Four backpacks, four lunchboxes, four pillows, four comforters, several bunk beds, dressers, tubs of clothes, four little hearts, four little lives…..waiting…..we are waiting for you….we are praying for you, we are dreaming for the day we get to meet you and for the day we can bring you home.
The concept of suffering has been one that has intrigued me in this past year of waiting. I have witnessed many come across my path in various ways and places and have seen the suffering they have endured. Often suffering doesn’t come as we think, sometimes it does. Each has his/her own pain, his/her own cross to bear. They come in so many shapes and sizes. The most common thing about our crosses, we usually shrink back from them, fearful of their very existence. We just don’t like them. We often cannot see or understand their purpose. Perhaps this is the most difficult part of all, we don’t know why. We know we have a God who is able to deliver, heal, work miracles, provide all we need…but sometimes the suffering is not removed. And so it is that we ask with Paul for our thorn to be removed and it is not. And then we come to Him with all our emptiness and lack, with our very selves failing at suffering, discouraged and without hope. We find ourselves desperate, and realize that nothing in this world will satisfy the deep longings of our soul. In this discovery of suffering and searching the Lord for understanding I came across a little book about it entitled “Suffering in Other Words” by Don Hubert van Zeller. One thing he said helped me so much:
“Of course we are going to be disappointed in the way we are meeting this particular trial, but the disappointment is part of the trial. It may even be the significant part of the trial, more valuable in the process of purification than the trial itself. It calls for considerable courage to be disappointed in oneself without being discouraged about oneself. The distinction is not an obvious one; it depends on whether the outcome of the trial is defeat and self–pity or the will to persevere despite the evidence of weakness. We shall not be asked by God at the end of it whether we have been pleased or disappointed at the way in which we have suffered. We shall be asked whether we have been ready to suffer for His sake whatever our feelings about it were, whatever our weaknesses were. If we could always look back without disappointment at the things we have either undertaken for God or had to endure for God we would have a hard time avoiding complacency. Disappointment is corrective, and highly profitable to the soul. “
So it is hard in whatever type of suffering one is in to recognize our failure even in the trial. As we think of Christ enduring the cross and what is referred to as the passion, passio means “I suffer, not “I do”. I found this a profound thought also uncovered in this little book. As we are at a place that our only requirement is to watch and pray, and we cannot DO a thing to bring the boys home sooner. Is not that often the place of those around us who are suffering? They often cannot do anything to get out of that trial. But as they suffer they then identify with the sufferings of Christ and somehow are changed more in His likeness. Look around you, those who have suffered more, often have more compassion. Either that or their suffering not taken to Jesus embitters them.
I no longer can see people the same. I see them and I wonder what hurts they carry, what struggles they have, wondering if they have the hope of Christ.
He has come to redeem that pain….yet the whole earth groans and we each groan for the perfection of that work. We will not see that complete until Christ’s return, but does that mean until then we sit back and wait? Do we just wait for our “turn” to go to heaven? Do we just wait until He comes back? Is that what He has called us to? Why then do we love to see happy endings? Why do we champion for those that rescue and save? Whether they are believers or not, if someone helps someone overcome addiction, get out of poverty, heal their body from cancer, we rejoice in this. It is because that is what Jesus would do.
So, each has his own type of suffering. For me it has been, and is, this long wait for a referral. While I logically know it is all going to be impossibly hard, I cannot let go of these four boys in my heart. I look at their faces and know they need love and care and food and time. I haven’t the slightest idea how I will physically literally be able to do this, but He does….so then is the longing, the longing for them to be home. So it has been that this is how the suffering comes in this season of my life. And how do I properly suffer? Josh Stott so aptly said “We are to wait neither so eagerly that we lose our patience, nor so patiently that we lose our expectation.” This is indeed a profound truth. How do I find that balance where I each day pray with faith and hope and expectation, but yet am able to trust in His sovereign will?
In suffering we think of Christ on the cross and that which He endured for us. We think of what He has told us to do “to take up our cross and follow Him.”
Van Zeller closes his book with “I may shrink from prayer and detest pain, but at least I know that these are the most worthwhile things of life. They express, if I have read the Christian argument right, love. “ Love costs. It cost Jesus and it will cost us. But it is worth it, so very worth it.