Don’t blink or you will miss the glimpse of eternity at the intersection of suffering and joy. The cross’ horizontal line might represent our linear lives here on earth, where we are promised we will suffer. 1 Peter 5:10 says, “…after you have suffered a little while, [Jesus] will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”
The vertical line points us toward heaven, eternity and joy. Something unique happens at the intersection if I choose to look directly at my suffering, not trying to run or hide from it. If I don’t blink, I won’t miss this gift, which is so very brief, but life-altering.
This isn’t just a word picture for me, but has become more and more real. At the end of 2016, my daughter-in-law had been in labor for 18 hours when they had to move her from a birthing center to a hospital. After a short time, she invited her mother and me to join her and her husband as she struggled to deliver my granddaughter. For the next four hours, late in the evening, I stood and held my breath with each contraction. After four long hours, when it seemed she could endure no more, I witnessed birth – unmistakable beauty as the rigors of birth intersected with the precious gift of new life.
I didn’t blink. I stood amazed.
A few days later, I stood beside a dear friend at his death bed showing him a picture of my new granddaughter. An idea was beginning to take shape. Soon his suffering would be over and he would experience the profound joy of heaven.
Just five months later, we discovered that my dad had a brain tumor, which turned out to be a particularly aggressive cancer. As he journeyed through suffering, I entered it with him, stood beside him. Often I was simply present. Toward the end of his 5 ½ month battle, my dad was moved to hospice. That day was like no other. Dad was alert, present and participating as much as a man who had lost his ability to speak aloud his thoughts could. Familiar phrases and simple answers were still there, but nothing more. We talked, well, I talked about how dad had prepared each of us to go on without him. It was OK for him to go home to Jesus. We were ready and dad was ready too.
Don’t blink or you’ll miss the moments when Jesus is right there in the room.
I know Jesus is always with us, but I am so much more aware of Him at births and deaths. Perhaps this is a special gift if we don’t look away or try to avoid suffering.
Less than 50 hours after he entered hospice, Daddy was home with Jesus. We were so very sad that he was no longer with us, but so very grateful that he was no longer in pain. And that’s when it struck me. Joy isn’t a feeling of happiness, but of gratitude mixed with peace, profound and deep, Jesus’ peace, the peace that surpasses all understanding. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7
Chronic illness is similar. What I’ve learned is that if I don’t look away as I experience pain, but look into it, accept it, and embrace it with gratitude – not the actual pain, but the One who endures it with me, I experience His deep peace.
Gratitude and peace are the necessary ingredients of true joy.
Don’t blink at the intersection of the cross where our suffering collides with Jesus’ and you won’t miss the true joy!
President and Co-Founder at Chronic Joy Ministry, Inc.
Pamela is a leader and a visionary following God’s call to inspire those affected by chronic illness to discover hope, find purpose, embrace worth and encounter joy. She believes that every precious life affected by chronic illness is both vital and purposed.
Pamela is the mom of three grown children, grandma of two sweet granddaughters and a wife of more than 30 years. She is diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos, chronic migraines and a host of other chronic conditions.
Pamela enjoys hot tea, reading — almost always more than one book at a time — and walking her teddy bear dog, Cocoa.