Some seasons of life we'd rather not endure. Heavy black clouds dampen everything and choke out joy. We long to turn the corner, to pack up and move on. But there are graces even on the darkest day, graces we cannot see in the sunshine. If we have the courage to stare into the blackness with our eyes wide open, looking for Him, we'll discover untold riches.
When trials are more than we can bear alone, we discover that we are not alone. Hugs are longer. Prayers are deeper. And the Scriptures come alive in fresh ways. We realize anew that He knows what we're going through, and He made provision for us long before we entered this valley. What's more, our eyes are opened to the sufferings of others. We recognize the burdens they carry, because we've carried them, too.
When things look bleak, we discover the power of gratitude. Each hour not saturated in trouble becomes a gift. Each good night's sleep a blessing. Each friend who knows and cares a boon to the soul. Each part of life not touched by trouble carries a new sparkle that we once missed. When our appetite returns and our stomach behaves normally, we receive it with thanks.
When perspective is hard to gain and harder to keep, we discover the urgency of spiritual disciplines. We no longer read the Scriptures because we should, but because we must just to make it through the day. Confession and forgiveness have immediate bearing on our ability to cope. It no longer seems like a stretch to pray without ceasing.
Spiritual hunger is one of the gifts God grants us when life is hard. So are gratitude and deeper community.
Though I don't suggest that we wish for suffering, when it comes (and it will) we can open our arms to receive what God has to give us in that season. The black clouds of suffering always come with the silver linings of his grace. We can't necessarily discern it right away, but if we keep staring, we'll learn to see what's there.
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Dr. Carmen Imes is the Associate Professor of Old Testament at Prairie College in Three Hills, Alberta, and serves the broader church through teaching, speaking, and writing. She earned a PhD in Biblical Theology (Old Testament) from Wheaton College under Dr. Daniel Block, an MA in Biblical Studies from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (Charlotte), and a BA in Bible and Theology from Multnomah University. She and her husband, Danny, served as missionaries with SIM 15 years. They have three children: Ana, Emma, and Easton.