Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thankful for Suffering

Words from the Apostle Paul:

That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  2 Corinthians 12:10

Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.  Colossians 1:24

The greatest period of suffering in my life began in December of 2006. For 12 years if have struggled with and suffered from PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I learned in a rude and sudden interruption that PTSD can change an extrovert, according to the Myers Brigg personality test, to an introvert who avoids social interaction and refuses to build relationships beyond those that only function on the surface. How have I suffered from PTSD:

I wouldn't share my struggles with my closest family and friends

I would have daily flashbacks and fight to stay present in reality, so as not to get lost in the past

I would lose all ability to trust anyone, including God (Though only briefly)

And I would lose my love for teaching young children

During these past 12 years I would struggle with Paul's words that I should rejoice in my suffering. That's insane, right?

Well, in the past week I have discovered something new. As suddenly as my world came crashing down in December of 2006 God would come in boldly on Saturday, November 17 and I could say, "I give thanks for the sufferings of 2011, they make the blessings of 2012 all the more special. Today, I can add to that and say, "I thank God for the past 12 years of suffering, for God has been glorified through it." God is glorified when:

A youth thanks God for Ms. Adele coming to teach the Bible

A youth thanks God for Ms. Adele showing her the truth

A youth comes to the saving grace of Jesus Christ and commits their life to Christ.

An adult tells me how I understand them and how my kindness helps them feel loved and special.

I discover a rewarding and encouraging friendship with a fellow sister in Christ.

And through my suffering I understand the suffering of others who struggle with the evils of humanity.

God has been glorified through my suffering and through my weakness God has made me strong.

In 2002, prior to graduating from Campbell University Divinity School, I had to complete my Senior Synthesis. Part of that paper had to include a one page document that was a summary of my call and goals. I wrote that for my future, "My desire is that every person I encounter, that when they see me, who they see is Jesus Christ." I believe and know that this desire of mine is being fulfilled daily through my suffering.

If God is glorified then my suffering is worth it. Can you give thanks to God for your suffering? If you can't I understand. Take courage that God is working within you and that in your weakness he is making you strong.

Thanks be to Thee, Jesus Christ,
For the many gifts Thou has bestowed on me,
Each day and night, each sea and land,
Each weather fair, each calm, each wild.
I am giving Thee worship with my whole life,
I am giving Thee assent with my whole power,
I am giving Thee praise with my whole tongue,
I am giving Thee honour with my whole utterance.
I am giving Thee reverence with my whole understanding,
I am giving Thee offering with my whole thought,
I am giving Thee praise with my whole fervour,
I am giving Thee humility in the blood of the Lamb.
I am giving Thee love with my whole devotion,
I am giving Thee kneeling with my whole desire,
I am giving Thee love with my whole heart,
I am giving Thee affection with my whole sense;
I am giving Thee existence with my whole mind,
I am giving Thee my soul, O God of all gods.”
-taken from the Carmina Gadelica,, found in The Celtic way of Prayer: The Recovery of Religious Imagination, by Esther De Waal
“You have survived the winter because you are, and were, and always will be very much loved,” said the sun. “For that small place deep within you that remained unfrozen and open to mystery, that is where I have made my dwelling. And long, long before you felt my warmth surrounding you, you were being freed and formed from within in ways so deep and profound that you could not possibly know what was happening.”                                         - Mary Fahy, The Tree that Survived the Winter