn’t care what people would think of me for sharing my raw emotion. I had to get those feelings out in the open. I began meeting regularly with my Bible study leader. There was something very different about her relationship with God. God was real to her and spoke to her. I knew I didn’t have that kind of relationship with God. I never had that kind of relationship with Him. I wanted that kind of relationship she had with Him. But I didn’t know how to get it. I didn’t want to be fake. I was feeling worse and worse. I was supposed to be in control but all I had been doing was losing control. The burden I was carrying around was crushing me.
I continued to meet with my leader and I came across several testimonies of other women who suffered similar losses. The pain that was buried so deep was being continually dredged up to the surface of my heart. I would later realize that God was using all of this to draw me to Him.
One Sunday morning before church I realized I couldn’t continue to go on like this. I prayed to God to help me tear down the wall that was between us. He heard that prayer. Later that morning, Pastor Betters preached a sermon that God used to speak directly to me.
My pastor said “You’re afraid to trust God. You want to say to God, I’m in control and you’re not. And the reason you say that is because you don’t think God can ensure your happiness. You are expecting some kind of spiritual experience from God when you continue in sin. You’re signing your own spiritual death warrant.”
This statement made perfect sense to me. That was exactly what I was doing. I was waiting for some feeling from God, some spiritual experience before I would confess my sin and pray to Him for His help to tear down the wall that was between us. I felt truly sorry and humbled before God.
The wall between God and me was beginning to crumble. God was drawing me back to Himself, and I knew I had to trust Him.
But trusting God was very hard. If I chose to trust God, and He allowed more pain and suffering to come my way, could I still trust Him? Sometimes my heart cried out, “NO!” God cannot be trusted. He has proven that. God brought Isaiah 55:8-9 to mind. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
God also used Romans 9:20-21 to minister to me. “Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, “Why did you make me like this?” Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?”
I have concluded that sometimes God brings about His purposes in ways that seem out of control to us. That is where faith comes in. That is where trust comes in. God knows what He is doing. God created me with a love for babies, and it was a baby He used to bring me to Himself. The name of our still born son, Joshua, means God saves. Little did I know the significance of his name. God can be trusted.
I believe that part of choosing life is choosing to embrace suffering through trusting God. Our will, dreams, and ideas of life must conform to His will. This is impossible to do on our own. It is only by God’s strength that we can trust Him. God must bring us to the point where we have no where to go except to Him. Philippians 2:13 says, “…for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” Will we trust in God’s will and good purpose even if it leads us through great pain and suffering? Must we embrace suffering?
Jesus answers this question for us. He says in Luke 9:23-24 that “…If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.” In Matthew
10:37-38 Jesus adds this emphasis, “…anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”
Does Jesus even know what He is saying? When Joshua died inside of me, my hopes, my dreams, my ideas of life, and even who I believed God to be died inside of me as well.
One very important thing must happen first before we can pick up our cross and follow Him. We must deny ourselves. Our will must become His will. Before we can go to Calvary, we must begin at Gethsemane. Jesus pleaded and sweat great drops of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane as He asked God 3 times if there was some other way. Jesus knew what was coming. Jesus knew of the betrayal by all, the pain and suffering of the cross and most of all the rejection of His Father as He took on the sin of the world. It says that in Gethsemane, Jesus was sorrowful to the point of death. Even Jesus had to come to a point where He said to the Father, “not my will but your will be done.” Jesus went willingly to the cross out of obedience. Jesus went to Calvary but not before Gethsemane.
Have you reached that moment where you are willing to embrace God’s plan for your life for His glory? Have you reached your Gethsemane moment? Have you reached that point in time through your pain and suffering to surrender to His will? Are you willing to say not my will, but your will be done?
My prayer for you today is that you would choose life. Embrace your pain, trust Him. Deny yourself but do not deny Him. Take up your cross and follow Him. Lose this life, but gain His.
Written by: Michelle