I recently experienced a time of great suffering. It all began when, without warning, I broke out in a severe case of shingles. Four months later, I am still coping with the residual effects of nerve damage this virus left behind – a reminder of its presence in my life. As if shingles weren’t enough, a serious fraction occurred between my grown children right at Christmastime, adding stress to my already fragile condition. Finally, my beloved dog of 17 years started to rapidly decline from the effects of a brain tumor and an advanced state of dementia.
I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel overwhelmed during this time. After all, the suffering from shingles is the most horrible physical agony I have ever known. It was a level of pain which kept me floating in a detached place. I was not able to concentrate on normal life events and responsibilities. I was helpless.
To suffer is like being held in a dark place where fighting to overcome is the only mission. Nothing else matters and the battle is intense. It is difficult and exhausting to fight every moment of every day just to keep mental focus and hope alive. During this time, I began to feel great empathy for those who give in to their suffering, those who quit, who stop the fight. My heart breaks for them.
For those who don’t know the Lord, suffering must seem like an unsolicited punishment with an unknown outcome. But for those who know the Lord, we know we can trust his goodness in the worst of times; we are not without hope.
Romans 12:12 provides a valuable guideline for getting through a time of suffering: “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”
Joy. Patience. Faith. These are attitudes we can choose, carrying us through bad times. These attributes help us to see the goodness of God through the walls of our pain, as we focus on him rather than ourselves.
In my recent experience, just when I thought I couldn’t stand another day of suffering, someone would send me words of encouragement in the form of a card or deliver a comforting meal or call me to offer prayer. I even received a prayer shawl through a ministry at my church. I love to wrap it around my shoulders, remembering the hands which knit that shawl together as they prayed over me in my time of suffering.
God’s goodness was shown through the hearts and faithfulness of his people and his word. The more I focused on God, the brighter things became. Eventually, I was able to return to the normal routines of my life, but I could not have made it through this suffering alone. Things are better now, but I know hardship will come again one day. When it does, I will be ready to face it with confidence, knowing that God’s goodness shines through even the darkest places.
Check out an earlier post by Tammy here.