I was called to the hospital. My mom had been rushed there by the ambulance and all of her six children were called to meet her and the doctors in the intensive care unit. I was in my thirties, married and expecting my first child. I should also mention that I was (I am) a complete Mama’s boy. I loved my mom and could not picture life without her.
In any event, Mom was diagnosed with advanced lung and bone cancer. She had known for some time but chose not to tell the family. This was how my mom lived; she was always thinking about others and did not want anyone to worry about her. Within four short months, my mom went from being a robust Hispanic woman to skin over bones at her death. For me, this was a dark period without comparison. Not only did I lose my mom to cancer but I also had to perform the funeral ceremony and provide strength to the family.
More than ten years have passed and as I survey that time in my life, I am able to see the hand of God in every moment. During this time, I learned lessons that the “good times” could never have taught me. I learned the profound reality that God never leaves us and I experienced the comfort of Him walking me through the valley of the shadow of death. I learned the necessity of trusting Him when I could not see Him, feel Him or hear Him. Today, I am grateful to God for the lessons I learned during that time and for the deepened relationship with God that ensued. Please don’t misunderstand, I am not grateful for my Mom’s death but I can now see the benefit that this dark time produced in my life.
I have shared this story often to help people understand that drama, hardships and even death are an inseparable part of this life and that God has purposed to transform these times into seasons of growth and intimacy.
Let’s focus on just two Bible portions that give clarity to this topic. In John 16:33 Jesus informed us, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Jesus is pretty clear that tribulation is an inescapable part of this life; however, He also indicates that peace is possible if you remain in Him because He has overcome. The obvious conclusion is that you also overcome as long as you are in Him. Therefore, no situation is designed to master you as long as He is your Master.
One more powerful verse that helps us to see the benefit of walking through suffering (and abiding in Jesus through it) is Romans 5:3-4 which states, “…we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope…” In other words, hardship, drama and pain produce endurance, which builds character and results in a hope-filled life. When Paul tells us to rejoice he does not mean that we are happy about sufferings but as we understand the fruit that will be produced in and through us, we rejoice as we walk through the hardship.
I understand that this idea does not get preached very much, if at all. We (the American Church) are fairly effective at producing feel good sermons that convince people that hardship is a definite sign of God’s disapproval and therefore our lives should be full of only good things. However, this ideology is not consistent with what the entire Bible teaches. Job’s trials, for example, were not a sign of God’s disapproval but exactly the opposite. Job was attacked because he was a faithful man of God.
In conclusion, the fact is that you will have to walk through bad stuff in this life whether you are a Christian or not and if there is no value in these situations and circumstances than much of your life is wasted and insignificant. Biblically, there is a better way to view suffering and find benefit even in the deserts, the valleys and the temporary dark times. Remember, that God has promised to never ever leave you and to never, ever, ever forsake you (Deut. 31:6, Hebrews 13:5)…and this includes the dark times.