We Christians don’t talk enough about suffering. Suffering is a fact of life, even for Christians, and we need to be ready for it.
The cross gives us objective grounds for trusting in God’s sovereignty and love, regardless of our circumstances. And our experience of God’s faithfulness over time strengthens our confidence and trust. And since we can see God’s faithfulness in others’ experiences as well, when we’re thinking through how to intellectually deal with and experientially face suffering, it can be helpful to listen to Christians who have been there before us.
Consider the testimony of Trisha Dyvig.
2010 was a year of many tears for me. Tears of joy and tears of great sorrow.
It began in June when my husband and I found out we were pregnant. We have two beautiful boys that we adopted as babies, but this was my first pregnancy. To say I was ecstatic would be an understatement.
Then our world came crashing down on us in September. I went in for my 18-week ultrasound and was devastated when I was told that my water had leaked at some point, that no fluid was left around the baby, and delivery was imminent. My first thought was just total disbelief. And then pure agony. What was God doing?
For the next seven weeks, I defied all odds and didn’t deliver. Then, on October 27th, at exactly 25 weeks pregnant, I was admitted to the hospital for what we hoped would be a nine-week stay. But shortly after I was admitted, the monitors showed I was having contractions and I was rushed back for an emergency C-section. That afternoon we welcomed our precious baby girl, Eliza Grace, into the world. Weighing in at only 1½ pounds and 13 inches long, she was incredibly tiny but perfectly formed. God in His great mercy had allowed me to sustain my pregnancy to the point that I got to meet my daughter and see how He had fearfully and wonderfully made her.
The NICU staff fought hard for her, but after an hour of being worked on, we were told she was not going to live. They unhooked her tiny body from all the tubes and wires and placed my baby on my chest. And that is where she spent the next three hours, until she quietly passed from my arms into the arms of her Heavenly Father.
Eliza’s short life impacted me dramatically. I have been a Christian since I was young, but I’ve never really been challenged in my faith—until I was standing at the grave of my baby girl. At that moment, I had a choice to make. To turn to the One who gave and took away, or turn away from Him. And I chose to cling desperately to my Father. I got into the Word with a new fervency. It was no longer just words on a page, but truth and life.
As I sought to learn more about God through His Word, one thought kept popping up over and over—this isn’t how it is supposed to be. But I came to conclude that nothing in this world is. Too often as a Christian I get into the habit of thinking I deserve good days and easy paths. But that isn’t what God has promised me. As I read the Word, I saw numerous times how faithful Christians suffered and the ultimate suffering of Christ on the cross. Suffering and pain are part of this fallen world. But those of us who trust in Christ can have great hope that God is using our pain to draw us closer to Him. I’ve taken great comfort from 1 Peter 1:6–7, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” God is using this tough time in my life to bring me to Him and shape me into who He wants me to be. It hurts, but I trust that it is for my good and His glory.
My time in the Word has also been opening my eyes to how I can glorify God through my grief. And I can’t do it if I’m not trusting God with His plans for my life. He wants me to “trust in the Lord with all my heart, and lean not on my own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). To trust even though I don’t always understand why He has chosen certain paths for me to walk. To trust that “in ALL things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). I bring Him glory when I stop relying on myself and fully rely on the One who made me.
I’m sad that my story didn’t end with the “happily ever after” that I was hoping for. It’s hard to think about all the things that might have been if Eliza would have lived. But the good news about my story and Eliza’s story is that it isn’t done. Instead it is “to be continued.” For my time here on earth is just a dot on the timeline of eternity that I will have to spend with my daughter and my Lord.
So whatever your stress may be, whether it is something big like grief or just the little day-to-day things that weigh you down, bring it to the Lord. Seek Him through His Word. He wants you to trust His plan for you. And, to quote my sons’ Jesus Storybook Bible, to remember that God loves you with a never stopping, never giving up, unbreaking, always and forever love.
Christianity is honest about suffering, and it’s solid enough to bear the weight of your suffering because Jesus is solid enough.