My life recently changed in what felt like an instant. I was hospitalized for a bacteria in my blood, an obstruction in my intestines, and an abscess of infection in my liver that was about the size of a twenty-ounce bottle. This medical condition came out of nowhere. I have never had any health problems before. I had emergency surgery to treat my condition. My hope in this post is to encourage you through the trial I have experienced.
One of the most challenging moments occurred when I was transferred from one hospital to another by ambulance. In the moments before I was loaded into the ambulance my life flashed before my eyes. I felt like everything I had dreamed, hoped for, and worked for was eliminated in a moment. That moment will be a part of my life story now. Moments like these are not desirable yet not meaningless.
Suffering is not meaningless because it is part of a larger narrative. The larger narrative that gives me hope is centered on the God of Israel. God’s story began with perfection and beauty. That changed when we humans decided that we didn’t need God and that we could be our own gods. The first decision to rebel caused pain, suffering, brokenness, and hardship. Blessings became curses. Yet God in his mercy did not leave us to our own destructive tendencies. He intervened and promised to bring hope through his messiah. As early as Genesis 3:15 we encounter hope. God promised that one day the seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent. In other words, good would triumph over evil. Freedom from the curse of sin was provided through Jesus the Messiah. The people of God encountered various periods of hardship as they awaited the arrival of the Messiah. Like the people of Israel, I’ve had to remind myself of God’s story of hope and renewal during this time of hardship as I await the Messiah’s return.
My life changed in what felt like an instant. Here are some things I’ve learned about life and the unexpected changes that come sometimes instantly.
- Being knocked to your knees is not comfortable but necessary for growth as a person. When you are at your lowest you become more humble and grateful for what you have. The process of humility is a necessary part of the life of faith.
- The trials we face enable us to better empathize with others. As a pastor, I have prayed with many people in hospitals. I have friends who have serious medical conditions they have struggled with most of their lives. I expect my visits and prayers for others with medical conditions to be more genuine than before.
- Suffering is a part of life. We can do some things to prepare for hardships like purchase insurance or exercise. Even so, hardship is a part of life. Hard times will come. Our response will be one of defeat or one of learning and growth. Our response is more significant than the trial.
- Christians who suffer are enabled to better relate to the sufferings of Jesus. Jesus came as a suffering servant. He suffered on the cross and faced an agonizing death so that sin would be paid for and so humans could be brought into a relationship with God.
I am reading through James right now. His words on suffering and trials have challenged and encouraged me.
“2 Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.” James 1:2-4, CSB
We are to consider our trials as great joy. When our faith is tested our endurance increases. None of that makes sense without a framework or paradigm of faith. I could write more about James but I’ll save that for another post.
I do not know what tomorrow holds for you or me. Life is a journey. At times we journey through the path of peace while at other times we walk down the alley of suffering. I pray that you have a source of hope when life changes suddenly. My hope is in the God of Israel and his plan of restoration through Jesus.