I wrote this post quite a few years ago and the poem decades ago (updated about seven years ago). I don’t know why I didn’t publish it. A student at the Avila Institute reminded me that I had written the poem and shared it once in class. She took a screen shot and shared with another student. By God’s grace, I had opportunity to see them both this past weekend and they both independently reminded me and noted the impact on them. Here’s the long overdue post.
During my prayer this morning I was once again moved to tears as I considered the words of Christ in the context of my own suffering. But before I begin, it is important to note that my wife read the draft of this post and indicated that it was a bit surreal. So, to be clear, it is all true. In fact, because of the brevity required in the post, it is really a significant understatement. So, here it is, as it is, raw and relatively unfiltered.
My body has never been a good friend to me; countless surgeries, almost constant pain and fatigue have troubled me all my life. With respect to my youth, if you can imagine any home where gunfire might occur, and where your mother is beaten into the emergency room, you might suspect it to be a devastating place for the heart of a child. The early loss of a best friend to a drunk driver, coupled with the loss of two siblings in their 30’s, and then a niece at two years old, and more surgeries…
Then, just before the 911 attacks, and just after publishing a business book, I quit my job to start a consulting company. This perfect storm resulted in financial devastation. This financial disaster, my own sin, my health challenges, and a more complete turning to God – all culminated in my first wife’s decision to abandon the faith and our relationship. Since then, two emergency surgeries to save my life. The pain is still almost constant.
So – I have known a little suffering. But this morning, in prayer, in pain, I was overcome with gratitude. Why? Because, by His mercy, He has met me in my suffering. Through these experiences, I have come to know Him in a way I could have never imagined. These thoughts sum up what I have learned by experience, prayer and meditation on God’s wisdom in scripture regarding suffering.
If I have not been in pain, He has not relieved me
If I have not been sad, He has not lifted my heart to heaven
If I have not been reviled, He has not comforted me
If I have not been abandoned, He has not come to me
If I have not been broken, He has not healed me
If I have not been lost, He has not shown me the way
If I have not been in sin, He has not redeemed me
If I have not been without a friend, He has not walked beside me
If I have not mourned, He has not comforted me
If I have not been betrayed, He has not restored me
If I have not been in chains, He has not set me free
If I have not wept, He has not dried my tears
If I have not been in the depths of darkness, He has not brought me into to the light
If I have not suffered, I have not known Him
The ultimate and most profound joy I have known in my life is in knowing Christ. I would not have known Him even in the small ways that I do, without suffering. Though I would not willfully choose the path I have traveled, I would choose it if I knew it was the only path to Him.
My suffering has come because of my sin, the economy, my health, circumstances beyond my control, the sin of others, the sin of Adam. However, how can I feel anything but gratitude? I have found Him there! I have found the greatest treasures of my life in the midst of the greatest pain.
He is there in the darkness. You will find him if you will only reach out for Him. But, if you can, when you extend your hand, don’t ask for relief or remedy for the very circumstance that has you seeking the only real answer to life’s cruelty. Just, ask for His presence. He will respond – you will know Him as you could not, without suffering. Only in Him will you find peace and rest for you soul in the midst of darkness.
“Come unto me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” He keeps His promises.