I'll never forget meeting Marilyn Heavilin, author (Roses in December), conference speaker, and counselor at America's Keswick addictions treatment colony. Her son Jimmy died of crib death at 7 weeks old in 1964. Her son Ethan died of pneumonia at a year old in 1966. Her son Nathan died when struck by a drunk driver at age 17 in 1983. Friends and family said the usual things one says in inept consolation of the unconsolable.
Then a man from India appeared at her door, and when she opened it, he looked her in the eye and said, "What a privilege to meet a person whom God has entrusted with so much suffering." That, finally, was helpful.
I have a friend, a person far better than I, to whom God this summer "entrusted" the "privilege" of getting her arm nearly severed in a car accident. The doctors did their best in two operations, but the appendage is unusable, and her pain is almost unbearable, even with painkillers. She told me that the only time she has relief is in the moment just preceding sleep. The way she figures it, the body must fall asleep a few seconds before the brain, and so she feels the pain draining out of her just before dropping off to sleep. The experience is so desirable that she consciously wakes herself two or three times in order to feel it again.
My friend is not a crier, but when I told her what the Indian man said to Marilyn Heavilin, she choked up.
Certain attitudes in life are more helpful than others. When it comes to suffering, we tend, against all the evidence to the contrary, to hope it is an anomaly: "Next Tuesday, as soon as I'm out of this jam, I will be happy."
Not a helpful attitude.
Better to embrace reality: Suffering is God's chosen means for making men holy and useful to him. Jesus himself was made perfect through what he suffered (Hebrews 2:10). So if He needed it, we need it.
"Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions, but for the will of God" (1 Peter 4:1-2).
Try to live as a Christian with any other attitude about suffering and you set yourself up for a major faith crisis.
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