Suffering is everywhere. Everywhere I look or turn, every friend has their trial. The last few weeks have been hard. Friends have had cancer return. My daughter’s eczema has majorly flared up for unknown reasons, and we’re in a rough time of trying to comfort, treat, and figure out the latest trigger. Other friends are struggling through what they thought would be the best moments of their life, surprised to find they are the hardest. Many quietly deal with health issues that will likely plague them for life. Suffering is suffocating. It drags down good moments. Steals one day, then one week, then one year at a time. It’s all consuming.
We’re trying to live in it. Trying to keep going. But sometimes it feels like slugging through a muck that is determined to take. Us. Down. Let’s be honest—most times.
We’ve been studying James in church, and I’ve been taking notes. (For those of you who see me on my phone during church, no, I’m not texting. At least not most of the time. Sometimes Justine starts texting me from the back row so let’s all judge/blame her.) I’ve been reading over those sermon notes in the midst of this overwhelming stuff. Reading them like they are water. Trying to find a drop that will quench the suffering for a moment and give relief.
The first thing my notes say?
Count it all joy. This is a command, not a suggestion. Stop whining. Stop complaining.
This doesn't tell you how to FEEL. It tells you how to THINK.
Alrighty then. No pressure or anything. In all honesty, I don’t want to be thankful for this trial. This is hard. I don’t like hard. I want to throw a tantrum. Demand “their” life. See those people over there? The ones with their kids eating ice cream and out playing like summer isn’t full of potential allergens? I want their life. Their easy. But I bet they have hard too. It just might not be as visible as ours.
I’m trying to be thankful for this trial, but I’m struggling. I keep asking God to help me be thankful. But along with all of those ceaseless prayers, I’m quite simply overwhelmed. Tears-constantly-in-my-eyes overwhelmed. God, are you seeing something I’m not? Because I don’t have to the strength for any of this.
And then he whispers to me: I do. I have the strength.
So I spend my days trying to remember to lean on him even when I don’t understand.
I wish I had some button I could push to make our hard and trials go away. But that’s not how life works, is it? One day in Heaven, yes. But here we have to keep going. And God is asking us to find joy in that. May He help us all.
Maybe you’re with me. Maybe the last few weeks, months, or even years have been tough. Probably you could win at having the hardest hard.
I keep telling my daughter that we’re going to take this one day at a time. Sometimes one minute at a time. I don’t know the answers to how this will go. I only know God is going to be with us through it. Of that, I am sure.
What are you taking one day at a time? Where do you go with your overwhelmed? Are you joyful in your trials? (If so, well done. Maybe you could give me a lesson. J )
Here are the quotes I keep reading from my pastor, Mark Bates. (@MJBates3 on Twitter) The ones I use to remind myself that I’m not alone. That God has this covered. And that most of all, suffering is not the absence of God’s goodness. (Thank you, Kara.)