“I’ve learned to kiss the waves that throw me up against the rock of ages.”
This famous Spurgeon quote has been about the only thing on my mind lately, as I’ve found myself daily in a dark room, pleading with the Lord to lift the dark clouds. For the last eight months, I’ve not had the emotional, mental, or physical energy to fully love my wife, shepherd my two small kids, or pastor the flock God has given to me. Since October, the debilitating migraines I’ve experienced all day every day have taken everything out of me.
And because of this (not in spite of this), God is good. How? Because He brought me near and showed me a clearer picture of His love for me. For the second time in my life, God providentially allowed me to walk through intense physical suffering for His glory. Though there are countless lessons God is teaching me, here are three lessons I’m learning from physical suffering over the past year.
I’m learning to share my current burdens
In an attempt to not burden my members, I foolishly didn’t let people into my dark days until the clouds began to lift. Not only did I miss the opportunity for 68 members to pray alongside me, but I also missed the opportunity to model what it is to suffer well. I know the biblical command to bear one another’s burdens, but this assumes that the burdens are known (thus shared). As a burden-lifter who hates to be a burden-giver, I’ve learned that vulnerability with suffering opens doors to be carried by the hands and feet of God in prayer and care.
I’m learning to prioritize according to my limitedness
It took all my energy to simply focus at work. I would then get home completely depleted, yet called to give to and love my wife and kids. I had nothing to give to the three people that God called me to serve above all others. My wife helped me reorder my rhythms and reconsider my commitments to make sure that my responsibilities were given time and energy according to their priority. This means I had to say no to great opportunities, but it also forced me to trust and rest in God’s sovereignty and faithfulness to accomplish His purposes.
I’m learning to give patience
I’ve always known that patience is learned through tribulation (Romans 5; James 1). But this time, my lesson was not only in the patience I needed to receive, but also in the patience I needed to give. Those two are tied: I could not patiently parent a tired toddler without God’s patience. Because I cannot give what I don’t have, I depended daily on God’s provision for grace, patience, and love. God is still teaching me these principles. But as I continue to behold the cross of Jesus Christ, not only am I learning great lessons for my life, but I’m also finding great rest for my weary soul.