I recently saw a post on Facebook by Dr. Scott Hahn, someone many of us know and respect from his great writing and speaking. It said, “we have two options in life: to suffer with Christ or suffer without Him.”
It is often said that there are two guarantees in life, death and taxes. I think it’s safe to add a third: human suffering. While degrees may vary, we ALL experience it. We all suffer through at least one tragedy at least once in our lives. It’s inevitable.
Many people, including me, come to faith through tragedy. In reflecting on it, I wasn’t anxious to do so. I was very reluctant. A control freak for most of my life, I had lost control, no longer able to live life on my terms. In telling my story, I refer to the three 2X4’s that came across the back of my head, metaphorically representing the three dramatic occurrences that took place in my life that drove me to my knees.
Shattered and broken, I cried out to God, saying over and over again, “I can’t do this alone any more.” To this day I still haven’t heard the audible voice of God, but I felt a calm come over me, with God speaking to my heart, saying, “you’re not alone. I’m here for you.”
The above was just the beginning of my journey with our Lord. It wasn’t like flipping a switch, but instead the beginning of a process. That said, from the beginning I began to experience things differently, the good and the bad. Let me try to explain. Over a period of time, I came to understand God’s unconditional love and forgiveness. I became aware of the fact that if I were the only one on this earth that Jesus would have still died that horrific death on the cross for me.
I began to accept the fact that God loves me more than I love myself and as such, He knows what’s best for my life. It became clear that God does not want me to live in fear, but instead to live a life of peace, joy, and fulfillment. Further, I acknowledged that to do so, I needed to follow God’s will for my life, accepting that He gave me special and unique gifts and put me on this earth for a specific purpose. I also learned that in surrendering to Him, my responsibility is to do my best, but leave the outcome to Him. I can’t express to you how freeing it is to now be in this place.
In now understanding and internalizing the above, I live in a place of gratitude, knowing that everything happens for a reason, the good and the bad, all part of God’s grand plan for my life. While suffering and tragedy were a huge challenge for me prior to my conversion, I now understand them to be necessary parts of my life.
Not only do our challenges, i.e. suffering and tragedies, make us stronger, but they do the most to form us going forward. As our oldest daughter often reminds me, “God never gives you anything you can’t handle.” In fact, He uses those things to make us stronger, providing us with the opportunity to make ministries out of our messes.
Am I still saddened by things? Do I still suffer and encounter tragedy? Yes, absolutely. But in understanding God’s unconditional love, knowing that He has a plan for my life, and that all happens for a reason, any experience I have, even suffering, is way better with Christ than without Him.
What has suffering taught you in life?I would love to hear from you below.