Embracing Suffering at Christmastime and Always

Mary and Gabriel

“May it be to me as you have said.”

A quote from Mary in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 1, verse 38.

It's easy for me to read Scripture without letting it sink in sometimes.  Then I am on to the next thing.  Sometimes I don't even read it.

This morning I was wondering what to post about.  Another recipe?  Certainly easier than thinking deeply about the Scripture.  However, I am feeling that the season necessitates a bit more meditation on my part.

The above quote from Luke is from a reading from our Advent celebrations, which you can read more about in my post about Slowing Down for Christmas.  This is what Mary said just after has been told by the angel Gabriel that she, though a virgin, is pregnant by the Holy Spirit and will give birth to a son whose name will be Jesus.

I have been thinking a lot recently about embracing suffering.  If you are anything like me you typically run away from it, try to find a way out of it, complain about it, ask for prayer for it to be removed from you.

Not that there is anything wrong with praying for a burden to be taken away; even the Apostle Paul prayed for the thorn in his flesh to be removed from him (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).

But sometimes (always) we just need to embrace what God has allowed into our lives.

– Running away
– finding a way out and
– complaining are not helpful solutions. How many times a day do I need to hear this reminder?

It isn't promised anywhere that we will be without suffering here on Earth.  In fact, we are told that if we are Christ's followers, we are to expect suffering (2 Timothy 3:12).  And from what I have seen, Christ's followers or not, there is plenty of suffering in the world to go around.

Two particular areas of suffering have been especially hard for me to embrace

  • my son's autism and
  • my health issues.

First, when my son's behavior became so difficult almost overnight, I spent hours upon hours scouring the internet for answers. I was looking for help, for a diagnosis, for healing. For anything that might get me out of the nightmare that I was living in. He was having up to 30 tantrums / panic attacks daily and some of them lasted for hours. I was trapped in my home and there were seemingly no answers.

Friends weren't much help. Part of that was because we didn't share much with others, and when we did we were the recipients of parenting tapes and comments such as, “When are you going to get out of crisis mode? Your child might never get any better!”

These days, accepting my son's autism means that I have to accept his high level of anxiety, though I am still working on healing him naturally. I also have to accept his social awkwardness that is at times extremely embarrassing.

Accepting my health issues has been just as difficult for me. I had numerous health concerns as a child, but for a good stretch of my adult life, I was, in my husband's words, “healthy as a horse.”

I would run 8 miles at a time with him along Lake Michigan, ate a lean, almost completely-vegetarian diet, and didn't smoke or drink alcohol. I didn't realize what was lurking beneath the surface. More on all of that later.

I ended up with severe chronic fatigue (for lack of a better term) sometimes around March of 2009. The fatigue has been nothing short of “bone crushing.” On bad days I would lie on the couch, unable even to read a book to my youngest son. I felt that life was not worth living because there was very little enjoyment of anything.

I recall the days when my fatigue started to break. I sat with tears in my eyes as I came to the realization that I could actually enjoy spending time with my family again. Oh, what things we take for granted!

We still have a long way to go in both arenas–my health and my son's autism. Neither of us may ever be healed. But this is, though it is such a mystery in some way, as the Lord said. Mary had to deal with being pregnant out of wedlock–a huge scandal in her day. She was at risk of great humiliation in her culture. Her fiance might have deserted her and almost did.

I have to daily accept what I have been handed, trusting God that he is in control and knows what is best for me.

  • I suffer when people think that my restricted diet is something that I have chosen just so that I can be thin.
  • I suffer embarrassment in my soul when people stare at us when our son has an anxiety attack in public.
  • I suffer financial difficulties because autism is not covered by insurance in my state. Our family typically spends over $5,000 per year on my and my son's health issues, and that is not the half of what we would spend if we had more resources.
  • I suffer the loss of friendships with those who do not understand our peril. They make judgments and sometimes accusations.

Somehow, I must hold onto the Lord and trust. Trust that He is good and that He is doing a good thing through these trials. Out of the great pains of childbirth comes the wonder of a new life. Through the pains of the suffering of Christ on the cross came the forgiveness of sins. I may never know all of what my suffering might be used for, but I must accept.

Truthfully, in this life, I have already seen some of what God seems to have had in mind. I have gained the friendships of others with whom I would never have had contact were it not for our particular struggles. I have shared some of what I have learned and hopefully have been a source of encouragement and help to others who struggle as well. I hope that I can be a help to someone who is reading this now. Oh, that my pain might be a source of refuge for someone else.

Oh, that I might say to the Lord, “May it be to me as you have said.”

Merry Christmas.

What has encouraged you during times of suffering?

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  1. Anytime I have to write it is extremely stressful. If I could just relay what was in my head there would be so much I could express. It is strange to me that everything is perfect inside my head, but loses a lot on the way out. It is so stressful to me, and right now I cannot bear anymore. Though there is more I wish I could say right now, I hope a thank you will suffice for sharing this post and also the one on the vine. Though I know it was some time ago, it was a comfort to me tonight.

  2. And if you truly believe that our battles in this life come from God and not the enemy, then why go to the doctor and try to get rid of your illness or search for a cure If it’s God’s perfect will for you that you suffer! God can do amazing things as we fight to win our battles! But the battle doesn’t come from Him! I would never make my child sick to teach him something, why would our loving God? Sorry, clearly something I’m passionate about! I really do pray for you as your sister in Christ! Have a blessed Christmas!

    • Just because God allows battles in our life doesn’t mean he doesn’t want us to try to resolve them. The Bible clearly states that all things come through God’s hands, but it also has plenty of evidence of people seeking and receiving healing and they are not condemned for it. Sorry I am so late in replying to this. My old comments that I needed to reply to go lost under a huge pile :).

  3. I don’t know how I came upon this post, but after reading it I just have to say a word or two. I would love to know where this idea that God makes us suffer comes from? Would you give your son autism? Why then would you believe his Father in heaven would? Why did Jesus heal those who were suffering if it was His will for them to suffer? If He is the Good Shepard then why would He have a flock that is sick and unhealthy? What would make His flock different from the rest? That we embrace being sick versus unbelievers who don’t? God wants us to reign in this life! Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven…do you believe there is sickness in heaven? I pray for your healing and your son’s, our God is the God who heals and He is a good god all the time!

    • Katie, I am not a theologian, but my husband is. I will answer you briefly here as my kiddos need my attention and we’ve had a rough day. But perhaps he can give you a more intelligent answer later. The Bible is replete with examples of God allowing suffering in someone’s life for various reasons. In fact, Christ is called The Man of Sorrows. One needs only to read The Beatitudes to see that our promises of health, true wealth, and all things good is for the afterlife – and not for this earth. If it were not so, how could we explain the joy that those in foreign cultures have when suffering greatly for The Lord? I think, in fact, that our Western culture and its desire to have health, wealth and happiness all now is one of the reasons for the weakness of the Western Church.

      I was just reading this morning about Saul and how God allowed him to suffer when he was king. God allowed Job to suffer in order to show His glory and sovereignty. The ultimate example, of course, is that God allowed Christ to suffer all the pain of the punishment for our sins in order that we might not have to pay for them. Agony we just cannot comprehend.

      It is a mystery, but we have to trust Romans 8:28 that all things will work out for good to those who love God. God is not the originator of the evil, but He allows it to happen and uses it in the lives of those who love Him. God is both the One who allows suffering and the Healer. He is the One who disciplines and the One who forgives. He is the One who can allow death and the One who brings life. We cannot make sense of it with our feeble minds, but that is why He is God and we are not.

      If we don’t believe that God is capable of taking away our suffering at any moment, then He is impotent and we believe in a weakling God.

      Just an interjection here – my son just read your comment and said, “Perhaps I have autism (Asperger’s) so that we could help others with their difficult situations.”

      God’s will for us on earth is not that we have everything the way that it will be in heaven. Otherwise, what hope would we have? Of course, we can pray for His will to be done here, but in fact, His will is that we have free will and as such, there is sin. And sin will have its effects on this earth until everything comes to an end.

      Katie, I do not mean to be argumentative, but are you of the belief that if one has enough faith, then they will not suffer? There are real difficulties with such a theology. I would be happy to correspond with you about this topic more.

      I hope that explains my heart, which I trust is governed by God’s Truth. You asked some really deep questions, so I am sure that you may still have things you want to ask or comment about. I will answer your other comment later. :-).

  4. Thank you for sharing and for linking up at A Christ Centered Christmas. I have experienced health issues all my life-chronic fatigue, epstein barr virus, lupus, endodemetriosis, fibrocystic breast disease, pcos. I’m a mess! I started experiencing this in my teens-thankfully my family has always gone the natural way or I’m not sure I would be here. It cost so much the natural way, but I am healthier now more than ever before. Have you ever heard of t-tapp? It is so helpful with your condition. You can look at it on my blog under T-Tapp. Looking forward to getting to know you!

    • Hello Mary. Yes, I have heard of T-Tapp and recently purchased a set of DVDs. I have yet to have tried them yet :(. I’d love to hear of your experience with it. Did you see my post on adrenal fatigue? I am working to get the metals out of my body and a lot is coming out. You may wish to check the Nutritional Balancing program out. I’d be happy to answer any questions that you have. I have a lot more that i could post on it, but, as you can understand, I need to pace myself – and I am not very good at that :-).

  5. My dear friend Adrienne,
    Thank you so much for this thought-full post. It is exactly what I needed today.

  6. What a beautiful post. This was a blessing to read!