Suffering. You don’t know it till it’s grabbed you by the neck and held you down for weeks, months, even years.
It drives out every subterfuge and scours out every illusion. It chases you into every corner and steals every illusion of control. It empties you of every vanity and robs you of every trace of self-reliance.
If you’re stubborn like me, this takes some time. Your brain chases its tail, trying to invent reasons, explanations, answers. Your faith wilts and staggers. You doubt, question, beg. You cling to your strength. You don’t quite let yourself cry. You say, “Help me, God”, but what you mean is “Do what I want. Get rid of this! Now!”. And when he doesn’t, doubt sweeps in, dark and hovering.
Then the day comes when you wake up and know you can’t do it any more. There are no excuses left. There are no explanations. There are no illusions. There’s just you and God and sorrow.
I wake at 5 o’clock. For the first time in months, I weep until my eyes are puffy and red. There have been tears before, but not like this. I whimper into the dark, “I can’t do this any more. I just can’t do this!” All of me has been reduced, like stock in a pan, to a single cry.
And in that moment, at the bottom of the well, I begin to feel it: solid ground.
In the weeks ahead, in one sense, nothing changes. My son, after three years of increasing illness, is still sick. He wakes, every day, to pain. We find out that he has a chronic condition, and there’s some clarity and a sense of purpose.1 There’s also ongoing grief.
In another sense, everything changes. God’s goodness is no longer a theory I struggle to believe, an equation that doesn’t quite add up, a sentence I can’t parse. Instead, it becomes real, tangible, precious. He is there, so close I swear I could reach out and touch him. Something in me lightens and lifts its face to his light.
I look back over the long months and begin to see how this has changed me. All of the Bible’s words about suffering, that for so long sounded like ill-tuned bells in my ears, heard with gritted teeth and small appreciation, suddenly ring with a true chime, and I wonder that I was deaf to them before.
Today’s post is the first in a series. I want to share the ways God is using suffering to transform me. I want to take his promises and clothe them in flesh. I want to talk about truths I couldn’t have talked about a year ago, truths that only now speak to me. This is my testimony, my act of thanksgiving. For God is good, even and especially when we suffer, even when we can’t see it.