I awoke this morning while it was still dark outside and the house was quiet. I have always been an early riser. The old, well-known proverb “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise,” my son-in-law Ben quoted to me while we were on family vacation in Utah last summer floated through my mind as I sauntered down the stairs. Ben had noticed my sleeping habits while we were on vacation and was thrilled to see that they resulted in a big, beautiful breakfast buffet which awaited him each morning.
Morning is the time when my thinking is the clearest and I can accomplish the most. I look forward to the quiet moments in the morning that I get to spend with God praying and studying. It’s the time of day when I feel closest to Him.
This morning, as per my usual routine, I headed straight for the kitchen to make the coffee. I pulled the Folgers Breakfast Blend out of the coffee cabinet, grabbed my latest creamer of choice from the refrigerator which right now is Coffee Mate Snickers flavor, and began filling the coffee pot with water. I don’t know about you but I love my morning coffee. It is oftentimes the first thing on my mind when I wake up in the morning and sometimes the last thing on my mind when I fall asleep at night.
As I sat at my kitchen table and drank my morning cup of sunshine, I began googling “Bible studies for special needs parents” in an attempt to find material we could study for Moms’ Group. I stopped on one Bible study in particular titled “Held: Learning to Live in God’s Grip,” and as I was reading about it, an unexpected wave of sadness swept over me and the tears started to fall that even my morning cup of sunshine couldn’t chase away. I had been slapped in the face with the reminder that I was no longer the mom of a child with special needs.
In the midst of my sorrow, I remembered the words spoken from one of the moms at a previous meeting. “This is temporary! This is temporary!” she exclaimed. A sentence with just three words, but for those of us who are suffering, what a profound sentence it is. I then embarked on a quest that morning to find Bible verses to comfort me and remind me about the short-term nature of life’s pain and suffering. This is what I found:
2 Corinthians 4:18
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
1 Peter 5:10
And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again; from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again.
I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
After being encouraged by God’s promises, with my materials spread out across the table and my coffee cup in hand, I pondered life for awhile and thought about how every single one of us on this earth suffers in this life. Of course we hate it, and we try our best to avoid it, but no one escapes it. People we love get sick, marriages fall apart, kids rebel and make bad choices, spouses lose their job or get hurt and become disabled. And the list goes on and on.
“For the Christian living in this fallen world, what exactly is the purpose of suffering?” I asked myself. “There has to be a reason God allows us to suffer.” After researching a little more, I came up with two purposes for suffering: To bring glory to God and for our good.
We have a choice of how we respond to suffering. If we choose to suffer well, we display to an unbelieving world that Christ is more valuable and magnificent than any sorrow or pain we might be experiencing. Suffering well creates opportunities to point others to Christ.
Suffering also loosens our tight grip on this world that always falls short of meeting our expectations, and it turns our gaze toward heaven with the hope of all things made new. It motivates us to work for a cause greater than ourselves and increases our capacity of compassion for others. Suffering causes us to put our hope in Christ rather than in the temporal things of this life for which God then receives the glory.
We don’t have to suffer alone though. God comforts us during times of suffering. His presence alone gives us strength and rest to endure our trials. Psalm 34:18 says, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 23:4, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Exodus 33:14, “And he said, ‘My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.’” God’s Word is true and infallible, and if the Lord says He will be close to us during our times of suffering, then He will. If the Almighty says He is with us while we walk through the valley, then He is, and if the Great I Am says His presence will go with us, then it will.
As we go about our days, may we always remember the wise words from the mom in Moms’ Group and remind ourselves often that this suffering is temporary. We have been given hope from God’s Word that one day we will be restored, confirmed, strengthened, and established and He will wipe away every tear from our eyes and death shall be no more.
We have an eternity of joy and contentment to look forward to, so go now, dear one, and suffer well.
Lord, we love you. Give us the strength to suffer well for Your glory. Help us to remember that what we experience on this earth is temporary, and that something far more glorious than we could ever imagine awaits us in heaven.