I have been struggling here lately with the idea of suffering. The Bible promises us that, as Christ followers, we are going to experience suffering in this life. It's a guarantee. That isn't what I have been wrestling with. I have found myself struggling to make the connection between the hurt I find myself enduring and the advancement of the Gospel. God's Word tells us that we will suffer for His sake, but I have had a hard time connecting the dots in my own life. I am not being persecuted for my faith in Christ. I have not been fired from my job for being a Christian. I have not been told by my government that I cannot go to church. In my mind, those types of things equate to suffering for the sake of Christ. Something I would gladly do.
Instead, I find myself hurting because there are no children in my home. I find myself feeling empty and hollow, abandoned and alone, aching and hurt. And as much as I have searched for a connection between these things and the spreading of the Gospel, I have not been been able to find one.
So I did what any rational human being would do. I put my conundrum before my Bible study (a group of people I absolutely love) and asked for their thoughts.
The answer smacked me in the face.
One of the men in our group pointed out that perhaps my perspective was wrong. Instead of looking at this as suffering, maybe I should be looking at it as discipline.
I will admit that I bristled at the word "discipline." What can I say? I am a middle school teacher. In my world, being disciplined means you have done something wrong. And I do not believe that God is withholding our children from us because of past sin in our lives.
But he went on to explain that he meant God might be disciplining me in order to draw me closer to Himself.
Equate discipline with training or preparation and bear with me for a moment.
When I was a little girl, I played soccer. My family is from South Florida, where soccer is king. And I truly loved the sport. But I did not just get to walk out on the field every Saturday and play with no training whatsoever. I had to go to practice. That meant running, sprinting, drills and so on. And I did not always love that part. In fact, there were a lot of times when I did not want to run. I was TIRED. It was too HARD. I just wanted to PLAY THE GAME.
I am tired of waiting. It is way too hard. I just want to be a mother to my children. But for some reason, the Lord is allowing the process to draw out. And I do not know specifically why. What I do know is that He does not make mistakes, so I can rest confidently that (even though this is not what I had envisioned for us) everything is happening according to His plan and will.
So maybe that is what this is: a time of preparing for whatever it is that lies ahead of us.
While this shift in perspective is helping quiet my anxious (crazy, exhausted, confused, flustered, frustrated...OK, you get the idea) heart, I must be honest and tell you that life is still hard in the meantime. I still hurt, and that hurt will not go away for a while. But recognizing God's work in my life is stilling me enough to hear Him reminding me that He is over all of this. And that is well worth it.
The Scripture that came to mind while I was writing this was Proverbs 3:12, "The Lord disciplines those He loves." I was going to include just that to close out this post, but then I kept reading to put the verse in context (like a good little English teacher), and what I read was very interesting. Take a look.
"My son, do not despise the Lord's discipline and do not resent His rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those He loves, as a father the son he delights in. Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her."
I find it most intriguing that what follows discipline is the acquisition of wisdom. It is almost as if you cannot have the latter without the former. I hope and pray that I do not miss out on the wisdom God has for me as a result of this trial because I am too busy focusing inwardly on myself and my own hurt. I pray that the Lord will open my eyes to what it is He has for me to see and learn during this painful period of our lives, and I pray fervently that I will be a better wife, mother and follower of Christ because of it.