A close friend of mine, Charles Zimmerman, had some very deep comments on how my daughter Bryn’s book Dying to Live: Experiencing God’s Redemptive Power In the Midst of Tragedy changed His perspective on pain and suffering, bolstering His faith and trust in God for whatever may come his way.
My daughter’s life was marked by trauma, abuse, addiction, rape, rebellion, and the tragic murder of her older sister, Abbe. In the book, Bryn candidly shares her journey of overcoming the enemy to experience a life transformed by the Savior.
As Charles looked at Bryn’s story, he couldn’t help but ponder what he would have felt if he was in my shoes. He told me he would obviously be praying fervently for the pain and trials to come to an end. He also thought that he would potentially have become angry with God with His seemingly absenteeism from the heartache.
In hindsight, would I still thank God for what He was planning to do all along knowing how difficult it would be? Would I recognize that He was neither absent nor uncaring, but simply letting His marvelous plan play out? Bottom line, would I be just as thankful now as I was hurt, confused and angry then?
If I saw the end from the beginning, like God does, I would have thanked Him in the midst of it all in a much deeper way. God can only accomplish certain things in the furnace. In my seasons of discouragement and disillusionment, when I leaned on others in the body and chose to stand in faith regardless of how weak I may have felt, as I pressed into God, He revealed Himself in new ways to me and His grace carried me in ways I can hardly explain.
The good news is that we can all grab this truth and walk in thankfulness as we learn to trust our heavenly Father.
Co-Suffering with Christ
As a father, watching Bryn and Abbe suffer, I suffered. This is exactly how God meets us in our pain. When we enter into the sufferings of Christ, a crushing or a death process with God begins, producing an oil of great cost as He forms something beautiful within us.
Satan comes to kill, steal and destroy but Jesus brings abundant life. What the enemy intends for evil, God will use it for good in the fullness of time. Your battles are God’s battles. As we seek God and surrender to His will, God’s plans usurp Satan’s. All things work together for our good because we love the Lord and are called according to His purposes.
Death proceeds life. So much of what we suffer is actually part of God’s death process (aka, the fire of God). He disciplines those He loves. We die to truly live, experiencing real resurrection life. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we are privileged to enter into the process of dying to the flesh and its pride, lust and worldly ties to be conformed into the image of Jesus and to reveal our true selves, in Christ! This is why we call it the blessing of suffering and the path to abundant life.
The Blessing of Suffering
“The Lord is close to all whose hearts are crushed by pain, and he is always ready to restore the repentant one. Even when bad things happen to the good and godly ones, the Lord will save them and not let them be defeated by what they face. God will be your bodyguard to protect you when trouble is near. Not one bone will be broken.”
Psalms 34:18-20 TPT
How we look at suffering requires discernment. We do not want to interrupt the deep work that can only be accomplished when we enter into the sufferings of Jesus. Sometimes, God provides a way out of suffering, but other times, He asks us to walk through the valley so He can burn away the dross and develop our character. As a parent, we have to allow our children to suffer so that they will grow. Our intervention could become an obstacle to what God is trying to do. Bryn had to go through suffering to ultimately find Jesus (and so did I). The mercy of God can feel severe, but it is His mercy that leads to salvation and life.
I remember wanting a specific breakthrough and wanting it fast. I was hurting deeply as I experienced my daughter Bryn plunging into darkness and suffering. However, the suffering not only caused Bryn to experience the Lord more deeply but it also caused me to press into the Lord in new levels of dependence as my weakness and helplessness became so apparent. The breakthrough came… but it did not come quickly. God said “no” to my pleas to end the pain. I didn’t like it, but in hindsight, I see God’s great mercy of salvation was accomplished in the fire.
A “no” from God always means He has something better in store. God is the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end. He is outside of time and space and sees the end from the beginning. He is in our future right now! I never could have predicted the incredible work God did in Bryn’s life as a result of that season and in spite of the terrible and tragic circumstances of Abbe’s death. God works in the pain and suffering, using it to transform us. He allowed it for Bryn to be the woman she is today. Ultimately, Bryn’s life of darkness was used to transform and accelerate her, bringing hope to many and glorifying God.
“The eyes of the Lord are upon even the weakest worshipers who love him— those who wait in hope and expectation for the strong, steady love of God. God will deliver them from death, even the certain death of famine, with no one to help. The Lord alone is our radiant hope and we trust in him with all our hearts. His wrap-around presence will strengthen us. As we trust, we rejoice with an uncontained joy flowing from Yahweh! Let your love and steadfast kindness overshadow us continually, for we trust and we wait upon you!”
Psalms 33:18-22 TPT
I tell my story as a parent to encourage you to trust God with your children and your life in a new way. As we share our testimonies, we release the power of God for transformation to be released in the lives of others. The word testimony comes from the Hebrew root word “odot” (עֵדוּת) which essentially means “do it again.” Every time we share our testimony of God’s faithfulness in our lives, we welcome the power of God to do it again in the lives of others.
God is perfect and as we trust Him and surrender our lives and our families to Him, He is faithful to complete what He started! It may not look the way we want it to, but God knows what He’s doing and has our eternal good in mind. Let’s all take hold of the faith imparted to us and also choose to give thanks to God in the midst of our hardships!
Jesus, we thank You that You are alway with us amidst our suffering. We ask for Your grace to endure as Your glory saturates and is revealed within us because of our oneness with Jesus. Help us to seek You with all our hearts, to know You and reflect You more each day. Please help us to remember that You are always with us and Your grace is sufficient.
Did you enjoy this blog? Don’t miss the second part in this series, Dying to Live: No Compromise.