I don’t like to suffer. I never have. I never will. I am, however, intimately acquainted with pain. God, in His sovereignty, introduced the two of us long ago.
I felt the insidious grip of pain while growing up in an emotionally abusive home.
I felt it when my first husband wiped out our savings account, took the one car we owned and left me and our eighteen-month-old daughter for another woman.
I felt it when my new husband and I, joyful at the news of my pregnancy, discovered it was complicated, putting my life and our baby’s life at risk.
I felt it in the postpartum depression after our son’s birth. Then again, when I miscarried our next child.
I felt it when I lost my mother to Alzheimer’s long before I lost her to death, and when my Dad died without ever having said “I love you,” words I spent my life longing to hear.
Today I feel it in the constant physical pain that is a familiar, yet unwelcome, companion. I have lived with this pain since being diagnosed twenty-five years ago with an incurable chronic illness. There have been many days I think I can’t endure one more day of affliction. And yet, as another day comes and goes, pain remains. Pity doesn’t soothe or comfort. I share my story to help others try to make sense of their own and point them toward the hope (that can only be found) in Jesus.
I have asked God to heal me countless times. His answer to me has been, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9, NIV). This wasn’t the answer I prayed for, hoped for, longed for, and begged for. Nevertheless, it’s the answer He’s given.
When I finally come to the end of myself and reach a deep place of brokenness, God meets me in His mercy and grace. He ever so gently reminds me again to trust Him. To give up the struggle for control. To surrender both the process and the outcome to the One who is all-knowing, all-loving, and promises to never leave me or forsake me. Only in His strength can I say, as Jesus said,“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42, NIV).
In moments of despair, I often view surrender as the world does—as giving up, a posture of defeat, or loss to the enemy. Those attitudes are easy to adopt in my flesh. But as a precious Daughter of the King, surrender is a place of grace, of freedom, and of acknowledgment to myself of what my Father has always known: I can’t handle the pain one more day. I can’t change my sinful heart, nor anyone else’s. I can’t make the world turn any faster or any slower, nor can I make the sun to shine, or the rain to fall. I can’t rush the seasons. I can’t control the circumstances. The burden is too heavy, the journey too long. I can’t take one more step on my own. It is in this moment of surrender, that I realize I never had the strength to begin with.
God reaches down from heaven, as He did through His Son Jesus over 2,000 years ago. He meets me where I am, but does not leave me unchanged. He shows me how much He loves me. He reminds me He is here with me in the middle of the mess, the confusion, and the suffering. I can almost physically feel Him reach out, take hold of my hand, and gently help me up. He cradles my hand in His, guiding me through unknown territory. When I can no longer walk, He carries me, providing rest and refreshment. He promises to do the same for you.
The story of my journey is not the story I would have written for myself. I would have written one of comfort and ease, sunny skies, smooth paths, clear streams. Roses without thorns—life without pain.
I have often begged God for it.
But I have also asked Him to give me a heart of compassion. To see others as He sees them. To break my heart for what breaks His. To experience the depth and breadth of His love, and to share it with a lost and hurting world. To be more and more conformed to His image, so when others look into my eyes, they see a reflection of Christ’s love. I have asked Him to allow me to be an instrument of His healing, whenever I take up the pen to write or I open my lips to speak or extend my hands in service.
God in His wisdom has written the story I needed, keeping me aware of my deep dependence on Him. I am more attuned to the stories of others in their silent suffering, as I point them to Christ who redeems all things.
It is a story that proclaims the possibility of holding both joy and brokenness in our hearts simultaneously. Brokenness will always be with us. Since the Fall, it is in bitter competition with joy. It wants to take over our heart—and it will if we don’t intentionally remember that Jesus is the source of our joy. True joy is not the absence of pain, but the reality of a life lived in the daily presence and love of Christ.
When I feel weakest, God reminds me His grace is truly sufficient and His perfect love casts out fear. As He works in and through me—the most undeserving of humans—I become more aware of His strength. He is the author of my story and the reason I can tell others of his love, mercy, and forgiveness.
Because of the intimacy that has been cultivated with Christ, and the deep compassion I’ve gained for others who are hurting, I would never trade one moment of my suffering. The weight of my past and present trials do not compare to the gift of experiencing God’s grace through them. Surrendering to His grace has afforded me the opportunity to trust God and love others in a way I never could have otherwise. And that, to me, is a story worth living.
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