Slicing the apple with what seemed to be one hand, I would sit in the garden and talk to Great-Grandpa. I did most of the talking, he did most of the watching. The roads had come between his farm land which I am sure was a hardship when he was younger, but now had become a gift of people watching. With each passing car, a slow wave would emerge and we would continue to sit, eat, talk, and embrace the quiet. His death came years later.
I would remember this as my first path of suffering.
My childhood was full of colorful moments but death as a child seemed to settle on me as part normal. It hurt as I saw those around me that I loved to mourn the loss of parents and the like. But I was young. Getting old and dying seemed to be part of the natural cycle. Just like the rain would come, creating mud to eventually dry and crack in the North Carolina sun. Making the perfectly shaped “mud chips” for my outdoor play world.
It was my sophomore year in high school standing in front of her classmates she did the assignment just like her peers, however, her perspective was shocking.
She had written her eulogy assignment as if she were to die today. We sat and listened as we all held our papers from the perspective of a 60-80-something-year-old. But not Courtney. She wrote as if she were to die today… how would she want to be remembered? A path of suffering that seemed so far away, but yet a perspective I think we all deeply longed for. Courtney would die just 2 years later in a car crash. At just 17 years old, we would attend the funeral of our friend. Our classmate. And see others give their life to Jesus at her memorial service. A path of suffering. But yet somehow a path of rejoicing.
Six months later, I would hear the phone ring downstairs in my Mammaw’s basement.
A call that sent her shaking and me fumbling to find my shoes. The shoes would stay missing as I drove my Mammaw to the scene of the crash in only my socks. The heat of the pavement and the blood rolled down as I walked over to my grandmother lying over my Pappaw’s broken body. I would hear the blood-curdling cries from my dad who was knelt down in the ditch praying as if his own life was in despair. I would see the couple who ran the stop sign embracing one another as they overlooked the stranger lying lifeless on the pavement. I would see the church next to the intersection and was too overwhelmed to utter a prayer myself, but knew He heard my heart screaming—
A path of suffering unexpected and unfiltered.
My grandfather’s life would change the life of my uncle who was riding next to him on the motorcycle when the tragedy took place that October day. He would rededicate his life to Jesus and everyone would see the transformation. He would join the church and speak loudly and boldly about Jesus and the change he felt. He brought peace to the tragedy that had just happened months prior and was unashamed of the newfound gospel he would feel deep inside of his heart. He spoke about the Bible he had found in the ditch next to the intersection where his own father lay unresponsive and how the Word of God had helped him endure the pain. A path of suffering- turned to beauty.
But the diagnosis was unstoppable.
Cancer would take his body just a few short months later. A wife who had just buried her husband would now bury her son. A brother who just lost his dad would now bury a brother. And a wife would become a widow without much warning. Grandkids would watch and wonder how life is to go on. All a path of suffering, unexpected and unfiltered.
I was just 18 years old when I asked if God was good.
How can this path of suffering come from a God that was good? Good people shouldn’t go through bad things.
It’s a question that I sometimes still ask. Although, 41 years has enabled me to only stay in that doubt for a short amount of time. I’ve seen dreams wither. I’ve seen so many seasons shift. I have seen mommas mourn and kids ache with pain. I have seen more suffering than I would like to see and read more headlines that I wish didn’t exist.
But yet, I can solemnly answer that God IS Good.
Why? Because in the suffering, I know he has given me mercy and grace to endure. He has given me peace with the suffering I know never existed before I had Jesus in my heart. He is the unexplainable in certain situations that you know Jesus is with you despite the circumstances that you see. He is also our reason for knowing that Death here on earth is our gateway to our eternal LIFE with Him. That as one thing dies, a new life is formed.
The sprout of the acorn can only form that mighty oak if the acorn is willing to die to itself and be buried for what is to come.
The path of suffering leads us to victory in Christ. So today, I write for the women, children, and men who are suffering. Not just in the homeland of Israel, but all over the world. The one asking if God is still good. The one asking if God is still near.
I pray that the path of suffering that we will one day ALL endure will lead us to the path of its intent… to be Home with our Good Father. A path that is good despite how it feels but must be endured with eyes set on the Cross. A path of suffering that will lead us to what our eternal intentions were meant for all along.
A victorious life in Christ Jesus.
Lord, may I remember these words as suffering comes. Even as I write them I have a smidge of fear not wanting to walk through what I am putting out for others to read. A smidge of hope that I would somehow bypass the heaviness of suffering. But that isn’t possible. My life will bear suffering, but will also bear much fruit. The only thing that gives life to these words that I write is the suffering that my life has endured. It is through pain and tragedy that our lives have the ability to give weight to His Glory. He is so good our minds can’t fathom but yet in a broken world, it’s through the suffering of His people that brings Light to what is to come. It provides Hope in a dark world to let others know…
- We are not alone.
- This is not our home.
Life left to riches will only result in a void that leads to an unprosperous end. But a life lived with intention and purpose, knowing that Jesus is with us in the suffering…