"Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear." ~Ambrose Redmoon

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Don’t Waste Your Suffering

The doctor’s words chilled me to the bone. “We’d better do a biopsy.” I probably wouldn’t have been so scared, but the previous week, I’d been to a different doctor for a completely different body part. He, too, suggested further tests.

With two areas suspect, I started trying to mentally prepare myself for the worst.  I might have cancer and if I did, it was probably serious. During the weeks of uncertainty (more than a decade ago), I went through a process that looked something like this:
  1. What’s the worst that can happen?, I ask myself.  In this case, I could die. Other answers may be even more scary —my marriage could end. I could lose my job or maybe my home. For me, loss of relationships is the worst and perhaps my greatest fear connected to death. 
  2. Acceptance of the worst-case scenario makes me cry and grieve, but in the midst of the pain I begin to look to the Creator and remember that when everything appears out of control, He’s still in control.The faster I do this, the sooner my pain starts to ease.
  3. That helps me remember to ask Him to replace my strength with his own. My focus begins to shift from long-range goals to just getting through the day. At times I’ve had to shorten that outlook to the next hour, or perhaps even the next 15 minutes. Step by step, as I look beyond myself for help, my dependence on God increases and my supposed “self-sufficiency” decreases.
  4. Open to a different view—one far bigger than my own—purposes start to unfold that I never imagined. Sometimes my character is refined. Empathy for others forms. Truth becomes increasingly important and so do my choices. It's my decision how to respond to my circumstances. I can whine and complain and try to hold onto life as I know it, or choose the path of the person I'd rather be. Determination to keep a positive attitude changes everything--my relationships, my sense of well-being, and my awareness of opportunities.
  5. Trust in my Creator develops and so does my confidence as I come through the worst. The One who loves me more than I ever imagined gives me strength to cope that testifies to His power and greatness.
  6. His purposes become greater than my own and that makes me want to tell others about a better view of the world, one based on a biblical foundation. A biblical perspective minimizes pain and cultivates incredible joy.
Perhaps that’s one reason I’m no longer so afraid of dying. Though that cancer scare was a false alarm, whenever and however the time comes for my life in this realm to end, I’ll still spend eternity with Jesus; it will just be different. All pain and suffering will finally come to an end and my joy will be even more intense.

In the meantime, the best I can do is make my suffering count. Usually that effort brings about a far greater good. More on that next week.

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