This year, as I welcomed the new year, I felt a foreboding. That’s really the only way to put it. In the midst of it, I craved peace. I’m not sure that it necessarily means something hard is going to happen. I mean, we had a rough year that seemed to get progressively harder and I know that some of my feeling is probably a “what’s next” kind of reaction. But I also know that, more than anything, for me, it was a call to trust. A proverbial line drawn in the sand. It was a decisive “Choose You This Day” kind of moment. A testing of my faith. How many other ways can I say it? With all my heart, I desire to cling tightly to the only One who can bring contentment in plenty or in want.
As I talked with Loren about all of this, he finished our conversation by praying, “Lord, may we suffer well.” I immediate reaction was, “No, Lord, spare us.” I don’t want to suffer well. I don’t really want to suffer at all. And truthfully, I have always preferred to believe, somewhere deep down where I didn’t have to examine it all that often, that I could somehow avoid suffering or, at the very least, lessen the degree to which I have to suffer by being wise and pursuing the Lord. That’s what scripture says, right?…oh wait… “share in the fellowship of His sufferings” …what?!?
I don’t want to suffer. I really don’t. But I do want God’s will be to fulfilled in my life, and I am coming to believe more and more that suffering is often a part of the prescription. Whether we suffer our own devastating losses, or suffer as we watch those we love who are suffering, or suffer as we attempt to “put to death those things of the flesh,” there is suffering to be had.
So, here is where I have been challenged and changed this year. I no longer believe that anyone is exempt from suffering. And truthfully, this fact, by itself, leaves me huddled in a corner, in the darkness, in a heap of fear. But I know there’s more to this abundant life than that. And, ultimately I believe in the sovereignty and the goodness of God. This fact brings to life the scriptures that say he is the Lifter of my head, the Light that dispels the darkness, the Peace that passes all my worldly understanding.
And so I have come to know deep contentment and perfect rest in the midst of all the hard things I am learning. I also know that it seems to only take an instant for my contentment and rest to be transformed into fear again. It requires a constant renewing of the mind(*lightbulb* …maybe that is what that scripture means). It helps that, in recent days, God has been faithful to bring to mind over and over Psalm 51:12 which says, “Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” Indeed. He has reminded me that, even in the midst of whatever he calls us to, the fruit of his spirit in me is not just peace and kindness and gentleness, but giddy, smiley, bursting at the seems JOY. That sounds really good to me. But it’s still a little scary. I’m not gonna lie.