Posts tagged suffering
A Work-Out Plan For The Soul

You do not realize now what I am doing,

but later you will understand.

John 13v7

Sometimes life is so beautiful and right and perfect, it takes your breath away.

I’ve been relishing a lot of days like that lately. My Grands skipping over to my house on the pretext of an errand, really just wanting to check in on us. Duke with his curiosity and Scarlet with that Cheshire grin that seems to ask,

How could Amma and Pops possibly fill their time without us around?

My life is rich and good, filled with relationships I treasure and work I love.

Yet there are other times in each of our lives when the bad of real life pollutes our days, socking us with ugliness— days when the summer sky is obscured by a dirty grim haze.

We don’t take pictures or post bright and cheery quotes surrounded by flowers on those days. No emoticons sprinkled through that part of the story. Smiley faces just don’t cut it; we don’t parade bad days on Instagram.

Instead, we ask questions no one wants to answer.

We whine— some of us on the inside where no one sees; hidden grief at the not okay-ness of today.

Others are all out-loud about what irks them; spitting up sour milk like my little grand-girl, Birdie, who heaves and spits and dribbles, leaving a trail of goo behind.

I have heard the questions— posed many of my own. I’ve tossed those queries into conversations and heard the sputtering response; listened as someone who cares tries, and fails, to answer.

Why? Why is this happening to me? How come life is so hard?

 And the worst question of all, the one that signals a soul suffering the onslaught of an enemy’s arrows;

Why did God let this happen?

 Right now, in the midst of my very-good-days reality, I am watching two women suffer. Women I know well. Honest women who do not pretend that all is fine when all is most certainly not fine. Theirs is genuine hardship, real hurt.

When I’m with one of these women, I get splattered with spit up. She can’t seem to help it any more than my little Birdie can help regurgitating all over anyone who dares comes near. She wants someone to rescue her, to make it better, to bring back the good days. She hurts. She lashes out, not even knowing she’s hurting others in the process.

The other woman is handling her hurt with dignity and calm, a restful presence even as she struggles with injustice. She stops herself when her heart inevitably circles back to the yuck, knowing, believing, holding to the words of Jesus:

“… later you will understand”

And I watch and I listen and I wonder, what would I do? How would I respond? How will I be when real life isn’t all hunky-dory, as it is right now? When the pressure builds and it’s all I can do to swallow hard. Which choice will I make?

The way of grace or the way of goo?

Two women, two responses. I want to be the gracious woman. Of course I do, and so do you. But how?

Is it possible to prepare for ugly days? To ready ourselves for those times when we cannot see the sky and we wonder with an urgency that borders on obsession if we can possibly endure even this—

I think the answer is yes. In fact, I know it is. And so I’m making myself a list.

Not a do-this-and-you’ll-be-fine kind of list, but more of a work-out plan for my soul. A way to strengthen myself in God.


  • Learn to thank God for both the good and the not-so-good. Because sometimes when I am grateful for good days, I fail to acknowledge that no one, least of all God, promises that everyday will always be good.
  • Learn the limitations of sympathy. Because no one can make it better and all the spilling of our souls onto another only makes us sick of ourselves.
  • Learn who can handle my rawness. Because not everyone can, and not everyone should. Honesty is beautiful, but hard times bring out the parts of ourselves that are hidden and real and really stinky.
  • Learn to grieve with God. Because really, He is the Comforter. No one else comes close, no one can fix it, no one should. But when I bring Him into my mess, He carries me close and I feel the calm, sweet relief only He can give.
  • Learn to curate what I say to myself. Because seeing life through Spirit-eyes, hearing hardship through Spirit-ears, changes everything.
  • Learn to ask the right questions. Because the wrong questions just sink me deeper into messy muck. Instead of, why me? How about trying, Father, what is this about? What are You asking from me? Please, Lord, will You show me Your beauty even in this?
  • Learn to sink yourself into the stories in Scripture. Because they are given for our instruction, written down for us to see, and learn, and know how God works in the middle of our messes.
  • Learn to see beauty every day. Because it’s there, these glimpses of God’s magnificence. And the relishing of His sweetness lingers long after I’ve passed by. Breathe it in deep enough to permeate your soul.

Two women. Two ways to deal with the invasion of hardship.

One whose soul glows, growing more and more beautiful as she finds once again that her hope is in God. That He is real in the midst of hardship, that He is close and present even when He doesn’t make it all better.

The other, stuck and struggling, seemingly immune to the Spirit’s whispers. Hurting people because she’s hurting. Unhelp-able because the only help to be had isn’t enough to make the hurt go away.

And me: watching and learning. Knowing I am prone to obsessive spit-up. Purposing to learn and practice and be alert now so that later, when every day isn’t all sunshine and sweetness, I will know how to be strong in God.

Can you add to my list?

Because I think we need to learn from each other how to be people permeated by beauty even when life isn’t beautiful.

From my heart,



(image by  Bethany Small) 

We who have run for our very lives to God have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go. It’s an unbreakable spiritual lifeline, reaching past all appearances right to the very presence of God where Jesus, running on ahead of us, has taken up his permanent post as high priest for us, in the order of Melchizedek.

Hebrews 6:19

The Message

And so, God willing, we will move forward to further understanding…

Hebrews 6:3


Dear Dad,

There is so much I do not understand. So much that remains a mystery to me, veiled by a mist of what I don’t know, can’t grasp, don’t like.

I don’t understand why you, of all people, would suffer.

Why every breath comes as a gasp, why talking ends in spasms of body wrenching, back heaving coughing, why you must remain tethered to that tube of oxygen in order to breathe at all.

I don’t understand why we have to say good-bye.

Why, after having you always there; my stability, my fixer of broken things, my logic-minded advisor— why soon I won’t.

You, who have spent the better part of your life explaining why, showing how, teaching me over and over again the way to do life in fine, ordered, rightness— won’t be with me anymore.

I don’t understand why life ends in death, why you have to go away soon, why you can’t stay and watch my grandsons be like you, why you can’t keep holding my hand and squeezing it just so I know you’re with me.

I don’t understand why Mom will be alone.

After all these years of sticking by your side, or figuring it out, of learning and growing so that your differences are all ironed into one workable weave of cloth like a blanket around these generations to follow. Why will mom have to end life alone?

And what’s more, I don’t like it, not one bit. I want you to stay. I want you strong, hiking in your mountains, taking me with you, talking to me about my dreams, telling me I can do this, telling me I’ve made you proud.

Oh Dad, I do not understand. 

And maybe that’s okay. Maybe I don’t have to get this right.

Maybe having you all these years as my dad has shown me that I don’t have to understand, that I can hold on and trust. That clinging is okay because the Father does understand even when I don’t and He can be trusted because He is like you… or maybe it’s that you are like Him.

Maybe learning to trust you has taught me how to trust the One you trust.

And maybe someday I will understand. Maybe someday I’ll smile and nod and even laugh at God’s audacity to take the incomprehensible and make it good.

I don’t understand, Dad, but I trust the One who does, and for that, I will be forever grateful.

From my heart,




Years and years ago when I first knew I was going deaf and I thought the future looked impossibly bleak, these words sank deep into my soul. May God use them in your heart today...

"It seems to me clear beyond question that in the lives of God's beloved there are sometimes periods

when the adversary is "given power to overcome".

This power need never overwhelm the inner courts of the spirit, but it may press hard on the outworks of being.

And so I have been asking that our dearest Lord may have the joy (sure it must be a joy to Him) of saying about each one of us...

"I can count on him, on her, on them for anything. 

I can count on them for peace under any disappointment or series of disappointments,

under any strain.

I can trust them never to set limits, saying, "Thus far, and no further."

I can trust them not to offer the reluctant obedience of a doubtful faith, but to be glad and merry as it is possible."

Amy Carmichael in Rose From Brier

May we be worthy of His trust.

From my heart,