“Our hearts ache, but we always have joy,” (2 Corinthians 6:10, NLT).
I have never gone through anything as horrible as watching my daughter, Annie, suffer through ten months of debilitating pain. Oh, I’ve experienced suffering before…a divorce, a rebellious teenager, the loss of my parents…but this tops it all. Taking care of this recently thriving young woman through her chronic pain and the resulting depression and hopelessness has been, at times, more than I thought I could bear.
I cried out to God like King David did while he was under much distress. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest” (Psalm 22:1-2, NIV). I asked God, “Why my daughter? Why my family? Why me?” My cries and questioning led me to an important central question.
Why does God allow suffering?
C.S. Lewis, a Christian author who wrote prolifically on suffering, (in addition to his well-known Narnia series), wrestled through the same questions. Lewis found, contrary to popular opinion, God shows His benevolence through allowing pain in His people’s lives. What most people view as bad in their lives, God works for good. As Joseph exclaimed in the Bible, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20).
Suffering can accomplish three things:
1. Suffering points people to God.
The pain we experience in life forces us to turn to God because pain won’t be ignored. By allowing pain, God gives His people an awareness of their need for Him and turns them toward His salvation that He is waiting and longing to give. God demonstrates His benevolence through suffering by allowing us to actually experience contentment and happiness through obedience and submission to His will. If we learn to obey our intrinsically good God, then we will receive the blessing upon blessing through that obedience.
Annie and I traveled to Zurich for a consultation and procedure with Dr. Possover. Before she went in for the surgery, Annie proceeded to ask Dr. Possover, “Do you believe in God?” He pulled out his cross and said, “Of course.” Then Annie asked, “Do you believe in Jesus?” He pointed to me and said, “Annie, I wear my cross just like your Mom.” Wasn’t that a wonderful way to kiss her goodbye? It’s been amazing to see how Annie, despite her condition, has been able to still be a light for God. In our case, more than 2000 people are being influenced daily as they follow our journey on our Facebook page Annie’s Army.
2. Suffering allows us to experience joy and comfort in God’s grace.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort,” (Corinthians 1:3-7).
Time and time again, I have experienced joy, not only in God’s presence, but also in the people He’s sent me. My husband, Chris, has been an amazing support. My son, Christian, stayed with me and helped me during July. My work with 4word has kept me focused on the platform God gave me and the gifts He wants me to use to serve Him. This has given me energy to keep going while Annie is in pain.
The last ten months could not have been possible without friends and family supporting us. First, many of Annie’s friends and my friends have come over and sat with, talked with, and stayed the night with her. This has enabled her to be distracted and focus on others, rather than on her pain. I am great at getting all of the appointments done and taking her from one doctor to another, but I am not wired to sit and talk for hours upon hours. I am grateful to those who have given their time. Adam, Courtney, Andrew, Emanuella, Mary Kate, Julia, are six out of three hundred or more who come to mind.
Second, many of my friends have provided “acts of service” that have lightened the load. Liz, Ka, Savannah, Betty, and many others have brought meals or deserts, which not only helped me feed Annie, but many of her visitors, too. My friend, Sue, who is great at project management, took care of getting two shelves repaired that had broken. Vince and Melanie, and others, have stayed with Annie, so every three weeks in the last four months, Chris and I have been able to get away and focus on our relationship. Again, I could go on and on.
3. Suffering enables us to be refined by God.
“All this for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary but what is unseen is eternal, (2 Corinthians 4:15-18).
My prayer life, my faith, and my trust have all grown through this experience. Meanwhile, I am confident in God’s promises. I know He is in control, and I will put my trust in Him.
“Why am I discouraged? Why so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again—my Savior and my God!” (Psalm 42:11).
Update on Annie as of last week: Following her procedure, Annie was sound asleep with us beside her for four hours before the doctor reported to us on the outcome. The surgery went well; however, she will have a four to eighteen month painful recovery time. We thank you for your prayers and ask you to continue to pray that she will fight through this very tough recovery. You can keep up with Annie’s journey through our Facebook group Annie’s Army.