(Written by Stephen J. Wright two years before he died at age 29 from complications of Muscular Dystrophy and Congestive Heart Failure)
Who can separate us from the love of Christ?
Can affliction or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? …
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
(Romans 8:35, 37)
FROM SUFFERING TO APPRECIATION
I wouldn’t have chosen it. At the time, I felt confused, feeling something was terribly wrong, convinced it was unfair. “Why is this happening to me?” This question constantly plagued my heart, fueling my anger, stoking my frustration, crushing me with despair.
Looking back on it, though, that’s when I wonder –
Would I have been the same person I am today if it never happened?
We all long for Eden. We all desire peace – peace of mind, peace of body, peace of soul. None of us knowingly chooses the path of hardship and trial. We all want to be happy, to have everything go our way, to safely guard what’s precious to us. Why wouldn’t we?
Yet if we never knew what it was to lack, to feel robbed, to experience pain – could we ever fully appreciate what true Heaven has to offer?
If everything went just how we wanted from start to finish, we would never know struggle – and we would never know the depth and sweetness of relief. If we never had to fight for anything, how could we be satisfied with what we earned? And if we never lost anything, how could we fully appreciate what we have?
SUFFERING CAN LEAD TO JOY
We take so many things for granted, and their value dwindles in our minds. Yet only someone who has lost everything can appreciate the gift of everything that God has promised his children. Only if we have known what it feels like to be lost and alone can we experience the joy of being found, being loved, belonging.
I think those with the deepest wounds are the ones who will experience Heaven to the fullest, whose joy will be the greatest.
If you chose the path of hardship, I’d think there was something wrong with you. No suffering at the time is ever enjoyable; it can never be appreciated much less be seen as something for which to thank God. It’s never pretty, it’s never fun.
CONQUERORS BY GOD’S GRACE
Yet looking back on my own hardships, I will always thank God for them. Why? Because of my hardships, I haven’t lived all my life surrounded by pillows and fluff, with everything I wanted delivered to me on a silver platter.
Instead, I have become a fighter, a warrior, a conqueror — someone I don’t have to be ashamed of, the person I always wished I could be.
In the future, I know I will struggle. I will most certainly go through times when I want to yell, hit things, and shake my fist at God, asking him why and pouring all my anger, sadness, and pain into my words and actions.
But … on the day that I cross to the other side and enter the gates of paradise, I won’t enter as one who always had it easy. I will enter as a winner. When I look back on the earthly life I lived, with all its struggles and hardships, I will take a deep breath and say, “Thank you, God, for all the suffering I went through, suffering that allowed me to take part in Christ’s suffering so that I may follow after him and share in his glory among the ranks of fellow Christian heroes.”
Until the end of our hardships then, we must endure.
The suffering is not because we are losing the battle. It is the battle – and in God’s grace we will always make it through. We are conquerors by God’s grace.
Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test,
that person will receive the crown of life the Lord has promised to those who love him.
First published as You are Conquerors at A Simple Pilgrim August 2017. Published with his parents’ permission.
QUESTIONS TO PONDER
- Have you ever shaken your fist at God, asking him why you are experiencing a hard trial? Did you feel guilty – or did you feel God patiently heard you?
- Is it possible to thank God for your suffering? Why or why not?
- Make a list of some things over which you have conquered (Romans 8:35-39), e.g., getting angry easily, wanting something – whether it be a thing or a trait – someone else has, thinking yourself better than someone else. Thank God for those victories!
Stephen J. Wright
Stephen, son of Steve and Gayl Wright, dealt with Muscular Dystrophy (MD) all his life, and later congestive heart failure (CHF). He was a writer of fantasy fiction, poetry, and truth. He also enjoyed video games. Stephen counted his relationship to God the most important thing in his life. He said, “Though I’m limited and never completely live up to God’s law, I’m always glad to remember that He is constantly with us, forgiving and guiding.” (Stephen joined his Savior on 11/30/2019 at the age of 29 from complications of MD and CHF).
Living Brave begins with faith, with living authentically from the inside out. It’s messy and gritty, and reveals how much we really trust God.