" … but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope."
I might be a little bit biased, but I believe my Grandma and Grandpa Quam were pretty much the best grandparents the world has ever known. I loved going to their house as a kid. I found a lot of comfort in the routines and traditions of visiting my grandparents. It seemed no matter how much changed in my life or the world around me, they would always be there providing a safe haven from the chaos for family and friends.
One of the routines which was unquestioned when you stayed at their house was church on Sunday morning. We would load up whatever vehicles it took and head to their small Baptist church. In many ways, I grew up in that church as much as I grew up in the church I attended more regularly at home. I think one of the reasons that routine was so unquestioned was because church on Sunday was just one part of living a life of faith for my grandparents.
Another routine was the clearing the kitchen table of the random clutter of life before each meal. More often than not, when the smell of fresh caramel rolls and coffee had drifted its way up to the bedrooms upstairs and enticed sleepy kids and adults alike to venture down for breakfast, the item we needed to clear off the table to make more room was my grandmother’s Bible. By the time I knew her, she was generally an early riser and would start her day sitting at her kitchen table, reading her Bible, and praying.
The day she was diagnosed with Ovarian cancer was a hard one. We had lost my grandfather to cancer less than 2 years prior to my grandmother’s diagnosis. Even harder was the day she could no longer handle the physical stress of cancer treatments. As a family we were still grieving one loss only to be faced with another.
My grandparents had been married over 50 years when my grandfather passed away.
To say my grandmother was not looking forward to walking the road of cancer treatments without her husband at her side is an understatement. It was a big question she had for God in her prayer life in those early days of treatment. Her conclusion? She wasn’t done praying for people yet. So in the midst of her treatments and deteriorating health, that is what she did. Just as she had done throughout her life, she persevered in faith reminding those around her of the hope found in keeping one’s gaze fixed upon Jesus.
Given the choice, very few of us would choose suffering. And that’s a good, mentally and emotionally, healthy reality. However, when you look back at times of suffering, it often reveals deep truths about faith and your relationship with God. I’ve seen it in the lives of my friends and family as well as my own life.
Faith is easy to have when life is going well. It is easy to believe in a loving, faithful, God who is constantly by our side when good news is flowing in our lives. Faith is harder when tragedy strikes, when sickness dominates our days, when God seems far away. But those times teach us what it really means to hold onto faith and trust God in all of life. While God doesn’t plan suffering for us, He does work through it to bring about something better in our hearts and lives.
If I had my choice, cancer would eradicated from the world. If the world worked the way I want it to work, no one would ever have to face chemotherapy, transfusions, surgery, and the many short and long term complications a cancer diagnosis brings along for the ride. I wouldn’t have lost some dear friends to cancer and their children wouldn’t know the pain of losing a parent at a young age. I also wouldn’t have their examples of deep faith, trust in God, and hope for eternity.
It was never God’s plan for us to endure suffering. His plan for humanity was the Garden of Eden. Living in a fallen world with the natural consequences of sin causes our suffering. Ever since Adam and Eve ate the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, God has been in the business of redeeming our fallen world. His redemption includes our suffering….if we let it. Hold onto your faith in the midst of the hard times and you will develop perseverance, which will build character which will produce hope.
We are not meant to face the struggles and hardships of this world alone. If you are going through a hard time right now, reach out and develop a strong support network. If things are going great for you right now, look around to see who you could support. Find a way to regularly volunteer with an organization which reaches out to help and support others.
For the big things in life there are often support groups. If you are going through a big thing in life right now, inquire at your church to see what is available in or near your community. Often times those who are going through something similar are the ones able to offer the best support.
One of the best things to help our brain physically heal from and face emotional trauma is basic exercise. Taking a walk or going for a run can be extremely beneficial. Make some time each day to get up and move around. I know, it’s getting colder out making it less appealing to go outside for most of us. Try an exercise video or visit an area indoor shopping mall to get your steps in during the winter months!
Give yourself a break. Give yourself permission to step away for a couple of hours and do something which will bring you joy. Call a friend who always seems to have a story to make you laugh or watch a funny movie. It’s OK to have moments of happiness even in the hardest of times. Those moments remind us in a very real way of how life exists beyond our struggles.
Want a good chuckle about visiting a grandparent? I LOVE this playful book by Jean Reagan and plan to send the grandpa version out with my dad the next time he visits his granddaughters!
You can also view a video of it being read aloud by click HERE!