My Dad has been suffering with some intense pain for nearly two months now since he had an acute pancreatitis attack one Sunday morning on the way to church. I know that there are verses about rejoicing in suffering, but I’ll be honest, there hasn’t been too much rejoicing going on around here.
I’m not even the one suffering, but I still hurt just being so close to it. It’s painful to watch suffering in others, much less be the one suffering.
Our U.S. (and Christian) culture has taught me to think that I deserve a life without suffering–or maybe I taught myself that distorted privilege. Surely there is a pain pill to swallow that will make it go away. Or an easy procedure to remove the suffering. Or a prayer with enough faith that miraculously moves mountains (or a cyst on the pancreas).
I’ve been praying–along with many others who have joined our family in prayer–for God to heal Dad and take this pain away. This week, though, I’ve been thinking about suffering, and I want my prayers to be about more than asking God to take it away. I’m also asking God what he wants us to learn through this season. How can God grow our character through this time? How will God use this to enrich our hope so that it never disappoints us? How can we rely more on God, and less on ourselves? (II Corinthians 1:9)
“Not only so but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” Romans 5:3-5
“Rejoicing”–that might be stretching it. But I am thankful, so thankful to have a God that works in suffering. And I’m learning that sometimes his greatest work in suffering is not in quickly removing it, but in being with us through it. Sometimes we are so focused on asking God to miraculously remove suffering that we miss his most miraculous work amidst the suffering. (Maybe that’s easy for me to say since I’m not the one with the cyst.)
I’ll be thankful to God if he heals Dad and takes away the cyst that has formed on his pancreas. But in the meantime, I’m thankful for his presence amidst the pain.
What have you learned about prayer in suffering?