The Wearying Burden of Ongoing Suffering

 

Burdened picture UTB.jpg

My heart has been incredibly weary lately. I have struggled to find words that adequately express the tumultuous emotions within my spirit. Daily, I need to fight the impulse to turn inward and disconnect from those around me, as I teeter between pressing on or succumbing to the crushing weight of heartache, pain, and fear.

Crushed by Suffering

Months have stretched into years of enduring, waiting, hoping, praying, clinging, and surviving suffering that seems to have no conceivable end. A battle has been waged over my family and me. The enemy seems intent upon turning my heart against the Lord for the pain he has allowed.

For the enemy has pursued my soul; he has crushed my life to the ground; he has made me sit in darkness like those long dead. Therefore, my spirit faints within me; my heart within me is appalled. (Psalm 143:3-4)

But I am God’s daughter, and I’m trusting with all I have (as weak as my faith may be) that he will not let me go. In my brokenness, all I can do is believe that he will carry me through and prove himself faithful.

Is it a lack of faith to grieve and wrestle with the deep realities of heartache and loss? We live in a culture that’s so uncomfortable with suffering that we mask our hurt, cover our blemishes, medicate our pain, and explain our confusion away. Of course, pain is not to be glorified either, as if we are holier because we suffer.

However, the reality is that suffering hurts. It’s uncomfortable, sends some friends running, others judging things they cannot understand. Ongoing suffering is unsettling, disorienting, confusing, and stirs deep questions of faith that we usually don’t have to face until suffering forces us to. But by God’s grace, I’m choosing to face it head on, rather than running from it. We must choose how we will respond when the heaviness of life leaves us feeling joyless, hopeless, and even in despair.

Two Encouragements to Persevere

I have found great encouragement in the words of Paul, a man whose greatest desire was to love and glorify God, yet who also suffered much as he fought the good fight of faith. I am thankful for the way God used Paul’s devastating circumstances to encourage the Corinthians, and countless others who have suffered through the ages.

For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves, but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. (2 Corinthians 1:8-10)

1. The Lord allows us to “reach a point of having no intellectual, physical, or emotional human resource to fall back on” in order to drive us to rely on him alone.

After nine years of fighting an unseen enemy that has wrought unimaginable havoc through destructive neurological behaviors in our oldest son (and thus our other children), recent evidence seems to point to Lyme disease. This means a long uncertain future of costly treatments without any guarantees of healing. There is no area of our lives that has not been touched by a little tick that bit me and infected me years ago, which I then unknowingly passed on to all four of my children. Until recently, mysterious health problems had sent us from doctor to doctor, adding financial loss and burden to the many other stresses we were facing, while doctors simply shook their heads in confusion.

Even now that we have identified the enemy, treatments are complex. It’s hard not to battle fear and despair. As a woman and mother who desires to bring order and peace to our home, I must fight constant feelings of failure over the turmoil that seems constant there. Misguided judgments from people who don’t understand also leave me feeling vulnerable.

But by God’s grace, and despite my flailing, the Lord continues to carry me, change me, and help me press on another moment. As Paul experienced the complete emptying of his own resources in order to learn to rely fully on Christ, I am learning to do the same. Though I often feel like a die a thousand deaths every day, I am experiencing greater life in Christ. For the more that I am emptied, the more I am filled.

Are you in this place right now? You may be experiencing far greater trials than I am, circumstances I can’t even imagine. If you are despairing of life itself, uncertain whether you can endure one more moment of your pain, remember that the apostle Paul, a strong man of God, experienced the same. Even more, so did Jesus. He bore the entire weight of the world’s sin and the wrath of his Father in order that you and I would always have the presence and resources of the Almighty God.

2. The Lord uses circumstances that tempt us to despair of life to magnify the power of the gospel in our lives.

Circumstances that feel hopeless magnify the hope of the gospel. Circumstances that reveal our weaknesses magnify the strength of Christ. Circumstances that cause our love for this world to fade cause our love for Christ to grow. Circumstances that bring about the loss of earthly things magnify the glorious riches of eternity.

Therefore, although suffering is painful, it is a also a reminder that this life is a believer’s temporary home. When life is going well, it’s easy to be generally thankful for the gospel, but not to allow the veins of its truth to give life to us. However, when disappointment and suffering strike, the gospel becomes our life-line and empowers us to live victoriously. This has been true for me as I’ve desperately needed the physical, emotional, spiritual, and intellectual strength to press on each day.

When my child is causing deep hurt in another one of my children, I need the love, grace, and patience of Christ to flow through me before I react. When I see pain in one of my children, but feel helpless to do anything about it, I need the reminder that Christ is grieved by their pain and remains Lord over it.

When I feel insecurity rise up in me when I see the worry in my husband’s face over finances, I need to remind myself that my true security in Christ, no matter what happens. When my body aches and I want to crawl into bed and sink into despair, I need to rely on the Holy Spirit’s strength to endure and focus on truth.

When the tenth doctor expresses how perplexed he is and suggests we see someone else, I must go to the Word to remember that God knows all things, that he is sovereignly working all things out for my good, even when the wise of this world are left baffled.

The truth and power of the gospel is not just our guaranteed future inheritance in heaven, it is the promised power, purpose, presence, and fullness of Christ in every moment of our lives on earth. Because of the gospel, suffering is no longer meaningless, but is wielded by the Lord to be used for our good, to change us into the people that our redeemed selves long to be: reflections of Christ.

Joy Comes with the Morning

For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning…You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever! (Psalm 30:5, 11-12)

As I write this, I am speaking to myself as much as anyone else. My temptation is to quit, become a hermit, and bottle up the bitter ache within my soul. But that would allow the enemy to have his way and, by the grace of God, he will not have his way in my life. I am the Lord’s and I know that he will not let me go. Whether I see God redeem this story in my lifetime or not, I am confident it will be redeemed.

Whatever your own circumstances are, I pray that you will be confident in this. If you are in Christ Jesus, you are covered in his promises. Though you may feel burdened beyond your strength and in despair, Christ will be your strength. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy will come in the morning.

Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow. But it will come. One day, he will turn our mourning into dancing, and we will be clothed in gladness, singing praises to his name and giving thanks for all that he has done.

In Christ,

Sarah Walton

Post Credit to: [http://unlockingthebible.org/burden-ongoing-suffering/]

 

 

 

12 thoughts on “The Wearying Burden of Ongoing Suffering

  1. Thank you Sarah for sharing your journey so honestly. When those who are given the opportunity to endure such pain and hardship share their journey honestly and explain how their HOPE and REFUGE is their Abba Father, it encourages others to seek Him…to trust Him with their journeys…to continue breath by breath and step by step. Your blog entries are full of wisdom…of treasures in darkness…of Job like lessons…of the message to press on and to hang on to Him. Thank you for being real and for taking the risk to share your journey with many. May God make His presence known to you in each mud puddle…in each battle…in each rainbow…in every sunset…He is always there…He is always good…we can trust Him even when we are don’t understand. Thanks for your bravery and your faith in His Word and in Him!

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    1. Lynn, I can’t tell you how much your words mean to me. It makes me step back in amazement and thankfulness towards the Lord that he is being faithful…even when I don’t always see it in my circumstances at the moment. But hearing your words reminds me that God is always working to bring about his purposes, for our good and his glory. I am so encouraged by your comment. Thank you for taking the time to write it and for your prayers. God bless you!

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  2. Dear Sarah, I could have written this blog post myself. I read your first paragraph and thought ” that is how I feel”. Unlike you however, I feel sometimes like Satan has won a small battle with me as I find myself very withdrawn and not at all interested in coming out of my shell. I have even been through something similar with my child as you have with yours. My son doesn’t have Lyme but Autism and I have had to navigate my way through biomedical treatment and figuring out all by myself what is wrong with him because doctors didn’t know. The Lord has been so faithful and good to me in this area, as my son is doing much better than he was 3 years ago but there are always new challenges. My circumstances are also so convoluted and complicated I couldn’t put them into words. My biggest struggles are actually not my son. My troubles are many, piled up, and also beyond what I feel I can bare sometimes. I think God makes them this way so we can never explain it to others to receive help but to lean on Him alone who knows what’s happening without me ever trying to explain it to him. For me it’s been 5.5 years of how long O Lord? but the last 15 months have been a special burden. I just wanted you to know I get it and you are not alone. There are other people out there going through similar things. You won’t find a blog for me. I deleted it over two years ago, but am grateful I still can read other blogs that I follow. There is hope with your son and God can make it better even if it looks impossible. He did it with mine. There is always grace for the rest. Blessings and much love sent to you sister, Gina.

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    1. Gina,
      First of all, thank you so much for your openness to share your story. Similar to you, as I read your comment I thought, “Yes, I completely understand!!” Especially when you said, “My troubles are many, piled up, and also beyond what I feel I can bare sometimes. I think God makes them this way so we can never explain it to others to receive help but to lean on Him alone who knows what’s happening without me ever trying to explain it to him.” I have said those exact words to many people before as we have gone through 9 plus years of utter confusion, perplexing the wisest minds. We don’t fit in any “box” and therefore it can become very lonely and you can be tempted to feel crazy! However, I also wanted to encourage you that, I too, have had many days (or weeks) when I have succumbed to the enemy’s trap of turning inward and becoming withdrawn. I think we sometimes become so utterly burdened that we become paralyzed to some degree. But what I hope to encourage you with is that the Lord is stronger than our greatest weaknesses. Suffering and grief can be so complex, especially when there is such a long season of it, that we can feel almost lost in it. But I do believe that as we hold fast to Christ, as lost, weak, and withdrawn as we may feel, he will be faithful to uphold us and carry us through to a place of greater hope, perseverance, and joy in him. But I think it is often hard to see him changing our hearts in the middle of it. It’s not until I look back periodically that I realize, “Wow, he really has been carrying me through, and he really has been working in my heart.” So I leave you with this Psalm that I was claiming this morning, “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, ‘Where is your God?’ These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival. Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall against praise him, my salvation and my God.” (Psalm 42:1-5) I’m so sorry for the hard road you have walked, but may God faithfully grow you closer to him and bring glory to himself through it. Praying for you now. ~In Christ, Sarah

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      1. Thank you very much for taking the time to encourage me:) I do take much encouragement from the Psalms and there was a period where that is all I could read. You are right, it is hard to see God changing me when I find myself discouraged but I do know that is what God is doing and because He is good, all the trials are right and best for us. I also have prayed for you. Be so blessed in everything today. Take joy in your kind heart:)

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  3. Hi Sarah

    I stumbled across your blog a couple of days ago and I’ve been completely blown away by how much I identify with your words. It’s as though God is speaking directly to me about the suffering I too am experiencing,.. a diagnosis of a life threatening illness 3 years ago, the long term effects of an unsuccessful major surgery, marital breakdown and raising my child alone, I often feel as though I’m functioning in a dazed state of exhaustion. But I’m clinging onto God in His strength and His might. As I look back, I see how my daily cry to God has gradually shifted from “…When will I be healed, why is all of this happening to me?” to “…Lord in this pain and turmoil, thank you for filling me with your peace and your joy, I want to know you more, show me how.”

    In my battle with ill health I made the decision to follow a natural integrative treatment path and I’ve discovered how illness in the body is often due to an impaired immune system which can be caused by toxicity from: chemicals, parasites, stress, or pretty much anything that unaturally burdens the body. I’m no expert, but I wanted to share this with you in case it’s something you hadn’t considered for you and your family.

    Thank you for your courage and love.

    Kitty

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    1. Wow, Kitty, I’m so sorry to hear all that you’ve gone through. I resonate with the ways your prayers have shifted. It makes me praise the Lord for how faithful he is to not let our suffering overcome us.
      Thank you for your thoughts as well! I completely agree with you and am seeing doctors who look at all of those angles. It never seems to be a simple answer, does it?
      Anyway, thank you for taking the time to encourage me as well. It reminds me that God won’t waste all of this pain. Praying for you, sister.

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  4. I just found your blog through Proverbs 31 Ministries, and it quite literally could not have come at a better time. I’ve been searching and searching for encouragement from someone who “gets it” and have been coming up empty. It feels like all the Christian blogs out there are for women who are not chronically ill, and I’ve struggled with feeling completely incapable of keeping up with all the practical life suggestions for Christian women and as though no one could offer sound wisdom or advice for me in my specific troubles.

    I’ve been sick for almost two and half years (not nearly as long as you have been), with the most prominent symptoms being chronic fatigue and severe digestive problems. It took almost a year to find answers, and since then it has been a very long road of treatment that included a bad relapse and still really has yet to yield any significant results. I had to quit my job, and my husband and I moved in with my parents for both financial reasons and for the extra help for me physically (for which I am deeply grateful, don’t get me wrong). My best friend doesn’t seem to know how to handle my chronic illness, and I’ve not heard from her for nearly eight months nor had a decent conversation with her for about a year. People I know don’t really ask how I’m doing or want to hear that I’m not okay… everyone is too busy with their own lives, and they all seem to rush by as I try to crawl along and make it through one day at a time.

    I’ve also had a front-row seat (or maybe more accurately been out on the field) over the past year as my baby sister walked out of my parents’ house immediately after turning 18, decided to work at a strip club, starting smoking and drinking, slept around and contracted herpes, got herself deep in debt, has been diagnosed with anxiety and depression and is also struggling with a drug problem. Her heart is far from God, and mine is so beyond crushed as I watch her destroy her life and wonder when God is going to do something to bring her back to Him.

    My husband, whom I love with all my heart and am so grateful for, and I have been married for almost four years. It has been my lifelong dream to be a wife and mother, but with my health problems, we realize that it may not be wise to attempt a pregnancy, both for my sake and for a baby’s health (please know that I don’t mean that as any judgement on you at all!). I also have no idea how I would care for a child when I struggle just to take care of myself. I will turn 31 this coming fall, and many days it feels like my dream of being a mom is slowly dying. A sister-in-law on my husband’s side of the family gave birth to the first grandchild last October, and while I try hard to be happy for her and the family as a whole, her multiple photo/video posts of her baby every day only serve to remind me of my broken reality. Now only two days ago my (younger) brother called to tell me that his wife is expecting their third child. I swallowed back the lump in my throat as I did my best to offer a happy congratulations, and burst into tears the moment I hung up the phone.

    I apologize for how lengthy this has gotten, but I just wanted to explain why your blog truly came when I needed it most. I have been struggling to hang onto any kind of hope for the last few days and have barely managed to drag myself out of bed, feeling no motivation for anything and wondering if my life has any purpose. I’ve been in survival mode for so long and don’t even know what my God-given talents or skills are anymore; even if I did know, I have little energy to pursue them. Essentially I think I feel like I’ve come to the end of my rope, that after trying to be brave and keep pressing on for these past two years, I just don’t have any fight left in me. I desperately needed these words of truth today from someone who has suffered and is still suffering. Thank you for allowing me a place to share and for giving me hope from God’s Word to grasp.

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    1. Oh Sister, what a burden you are carrying. I’m so sorry for all that you are walking through right now. I’m thankful to the Lord that he met you through the article and reminded you that you aren’t alone in your struggles (despite how lonely it feels at times). You may feel completely at the end of your rope…but Christ will be there – always. He promises that he won’t let us go and he promises that he will equip us for everything he calls us to. I pray that you will allow yourself to grieve all the pain you are experiencing, but then bring it to Christ and ask him to carry these burdens for you – one moment at a time. We may be hopeless in an earthly sense, but we are never hopeless when we are in Christ. Cling to that truth, sister. I pray that the Lord will bring a friend who will be willing to walk alongside of you. I know the feeling of seeing friends fall away through seasons of long-suffering. Anyway, I’m praying that Christ will fill your heart with more of him through this season, that he will guide you in your next steps in regards to health and family, and that he will encourage your weary heart. Thank you for sharing your story, Sheila. I hope if you get the book, you will find encouragement and comfort from us fellow sufferers.

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