It’s been six months since my wife and I separated. Six months of battling depression. Six months of battling anxiety. Six months of battling doubts about God. Six months doubting my future and what it has to bring. Six months of some amazing highs. Six months of a lot of struggle and lows. Almost every day it feels like a challenge to get out of bed, shower and even drink coffee (the thing I love more than anything else). Almost every day there’s something new and overwhelming to face and I’m never really sure if I’m able to face it until all of a sudden I realise it’s midnight and I’ve got to do it all over again the next day. I want to cry. I want to run away. I want to scream. I want to punch something. I feel like the Psalmist who says:
For my soul is full of troubles,
and my life draws near to Sheol.
I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
I am a man who has no strength,
like one set loose among the dead,
like the slain that lie in the grave,
like those whom you remember no more,
for they are cut off from your hand.
Many days can only be described biblically as despair, the yoke is heavy, and I feel like I’ve gotten more than I can bear.
This isn’t a cry for help or attention. This isn’t me putting on a depressing show so I can get a pat on the back or a hug from you. This. Is. Life. I’ve been a Christian for over ten years now I can tell you right now that I’m learning more in this season than I have perhaps in the entire ten years of ever being Christian. Pain, trials, and tribulations refine the Christian and God is teaching me things I’m barely even beginning to grasp.
There are two types of people in this world. There are those who try to escape the pain and brokenness of life through encouragement, positive thinking and relying on the positive aspects of God’s promises. This is completely understandable. God wants us to believe that He has good things for us and that He wants to give us good gifts. Then there’s those who embrace the trials and pain and see it as a good thing in light of God’s promises to sanctify them and to grow them in wisdom. The former unfortunately seem to overlook the promises and sobering reality of life. Jesus never promised to take us out of this sinful, broken world, only to forgive us and free us from it while still being in it. Jesus never promises to take us away from pain and suffering, rather, He promised to walk with us through it. If anything is true of Christianity, it is this: pain and suffering have now become my friends. They’re a heightened, necessary experience for us in which God uses to transform the Christian into a sage and a saint for the time and place they live in.
Herein lies the rub. Pain and suffering is, quite literally the crux of the Gospel. I wonder, how many times when the Gospel is presented to someone do we offer suffering as a drawcard for conversion? Imagine “hey man! Give your life to Jesus. You’ll have forgiveness of sin, new life in Jesus… Which will probably suck. You’ll lose friends, family, jobs, money, and maybe your life. Pretty sick huh?” Not very appealing. However, this is exactly what Jesus was getting at when He said to take up your cross to follow me (Matt 16: 24-26), that one must hate all else to follow Him (Luke 14:26). Jesus knew what it would take to be His disciple. It is not easy, and one who has never experienced true suffering will never understand the importance of becoming its friend and letting it move you. Suffering takes the one who befriends it to greater heights and greater wisdom. That saint and sage glorifies his God more than he ever would have otherwise. Therefore, it is imperative to walk the same path as Christ our King. Remember, no servant is greater than their master.
“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.”