"I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.
In the world you will have tribulation.
But take heart; I have overcome the world."
I am a mother of five children. The first four were twenty months apart and the last one came three years later. I loved being a mom and loved hearing their voices asking important questions like, "Have you ever seen a muscle as big as this one?" I loved the feel of their small hands on my arm as they patted to get my attention. I loved the kitchen as they washed dishes that would need to be washed again. I loved the strawberry stains on their little faces as they denied picking them from our strawberry patch. I loved most of all hearing them discuss what they learned at church. One Easter the oldest informed us that God was the most powerful being in the world. The second one, challenged him because he thought the wrestler, "Junk Yard Dog," was the strongest man. Promptly the oldest said that God was powerful enough to raise Jesus from the dead and there could be nothing more powerful than that.
But to be honest there were times I found being a mom hard. During my third pregnancy I awoke to a strange man in our bedroom. I was terrified and as a result became sleep deprived and then struggled a lot with post-partum depression. I felt so ashamed because we had three beautiful children at the time and had just bought our first home. I had everything I wanted, but I didn't feel good. The sound of the kids little arguments were like bullets through my heart, which traveled over every nerve in my body. I remember thinking, "When did I sign up for this?" Sadly, I mishandled the arguments and parenting a lot during that time.
I eventually called my pastor and several women befriended me and that helped some. I also got through that season studying the Word, phone counseling with the pastor, and listening to tapes by Jill Briscoe and other great teachers like her. That season exposed lies that I believed without even knowing it. I thought by becoming a believer, my life would be easier and more carefree, and that I would always feel happy. The key verse above makes it clear that even believers will have tribulation in this life, but somehow I didn't remember hearing it early on or reading it until after this season of pain.
There have since been several hard seasons and there have been a few phrases I have come to despise. One is, "God will never give you any more than you can handle!" "You need to work on forgiveness." and "Its a sin to worry!" First, of all none of those phrases occur in the Bible. These comments are often made by thoughtless people who don't want to experience pain or walk with someone as they wrestle with hard subjects like God's sovereignty and suffering.
But what if that is exactly what God calls us to do. I watched my best friend bury her six month old after having already lost one baby to a miscarriage. We were a part of a very close church and we all wept with her. She had lost her parents and the pastor and every other church member had adopted her as family. I remember looking down at the organist's skirt and it was drenched with the tears that had fallen as she played. My friend soon got pregnant with twins and one of the twins didn't make it and I was so overwhelmed for her and wondered if God knew how much she was suffering. We wept together for a few weeks before I returned home.
She told me about sixteen years later how precious her two living children were to her and how much she enjoyed them. Within a week, my friend died and I went back for her funeral. Even though we had been separated by miles, we had kept in touch and everyone understood that we were close. Many people came up to me and hugged me. At the funeral, my friend Joyce came and sat by me and put her arms around me as I looked at my friend in her casket. She didn't offer empty platitudes, but she wept with me as the praise team of which my friend had been apart began to sing songs of worship. Others spent hours reminiscing about her with me. Their willingness to feel their own grief and walk me through mine was a healing balm to my aching heart.
My friend, Joyce, lost a grandson about a year ago. They had a memorial service last night. It sounded beautiful and her daughter-in-law, Daphne, wrote about her experience of grief in getting through this last year on Facebook. It has been a hard year and they aren't done grieving yet. But, through it all they have repeatedly shared how God has sustained them through this time and how people have encouraged them. Joyce told me, that another friend in the church had lost her mom and their family who is a part of the praise team got up and lead worship as usual. Joyce has a very tender heart, so I know there were tears shed as they sang. Joyce has always seemed to understand that love is sacrificial and that when one loves well, there will be tears involved. She and her husband have loved well many young families who came through that church and wept with them through losses and goodbyes.
Out of my own healing journey, with God's help I have developed a ministry that I oversee that serves women who have suffered various traumas in their lives. We recently put together a leadership retreat for our leaders. There were fourteen women there who serve in this ministry. We took them through an exercise in which they spent time drawing the trauma's they had experienced in this life and then it took about twelve hours for them to share all that they had drawn on their boards. I cannot tell you how often I thought to myself things like, "No, little girl should ever have to have experienced what she experienced!" "No teenager should have had to experience that trauma!" or "No child should have had to experience that kind of loss!" Some of them shared some of the things that they had experienced as adults. I found myself wondering if they had known what they were in for would they have signed up for the retreat? Even more importantly, would they have become Christians had they know what they were to face?
The next morning one of the leaders lead worship and another served communion and I have to admit that hearing those women sing was one so overwhelming that all I could do was weep at the beauty of it. These women who have experienced real heartache in their lives are women who have been courageous enough to face it and wrestle with it until they could fully trust God and His love and fully accept the stories that He has penned for their lives. These women, like my friend Joyce, have loved in ways that only God could have equipped them to love. They have forgiven unforgiveable things that only God could have helped them forgive. They have chosen to revisit their own pain year after year as they hear stories similar to their own and walk women through the healing journey in the groups they lead. As we worshipped it hit me that they signed up for this when they became followers of the Traumatized Savior. The suffering they experienced over their life time has given them an understanding of God that is so rich and so deep that it has helped them to be able to hold on when life hurts in the here and now. It has helped them believe when life seems impossible to bear. They have learned to trust God even though their ability to trust was marred by their experiences.
Because of my experiences in my church in Mississippi and because of my relationships with these precious ladies, I know God cares when His people hurt because He has enabled these ladies to serve and worship against a backdrop of pain. I believe the suffering in this world is caused by the fall and remains so that we come to the end of ourselves and learn to trust in Him, not just once but day after day after day. He allows suffering so we can understand the depths of His love poured out on us at the Saviors death. I believe He allows suffering for now so that we will develop hearts of compassion, beating with His love that is showering His grace so that we could share how He comforts, He loves, He strengthens, and He sanctifies us through the "This's" of this life.