Suffering. It’s a word with many faces. Poverty. Illness. War. Financial hardship. Death. According to the book of Job, God allows suffering. Job is described as a man who was “blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil” (Job 1:1). But God suggested that Satan rob Job of his family, finances, and eventually his health.
Honestly, I don’t love the book of Job. God allows suffering.
And yet …
After my spinal cord injury at age 16 when I became a quadriplegic, God was present. When everything around me was changing, God was the one on whom I could trust. As Hebrews 6:19 says, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” God was my anchor, my firm foundation.
Just as Job was blessed with a double portion of what he had prior to Satan robbing him of life as he knew it (Job 42:10), I believe God has allowed me to do twice as much from a wheelchair than I ever could have without it. I never imagined traveling the world to distribute wheelchairs in developing countries or working with missionaries around the globe. Did I mention walking (or “rolling”) the catwalk during Fashion Week in New York, or working with immigrants and refugees, or being involved in rowing, tennis, and rugby? All from a wheelchair.
None of my “accomplishments” are due to me being strong or an inspiration. What I have done is solely due to God’s power being made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).
BLESSINGS AND HARDSHIP CO-EXIST
Along with the blessings come hardships. Pressure sores. Surgeries. UTIs. Medical expenses. Being dependent on others for my personal care. But God has been present through it all. I can’t claim that I consider all this “pure joy whenever I face trials of many kinds,” as James encourages us to in James 1:2. The question of “why” often rears its ugly head rather than an overflow of joy in my circumstances. But I’m learning.
I recently had a surgery. After much prayer and experiencing circumstances that could only be arranged by God, I felt 100% sure that I was to have this surgery. Despite that confidence, it didn’t go smoothly. Within the weeks following my initial surgery, I had to have two more surgeries. And I got sepsis.
Why did I have so many complications? I don’t know.
What I do know is this: God knows and is present in our suffering even when we do not understand. I clung to Bible verses as I spent week after week in the hospital. Yes, I have been discouraged. Yes, I have been afraid. And yet the support and prayers of many people carried me through this entire experience.
During my nine-week hospital stay, I saw God place nurses in my path who prayed for me when I was in tears. I experienced God’s provision in ways I never expected. An exceptionally caring nurse watched over me and my family to ensure my surgery could be as successful as possible. Through it all, God was able to shine through me and impact the lives of others.
What have I learned during the most difficult times in life? I’ve learned that God is present. I’ve learned that we can trust Him. I’ve learned that although I may not understand my present sufferings, He can be glorified through them.
If you are struggling right now, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). We have no promise that life will be easier, but relying on His strength and ability to use our circumstances for His good allows us to persevere through the hardest of times.