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Suffering Well

By:  Michelle Muncy

Recently I stepped up in our church at the end of Sunday night fellowship and asked them to pray for me. In the past several weeks we have had wave after wave of hardships. One or two I can handle, but this constant bombardment has worn me down. I was to the point I just couldn’t handle “one more thing”. Have you been here? I’m sure you have. We had just moved to KY when I fell and broke my hand. While I saved myself from a vicious fall down a flight of stairs, it was at the sacrifice of my freedom. I had to have surgery to place pins in my hand, and I soon found myself frustrated at my lack of ability to function. My husband and daughter had to help me bathe, dress, and bring me meals the church so graciously provided. Everything was hard. (Have you ever tried to go to the bathroom one handed? My pants were forever drooping on the left side!) As I sat alone, Rob off doing ministry without me, it would have been so easy to ask why. Why did this happen? Doesn’t the Lord know I need my hand? Doesn’t he understand how many people are counting on me? Doesn’t he care that I had to drop out of school this semester? That I had to cancel my trip to see our grandson?

Our Sunday school answer is, of course, he cares, of course, he knows, we are only to trust that he has a plan. The reality of knowing the Sunday school answer and living it, are two very different things. When we are hurt, when we are suffering, we feel abandoned. During these emotional times scripture is a powerful tool in times of trouble. Scripture like, “I will never leave you or forsake you”, “we are pressed but not crushed”, and my favorite, 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (I find I need the sound mind part a lot!) Scripture has the power and authority to calm our spirit like nothing else; however, it doesn’t always take the questions away.  A few years ago I was invited to the Ukraine, just a few weeks before war broke out, to speak around the country to pastor’s wives. They asked me to speak on suffering. Really? They wanted me to share a message on suffering to these women? Women in parts of the country where they live under persecution without adequate health care, some without plumbing? Really? What was I supposed to say to them, a woman raised amidst the freedoms and comforts of America? But then I remembered that despite our differences, we all have the same questions.

We all ask “why.” The secret lies in changing the question. Instead of asking “why? ” we should ask “what?”.

 

What is it that the Lord is trying to teach me in this time of trouble? What is it that I am to learn? How can I honor and glorify Him in the midst of this pain? How can I live out my faith in such a way that others see Christ in me? One of my professors once said the best thing we can do for our children is to teach them to suffer well. I believe she was right.

In John 16:33b Jesus tells us, “You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.” I believe watching our children suffer is to the hardest pain a mother can bear, but suffering is a part life. We teach this best through modeling, but not just to our children. As pastors wives, God has entrusted us with a church full of children. They are not just our husband’s sheep; they are ours. They watch us to see how we handle our pain and take courage from seeing our peace in the midst of it. Romans 5:3-4 says, “but we glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.” If we will let him, he gives us joy in the midst of our struggles and strengthens our faith to face the difficult days.

Know that I do not say these things lightly. Rob and I have had our share of trials during our years together. We have struggled through miscarriages, life-threatening illnesses of our children, financial hardships, cancer treatments for me, numerous moves, car wrecks, natural disasters, teenagers (yes this counts!), and even been threatened at gunpoint while on a mission. Our oldest daughter, Alicia, lives every day in pain from fibromyalgia. Our son, Trey, has a brain tumor. Our youngest daughter, Rachel, suffers from ADHD and panic attacks. Life is hard. Suffering is a part of life for all of us; it is how we respond to that suffering as Christians that sets us apart from the rest of the world.

While my cast is now off, these weeks have been filled with funerals, sicknesses, and frustration with a hand that does not close. If this comes at a time when you too are exhausted, if the suffering feels like it’s going on too long; take courage! Jesus has overcome the world! Our time here on earth is for such a little while. This is not our home, we have all eternity to spend without suffering worshiping our amazing God. We worship a mighty God, who loves His children. He sees your suffering and will see you through to the end.

Your sister in Christ,
Michelle Muncy
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