It was like a knife went into my heart as I heard the news. Everything went hazy as my world turned upside down. It couldn’t be true. My mouth went dry and my heart started to pound. No. This wasn’t supposed to happen. I ran upstairs, went into my bathroom, turned the fan on so noone would hear, and allowed the tears to fall. I sobbed harder than I perhaps ever had. And I stretched a hand upwards, and whispered, “ God, I believe you’re still good.” And somewhere, in the midst of my pain, the thought came, “This is not the end, it is only the beginning.”
The days and weeks that followed were some of the sweetest, most life-filled weeks, as I learned what it meant to identify in some small way with the sufferings of Christ, and to allow Him to prune me and strip away earthly joys and hopes. And I learned that, though disappointments and heartaches come, He was still the One that I wanted above everything else.
Joni Eareckson was in a diving accident at 17 which left her paralyzed from the collarbone down. She is a painter, author, speaker, has a thriving ministry, and is still persevering into her sixties, despite having recently suffered cancer and chronic pain. Yet she is marked by a radiance and a joy that is rare to see. She is a woman who has inspired and encouraged me tremendously in my faith. I want to share a quote by her that has impacted me.
” I’m flat on my back… in terrible pain… and I am so happy in Jesus. I can’t explain how this happens, except the closer we draw to Christ, especially through suffering, that’s the caveat. However your sufferings present themselves to us-don’t waste them! They can be the things that opens up to you and your heart, joy such as you’ve never experienced.” Joni Eareckson Tada, Truth in Love Podcast, Pursuing Joy in Christ with Disabilities
Let us not shrink away from our sufferings and trials, for “we know that the testing of our faith produces steadfastness” (James 1:3). Let us trust that God is using our sufferings for His purposes, and to submit willingly and joyfully to the work that He wants to do. Our sufferings, when given to the Lord, can be used tremendously to bring about great growth and strength.
No matter if the way be sometimes dark,
No matter though the cost be oft-times great,
He knoweth how I best shall reach the mark,
The way that leads to Him must needs be strait.
One thing I know, I cannot say Him nay;
One thing I do, I press towards my Lord;
My God my glory here, from day to day,
And in the glory there my great Reward.
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
1 Pet 1:6-7