Sweetness in Suffering
WORDS BY mckenna sones
There I was again, like clockwork, on my knees in the glow of the twinkle lights still hanging around my room from a Christmas many months past. My Bible was open in front of me, and I was crying.
“Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5: 2-5
“Rejoice in our sufferings.”
My suffering was multilayered. I was unsure of who I was; the labels I had used to define myself proudly over the last several years had been snatched from me without warning. The successful, and seemingly perfect, direction I thought my life was going was wiped swiftly off the board, leaving messy and streaky remnants taunting me to start all over.
Girlfriend. It’s over.
Editor. You’re not as good as you thought you were.
Student. Graduation ends more than just homework.
Reputation. Rumors spread.
Leader. You can’t lead effectively when you’re like this.
Other’s expectations. You’ve let everyone down, even yourself.
I had been rejoicing in blessings, and now I was feeling suffering. But rejoicing in my sufferings? Rejoicing and suffering felt too different to be in the same sentence.
It was as if rejoicing was a distant mountaintop far off in the distance and I stood scraped, bruised, and barely holding on to Jesus’ hand, looking for a way to stand back up after being knocked down so harshly.
A year later things got better and I found myself rejoicing again, telling my Bible study girls, “Things are so great right now. I’m doing really good.” All the things that were once erased have slowly been replaced with new blessings and joys I never saw coming.
Across from me, a girl's eyes welled up with tears and she half laughed, half sobbed.
Things were not great for her. She was looking up at the same mountain I gazed upon a year earlier, wondering how long it would be until she was standing on top of it.
My heart ached for her. But then conviction rose so strongly in me that I blurted out, “What if our worship looked the same in our times of joy as it does in our times of suffering?”
I thought back to the tears I thought would never end, when I was crying out to God, faithfully in communication with Him, desiring His peace and presence above all else because nothing else would satisfy. He was so real in those moments. He was so close in my suffering it was as if He was tangible.
Through seven months of heartache, I was completely enveloped in Jesus’ love for me. My eyes, through the blurriness of the tears, refocused every day on the cross. I walked hand-in-hand and took every step with the consult of my Savior.
Somewhere along the way, I healed. Slowly. Thankfully.
While my love for Him did not wane, my listening ears often do. The most intimate moments with Jesus have been when I'm on my knees, crying out to him in my suffering. What if, in our rejoicing, we also went to our knees to be with Jesus.
Kindreds, ask Him the tough questions—the ones your heart still doesn’t understand—and worship Him for the goodness He pours out in the mundane days, the best days and, yes, even the worst ones.
Now, in this season of contentment, the one I prayed for, I now understand what Paul meant when he wrote about rejoicing in our sufferings.
Rejoice, broken ones. Your God is so near. He is so near to your broken heart.
I am here on the other side of a bruised and broken heart to tell you, He is near over here, too. Do not lose sight of Him on the mountaintop, because the most beautiful, desperate and relatable Psalm was written from the valley of the shadow of death. In this life you will have to walk back into that valley again, no doubt, and when you do, go in strong with hands raised, eyes to the cross.