Tag Archives: suffering

accepting Comfort…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from the Gospel of Matthew 11: 28-30

“Then Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.'”


Not a day passes when I do not need comfort. Whether small hurts build up to weigh down my heart, or a single large burden dominates my mind, I rarely go through a day when finding and accepting comfort is not important. In those moments of pain, my brain tempts me to look for logical answers despite the fact that my heart is very clearly needing the comfort of peace. The outcome of my daily experiences tends to be tied to which of two possible questions I choose to ask God: Do I ask “why” something is happening and get stuck at the very beginning, or do I accept the challenge and instead choose to ask “how” we can get through it together?

Jesus tells us repeatedly in the Gospels, “Take up your daily cross and follow me.” Often I find myself puzzled by that message, and trying to meld it together with the above passage from Matthew. What cross is my cross? And, what does it truly mean to take it up and follow him? Is the cross the yoke Jesus reverences in the above scripture? I found clarity on this as I read Henri J.M. Nouwen’s book, Following Jesus. Nouwen points out that Jesus says to “Take up your cross” – he doesn’t say, create a cross or to take up someone else’s. He suggests that our cross is our own pain, our own hurts, and that taking up our cross means that we have the courage to see that pain.

Perhaps as we answer Jesus’s call to pick up our pain, then we are able to yoke it to the healing presence of the cross. There we can accept the comfort and peace of a God that loves first and can sooth our hearts. 


As I think back on my life, I remember all of the times that I said – “I’m tough. I can do this. I don’t need any help. I can suffer through it.” Do you ever tell yourself that? I’m figuring out that when I do this, I hide my burden and honestly try to hide from it. That makes it become heavier and heavier because it surrounds me at the same time that I deny that it exists. Perhaps being tough isn’t the point…God doesn’t want us to just suffer through it. He wants us to pick up our cross so that He can compassionately comfort us as we travel the journey together. When I acknowledge my pain and share it, then I am able to shift my focus. The pain is still there, but it moves to the background because I am surrounded by comforting love that breaks through the fear.

“Perfect love casts out all fear” – my good days are the ones that I lean into that 🙂 Our God is a God of unconditional love, not of fear. At the cross, he accepts our fear and our hurts, and exchanges them for love. That’s where we find rest in Jesus’ yoke, and it is where we come to accept the comfort that lightens our burdens. The pain doesn’t go away, the challenge remains, but we ask “how” instead of asking “why”. As we lift our eyes and ask “how”, we accept our cross and lean into our humble and gentle God who leads us in love.

This week I am leaning in. I am in the process of moving my older two girls into college – one in Indiana and the other in North Carolina. I’m traveling cross-country and leaving pieces of my heart behind with each of the girls. It’s hard. It hurts. But, I know that they are where God called them to be and I am accepting comfort from the abundant love that awaits me as I pick up those hurts and bring them to the cross.

 

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On the other side…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Paul’s letter to the Philippians 4: 11-13

Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”


Life’s not perfect. As much as we might long for unlimited happy days where the sun always shines and the journey is easy, that’s just not what happens. I’m going to reach 45 years this February and my favorite farmer has been with me on the journey since I was 18. We’ve been blessed beyond measure, and yet we’ve been challenged beyond anything I might have imagined. It’s hard to wrap your brain around how those two things can go together until you read Paul’s letter to the Philippians. It is a letter of thanksgiving – written from a prison cell – during a time when he faced the very real possibility of execution. It is a great reminder that there is joy to be found in every situation, even those times of great struggle.

Last week I spent time thinking about what happens on the other side. Not just that “eternal high five” that greets us at heaven’s gate, but the other side of difficult times that we pass through during our years on earth. I spent five years battling Graves Disease and some unusual complications resulting from treatment beginning when Karyn was an infant. It was unexpected, it was hard. We had three small children (5 and under) as well as a farm to run. And, there were many days that I could hardly function. I looked anorexic, was terribly anemic and got so weak that I couldn’t lift the girls.

On the “other side” of Graves Disease 🙂

As hard as it was for me to get through each day, it was harder for Matt. Watching someone you love suffer has to be one of the hardest things that we are asked to do in our lifetime. It brings on a litany of emotions – none of which resemble the perfect happiness that we dream of on the day that we say I do. There have been times in our marriage where we have looked at each other and asked the question:

If God loves us, why does he allow us to suffer?


As I was visiting with a friend last week, the pieces all fell together and my brain made sense of this question. God uses every experience to shape us and to grant us various perspectives that help us to share His love with others on the journey. We can’t learn these things if we are never challenged. We can’t learn to lean into Jesus’ love and strength if life is never hard. We can’t have true understanding and empathy for others if we never hurt ourselves.

I’ve revisited many of these lessons over the past nine months as I spent long days on crutches and went through three surgeries to heal my leg. Today, I’d like to share the five most important lessons that struggling has taught me — looking back now that I am on the other side.

  1. Everyone has a story. Each and every person that we come into contact with battles a challenge that we may never get to see. A smile or a few words of encouragement likely makes the difference in their ability to find joy amongst the struggle.
  2. Life is not meant to be taken for granted. Each day brings the possibility of many blessings – the ability for us to share Jesus’ love with others. Slow down. Take the time to see those opportunities and then embrace the confidence of Christ in order to turn them into Holy Moments.
  3.  A loving spouse is a gift to be cherished. Matt carries a lot of medals on his heart. God’s placed them there as we’ve walked together through the past twenty seven years. He is an amazing man with a heart that never stops giving. Being his wife is one of my greatest blessings and inspires my heart to be grateful as we greet each new day together.
  4. Our children learn with us as we walk together – they learn from us and we learn from them. Never discount the power of TEAM. One of the greatest blessings that came out of my illness was our ability to come together as a family to find strength and remain stubbornly rooted in love. There’ve been days that the girls have carried us — spiritually and emotionally — as Matt and I struggled to make sense of things. Today I believe that there is nothing more beautiful than a child reflecting Jesus’ love and light to his/her parents. It not only helps them to own their own faith, it shows them the purpose of faith!
  5. We never walk alone. When I was sick, someone told me “Anne, God will never give you more than you can handle.” I really struggled with that as some days I was just plain not enough. The last ten years have taught me that faith allows Jesus to fill that gap. God often gives us more than we can handle on our own, but those are the times that Jesus comes into our lives to carry us through. He is the perfect Coach — the one with divine discernment and a never-ending well of love and strength.

I’m sure that Matt and I and our girls will face more struggles as we walk through life together. But, just as I know this, I also realize that there is joy to be found in each and every day. We find it when we abide in Christ and welcome the peace and strength that He brings. Just as Paul reminds us in the above scripture verses, the secret to being content in every situation is to recognize that we are never alone. God walks with us and offers the comfort that leads to peace – on the good days and the tough ones. It may be hard to see the value in the moment of hardship, but it becomes clear once we are on the other side.

 

 

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Suffering with holiness – Loving with grace…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from the Gospel of Luke 23:34

“Jesus said, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”


Last week we experienced Holy Week and celebrated the Easter holiday. 2019 has been a time of great reflection for me, and our Good Friday church service brought me a great deal of clarity with something that I have been struggling with for months. Hours of prayer and reflection have resulted in the following three questions being in the forefront of my mind.

  1. Why does God allow us to suffer?
  2. What does Jesus teach us about suffering with holiness?
  3. What does Jesus teach us about loving with grace?

I believe that suffering occurs on many levels – physical as well as emotional. I’ve experienced both in 2019.

Health problems resulting from a fall on the ice where I shattered my fibula (leg bone) has led to four and a half months of physical pain – two surgeries – seven weeks in a cast – and nine weeks in a boot. 16 and a half weeks in, I am slowly transitioning out of the boot and into a pair of running shoes and have traded two crutches for one. I wake up everyday hoping that my leg won’t hurt. I’ve been told that day is far into the future as is the day that I will take a long awaited running step.

Almost two weeks ago, as I headed in for the second surgery hoping to gain the ankle flexion that I needed to walk, I gave it to God. The hours spent in physical therapy did not seem to be working, and I was left in a fog of chronic pain and very little hope. I needed grace as my suffering was not only painful but it was beginning to lack in holiness as anger kept my heart from feeling peace amidst my struggle.

Why does God allow us to suffer? To teach us lessons that enable us to reach out in love to help others. It’s a hard journey, but I am finally finding the grace that I need to be thankful for it. I no longer look at the world the same way. I am irrevocably changed. This actually is the second time a chronic health issue has crippled me – 14 years ago Graves Disease destroyed my health and led to a four year fight to regain it. Looking back, I can see how that time of suffering also shaped me.

Isn’t it interesting how God uses our experiences to help us to grow in faith?

As I sat in the Good Friday service thinking of the suffering that Jesus endured during his lifetime and particularly during the last few days of his earthly life, the phrase suffer with holiness kept running through my mind. There really is no other way to describe what Jesus went through — the ridicule, the betrayal, the physical pain of carrying the cross and then dying on it. Understanding what it means to suffer allows me to better understand how Jesus loved with grace.

Father, forgive them, they know not what they do. 

Jesus very clearly calls us to love our neighbors – to forgive them when they cause us pain – to offer supportive love when they need it. He says it in the Bible and he lived it during his time on earth. It sounds easy, but it is not. The months that I have spent physically crippled from the leg break have coincided with a very difficult time trying to mentor and love the young man that God called our family to help over a year ago. Emotional suffering is real and I believe it is possibly even more difficult to work through than physical suffering. The combination of it has shaken me to the core.

I’ve learned several things over the past four months, but likely the most important lesson is that I can cling to Jesus when things get hard. He suffers with me and he loves with the grace that allows me to find hope when I can’t find it on my own.  The Good News is that God’s love never falters and that Jesus exhibits a loving grace carried with the same strength and steadfastness with which he shouldered the cross.

He does it for each one of us.

He does it out of love, and it makes all of the difference.

 

 

 

 

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