I got sideswiped. I was hit by a collision so violent that it weakened the walls of my lower intestines, but it wasn’t an impact by a drunken driver or a distracted teenager trying to find their last text message while taking a left turn. Instead, it was the unpredictable juggernaut called life.
It’s the ninth month of adjusting our family to life with chronic illness and the Lord has once again shown us lessons only learned while on the grill. Heat alone refines.
The news of my wife’s chronic auto-immune disease and skin cancer troubles felt like tires bending and my fender buckling, but I couldn’t quite identify the noise. A sudden sense of tremendous weight grinds into every pore of your skeleton. It’s a pressure melded with fearful gravity and so much heaviness that its true impact takes weeks and months to set in, and yet on the other side of the blistering flames, vise grips and frightful walls we find greater compassion. Genuine empathy is an acquired virtue and its classes are held in the pit.
When true saving faith meets adversity it produces persevering joy just as God said it would in James 1:2-4, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
It isn’t that the trials themselves are joyful; they are always loaded with confusion and pain. What we must see is that the end result is our purification and the difficulties and overwhelming circumstances are the means that God has sovereignly orchestrated for the development of Christ-likeness in us. You won’t become like Christ while riding a comfort wave on a golden surfboard. Anyone who tells you that God doesn’t want His servants to suffer has a misplaced gospel and a closed bible. You only grow in your faith when you actually have to use it for as Scripture plainly teaches us we shall enter the kingdom through many tribulations. (Acts 14:22)
Suffering exposes our weaknesses and dispels the myth of self-reliance. We need our church family and local Body to bear our burdens with us. (Gal. 6:2) We need more times of communal weeping. In our moments of great despondence the light of faithful friends carrying the Savior’s voice becomes a tender balm to a weary soul.
Have you spoken the wonderful Words of Life to your brothers and sisters lately? Who around you needs you right now? Let us not forget our own family of God and remember that it is not a part-time commitment. We are familial forever.