Suffering: What a privilege

Written April 2014

I was 16 weeks pregnant, yet I was losing weight.  I hadn’t felt the baby move.  After having 5 babies, my instincts told me something was wrong.  But instincts can never prepare you for a silent doppler, an eerily-still image on an ultrasound.  The face of your doctor who doesn’t want to say it out loud.  Carrie, there is no heartbeat.

Suffering - What a PrivilegeThe next 3 days are a blur.  But one memory is crystal clear.  Being wheeled out of the hospital with an empty womb and empty arms.  How could this be?

Twelve days have passed since I lost my baby boy.  I have cried more in those twelve days than probably my entire life.  But I can honestly say that this experience, this crisis, this incredible loss has been a gift… a good gift from the Lord.  How could this be?  In Philippians 1:29, Paul writes,

 “For you have been given the privilege for the Messiah’s sake not only to believe in him but also to suffer for him.”

Given the privilege?  To suffer?  And yet Paul was a man who was well acquainted with suffering… more so than I will ever be.  And he regarded it a gift.  During these twelve days, that mystery has become somewhat more clear to me.

How has our suffering been a gift?  Here are three reasons…

We have seen the Body of Christ in action as never before

I have yet to cook a meal since this happened.  Multiple friends and family have watched all 5 of my kids for hours, even days.  I have no room left on my mantle for all the cards that keep coming.  There have been bags and bags of groceries, multiple gift cards to restaurants and more emails/texts/messages than I can count.  I have been a Christian for 29 years and yet I have never felt more loved by God’s people.  I want to respond that way when people face crisis.  I want, more than ever, to be His hands, His love, His compassion.  Because now I know what it feels like to be ministered to in that way.  I could not have this perspective without the gift of suffering.

We can now relate to others who suffer the loss of a child

Like all of us, I have known many women who’ve had miscarriages, stillbirths and even the loss of an infant child.  While I have been deeply saddened for these women, I could never put myself in their shoes.  I couldn’t identify with their pain.  That is different now.  From now on, I hope to put into practice the things I have learned to do and not to do, to say and not to say, at these times of immense grief and loss.  It is a gift to be able to come alongside someone and say I’ve been where you are.  And it’s terrible.  I am here for you.  And you will get through this.

Our view of heaven is forever changed

We have always talked to our children about Heaven… a place where God is.  A place free of sickness and death.  A place where we will worship God forever.  But now our view of Heaven is forever changed.  Now it is a place where my baby boy lives.  And he is free of any sickness or pain that caused him to stop living on this earth.  What a joy to know that he is happy and whole.  The night before I went to the hospital to deliver the baby, the Lord gave me a simple picture that I will hold onto forever.  I realized that my son had met Jesus before me.  And that Jesus had met my son before me.  And one day I will get to meet them both at the same time.  What a comfort that gave me.  So now we see Heaven as a place of reunion.  A place where my family will be whole.  And Jesus is there, preparing it all for us.  What a gift so see Heaven in this new way.

Have you suffered loss?  Are you still reeling from a death, a divorce, a diagnosis?  I am so sorry. These things can be so hard.  But can you let the Lord bring beauty from the ashes?  Can you let him show you the joy that comes in the morning?  Can you let Him apply his resurrection life to the pain and grief you feel?  I hope you will join me in this journey.


 

When I wrote this 5 months ago, I had no idea the journey that lay in front of me.  If you have walked a similar path, you know that so much of the pain is deeply personal.  It’s hard for others to step into that place with you.  And so it can be incredibly lonely.   In those impossible moments, I have practically forced myself to look to the Lord and He has always met me there.  Recently, He gave me this passage which ministered to me tremendously:

I would have lost heart, unless I had believed

That I would see the goodness of the Lord

In the land of the living.

Wait on the Lord;

Be of good courage,

And He shall strengthen your heart;

Wait, I say, on the Lord!

Psalm 27: 13-14

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Why would anyone let a 4 year old make cookies?

carrieschuessler.wordpress.com :: why would anyone let a 4 year old make cookiesA few days ago I let my 4 year old daughter help me make chocolate chip cookies.  Oh, the mess!  There were piles of flour, puddles of vanilla and splatters of egg yolks all over the kitchen.  Although I didn’t love cleaning it up, I wasn’t upset.  The mess was more than worth it for the tiny memory we had made.

And that’s when the Lord opened my heart and poured in a beautiful revelation.

 

Carrie, He said, I have invited you to work with Me.  And you sometimes make a mess of things.  But that doesn’t surprise me or upset me.  In fact, I knew you would do that before I asked.  I don’t involve you in My work because you are perfect, highly skilled or even necessary.  I involve you because I want to spend time with you.  Because I want to teach you something.  Because I find joy in watching you learn and grow. 

carrieschuessler.wordpress.com :: Why would anyone let a 4 year old make cookiesWow.

So what work are you doing with the Lord?

Raising children?

Leading your wife?

Serving elderly parents?

Leading a ministry?

Being a light in a dark place?

Homeschooling?

Healing a broken relationship?

You might… you will do it imperfectly.  But do it anyway.  The Lord God Himself has taken you by the hand, invited you into His work and given you the tools you need.  He stands at the ready to help, to teach and, yes even to fix what goes wrong.

Thus says God the LORD, Who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread out the earth and its offspring, Who gives breath to the people on it And spirit to those who walk in it, “I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness, I will also hold you by the hand and watch over you...”  (Isaiah 42:5,6)