THE STEWARDSHIP OF SUFFERING

Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.  John 12:24 (NKJV)

When I wrote my book, my publisher said to me, “Thank you for not wasting your pain.” I thought these were interesting words. How does one waste their pain?

The Lord has shown me many times that He allows these things into my life to refine me, to train me into a deeper walk with Him and then to take this deep well of pain and allow Him to turn it into something for His glory. Throughout John’s dementia illness I could not imagine how my suffering could be turned into glory for God. But He knew and has been showing me ever since.

I’m thinking this may also tie into the principles of stewardship in Matthew 25. We look at this passage in many ways: as good stewards of the spiritual gifts He has given us: as soul winning: or as good stewards of our money. Could it be that He also entrusts us with the stewardship of suffering?

The subject of suffering on this fallen planet has always perplexed me. We all know how James and Peter encourage us to “count it all joy” and to “rejoice” in the midst of suffering and frankly, I was not into it. Until dementia entered my life.

During that season Jesus was nearer to me than I ever imagined possible. He was tending the entire event like a gardener, plucking off the parts of me that were dying—that needed to die—and even pinching off the new buds of spiritual growth because by plucking them off, there would be more buds and more blossoms (the ten talents), instead of just the one which would bloom and then fade quickly away (the one talent).

Anyone who gardens knows the painful process of pruning, and they also know that it is necessary to prune. At the time, as the writer to the Hebrews says, it is not pleasant, but there is a divine purpose in all of it. (Hebrews 12:6)

We seem to be given a few choices in our response to suffering; we can:

  • “Bear up,” grit our teeth and get through it as quickly and as easily as we can;
  • Bury it—push it down—so we don’t have to think about it; or
  • Lean into it and allow God to refine and perfect and work out something that is going to be a beautiful, thriving plant which bears much fruit.

Bearing up, gritting our teeth, results in wasted pain—even bitterness.

Burying it deep inside, never talking about it because it is too painful, or because we don’t want to cry or make others feel uncomfortable around us, is like burying the one talent, which produces nothing.

The only option that will not only bring glory to God but healing to us is to allow Him to transform our pain into something of beauty for Him. He will use this to feed and nurture others who are facing the same pain.

He stores our tears in His bottle according to Psalm 56:8 and writes them in His book. He can retrieve our tears when He needs to use them for someone else who is suffering; someone who needs comfort. I remember those times when the most comfort another person would offer was to simply cry with me. The tears God stores for us are always fresh for someone else. We can enter into their suffering with them instead of searching for the right words to say.

And that is what it is all about: The 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 principle:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (NKJV).

When we truly allow Him to use us as comforters, we become ministers of healing.

He never wastes anything—He redeems it all.

Lord, have Your way with me. I surrender even my grief into Your loving control.