My sister and I had an interesting conversation last night about suffering and since it's been on my mind since then, you all get to hear about it!
The conversation started with the comment (from S.) that "surely God wouldn't do that to her (a friend we were talking about)-- surely she's been through enough in the last few years..." My reaction was to laugh in disbelief at her remark. After all, I've just been through over two years of infertility, in which time God saw fit to allow me to conceive and lose two children. Surely God wouldn't do that to me... right? And she's going through a year-and-a-half-long separation from her husband--also very painful. Surely God wouldn't ask her to bear that! Well, no, I think He certainly would--these are both things that are part of His plan of Greatest Good for our lives.
When I expressed this to her, her first reaction was to call me out for "lack of faith". Hmmm. She went on to describe that God is showing her how to expect good from His hand-- to trust those unthinkable possibilities to Him, without question, not to dwell on them, or try to prepare for the worst. She heard my words as cynicism and hard-heartedness. However, I explained to her that through my times of suffering in the last few years, I've seen the Lord teaching me toughness-- the ability to accept His strength and press on, rather than fold up into self-pity and pain in the trial. I've needed to learn to expect that life is not going to be peaches and cream all the time and I need to be prepared to fight the battles that the Lord allows me to face on a daily basis.
Growing up, the two of us could hardly have been more opposite from each other. Susi was the strong-willed, brave and daring one. I was tender-hearted, self-pitying and compliant one. I was awestruck last night after our conversation as I contemplated the way the Lord has, in the last few years, been working on each of us to fulfill what was missing in our characters. And in both instances He has used the tool of suffering to accomplish His purpose. At the same time He's been teaching me to stand strong and press on in His abundant strength, He's been teaching her to soften up and lean on Him. Isn't our God wonderful? And how valuable suffering can be!
Lord, may I always be able to see that suffering is a tool of Yours, wielded in love, for my own Greatest Good.