Recently my 17-year-old daughter, Anna, sat down at the piano before a room full of onlookers. She sat there so gracefully, so beautiful that no one would have ever guessed the huge medical challenges she was facing in her life – the chronic pain that had kept her from the piano over the last month. No one would imagine what it took to even be there, the incredible courage, perseverance, and strength. For the next several minutes they would simply enjoy the beauty of the notes as her fingers gracefully glided across the keys releasing the loveliest piece of music. As her hand hit the first key, tears filled my eyes. I was witnessing one of the most valiant displays of what it means to be “fruitful in affliction.” Anna had chosen to not let this medical setback rob her of her joy, her gift, or being productive. Instead, she epitomized what it means to be fruitful in affliction.
Anna had put her piano lessons on hold for the last month because she was just in too much pain to continue. She has sadly missed weeks of school and is living with chronic pain every day again until it is resolved. Things we thought were part of our past – doctor’s appointments, tests, daily contact with the school, pain meds, heating pads, etc. – have become part of our present again. At times, it is extremely discouraging and a continual hurt to this mother’s heart to watch her suffer with so little relief. Having missed a good chunk of her middle school years due to this kidney condition, Anna was determined to start piano lessons last year as a sophomore in high school. Talk about courage! It’s something she loves and has an obvious gifting for. After a long silence, to my sheer delight, I heard the piano again one evening only to discover that a week ago she had called her piano teacher and went back to her lessons. There was music in the house again! Anna had planned months ago to participate in the Solo and Ensemble Festival where she would be judged for a selected piece. To my surprise, with only a week to practice – in the middle of her pain – she decided to go through with it. As we walked out the door of her performance that morning, a woman said, “You must have been taking piano for a long time; that was beautiful!” To top it off, the judge gave her the highest marks.
Genesis 41:52 says, “For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction” (ESV). God had indeed made Anna fruitful on Saturday. In the midst of great pain she beautifully displayed the power and grace of God. Against overwhelming circumstances, she chose to be fruitful. Often, the last thing we think about in affliction is being fruitful, don’t we? I am relearning with this new affliction at our house to make Genesis 41:52 my prayer again.
How easy it is to instead throw our pity parties and get bogged down in the darkness of our circumstances, but this focus only keeps us down in the darkness. I don’t know how long this new medical episode will go on, but I do know that one day I will stand before the Lord and give an account for what I did with my “land.” Did I use my “land” however painful and undesirable for His glory? Or did I spend my time focusing on all the bad, failing to embrace all the fresh opportunities for growth, for trust, for prayer, for complete dependence on Him that this new “land” is giving me? It’s so easy to be fruitful in the land of plenty, in the land where everything is going our way, but what about now in the land of our affliction, in the land of losses and hurts? The real test of our faith comes when, even though everything in our life that we value is wiped away, we can still go on loving and serving Christ with a deep joy and passion.
Some of our greatest accomplishments for God are birthed in affliction. That was certainly true for Anna this past weekend! Could it be you and I are in exactly the very circumstances God wants us in right now so He can mightily use us – so He can make us even more fruitful?
With the God who imparts us with His strength, we can be fruitful even in the “land of affliction.” And He will make our land into something beautiful – a land that will bring Him glory and be a blessing to others, a land that will give us a new song!
*First published in Just Between Us Magazine, Fall 2012 edition.
SHELLY ESSER has been the editor of Just Between Us (justbetweenus.org), a magazine to encourage and equip women for a life of faith, for the last 26 years. Additionally, she is an author and freelance editor. For the last 15 years, she has been caring for her chronically ill daughter and husband. Her heart and passion is to walk alongside women to help them deepen their faith, and bring encouragement and hope, especially in life’s difficulties. She and her husband have four daughters, a son-in-law, and live in suburban Milwaukee, WI.
Radical hope. Compassionate change. Equipping those affected by chronic physical and mental illness through community and education rooted in Jesus Christ.