Sunday, October 21, 2007

Sweet Sorrows

I prepared this post for my other site, but I thought it right to post it here as well so that you know that I am learning much right now. Infertility is only half the battle right now--there are so many other things that are difficult right now. But, here are my most recent thoughts:

There has been much on my mind lately. I can hardly put into words how hard the last two weeks have been. Actually, the last six months have altogether been difficult like I've never known my life to be. After a while, the piling on of suffering begs the question, "How long, O Lord?" My heart constantly cries out within me. The burdens and heartache of ministry and the church, the weight of infertility, the loneliness that accompanies both of these hardships, even the stressful, physical ramifications of such things....sometimes I wonder how much more I can bear. There are days when my heart is so heavy that all of my day to day living seems trivial in comparison.

But, oh, how God can use even the smallest of sufferings to draw us close to Him.

I have been learning some valuable lessons, things I would not have otherwise learned had it not been for my circumstances. A few weeks ago, I immersed myself into the book of Acts. Reading about the daily sufferings of Paul and the early church have encouraged me so much. Comparitively, my life seems so easy and carefree. And yet, I know that it is not so. Constant rejection and insults, tense relationships, and things outside of my control like infertility remind me that there are some hardships that I have known in my short life, that I am knowing now. I want to say with Paul that I am content with whatever state, that in Christ I can be content no matter my station, possessions, hardships, whatever. Now, I know it seems incongruous, or just wrong to group infertility with hard things that happen to me because I am a Christian or because I am in ministry (with my pastor-husband). I don't have trouble conceiving because I am a believer, necessarily. I don't have headaches or stomachaches because I am a Christian. But, Paul (2 Cor. 11:23-33) endured beatings and imprisonment, danger from false brothers and countrymen (for the cause of Christ) AND danger from rivers and the cold, the wilderness, sleeplessness, exposure, lack of food. As John Piper says, "Rivers don't get all over you because you're a Christian!" (It's okay to laugh at that statement; I did.) And yet, Paul groups those types of sufferings together. I listened to a sermon series on suffering by John Piper last week. (They are available for uploading [as I did on my iPod; how terribly convenient it was!] here.) In this sermon series, Piper fleshes out why at times it is okay to group sufferings together--sometimes suffering is just suffering, no matter the reason. The point is--how do you handle that suffering (no matter how great or small)?

In the midst of hardships, what I want is to be, like Paul, sorrowful yet always rejoicing (2 Cor. 6:10). It seems that Christ is teaching me this most miraculous thing, and it IS a miracle because I look at certain situations I am currently facing and thinking, "this is IMPOSSIBLE!". To look at it with both sorrow AND joy seems even MORE of an impossibility! To be able to do so must be a gracious gift of God. I have prayed for encouragement--not a reprieve because I realize that maybe a reprieve is not what is needed right now--but for encouragement in the middle of sorrow. At a time when I feet like all is lost, when I watch my husband bear the weight of the world, when I question our calling or our future, I am amazed at the gift the Lord has given me: joy in my sorrow. Miraculous joy and sorrow at the same time. How can this be? Answered prayer is all I can tell you.The Lord has used specific people--unexpected people--to speak words that are a balm to my battered soul. He has used His Word to calm my fears and to give me comfort: Lamentations 3, Isaiah 12, Mark 10:1-31, among others. He has used the public reading and proclamation of the Word to edify me, reduce me to tears from both sorrow and deep, abiding joy. I do not know how I woke up with a song in my heart this morning apart from the comforting presence of the Spirit. He is my sun and shield, my ever-present help in the time of trouble. Whom have I to fear? What can man do to me?

There are so many moments of question. I wonder what to do next, what steps to take. Will the Lord take away my suffering? Is it even right to ask for that when I am being so blessed through these difficult days? The only answer I can give to you is this: His grace is sufficient for me. For His power is made perfect in my weakness. "Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Cor. 12:9-10)

*Please do not come away from this post thinking that I am comparing my troubles to that of Paul or the early Church, or to those of missionaries and the persecuted Church worldwide. That is not my aim. Obviously, I am not enduring physical beatings or imprisonments or death. But, I cannot deny that our life has been difficult for the past two years, and even more so the most recent six months. My goal is to examine all of this and call it "gain" for the sake of Christ. I want to embrace any suffering the Lord appoints (because I DO believe that both suffering and blessing come from His hand [and might they not be the same thing?]) and I want to be sorrowful yet always rejoicing. I have so very much to learn, but I praise God for the way He has directed my steps thus far. He has shown me much grace and He is closer than my very breath.



Fertilize Me said...

WOW - i am going to have to re-read this several times. THis is an amazing post. I only hope that I can take away part of your ability to have joy in the sorrow. That is an amzzing testiment ot your faith and witness

waddell crew said...

I am amazed at your ability to put words to feelings. I, not knowing your suffering, come alongside you in learning to trust in His Grace, his mercy, his faitfulness and his soverignty. Finding joy in the midst of hurt and despair is like such a sweet breath of air. You are continually being prayed for.

andrea_jennine said...

What encouraging words. Thanks for sharing what you are learning.

a wandering heart said...

I found your blog through the Wyatt's. I went to UTM with Freddy. I just wanted to tell you that I am praying for you. God has given you a gift in your ability to express yourself in writing, and though my struggles are in a different area, you have been an encouragement to me. Thanks, and may the Lord's peace truly rest on you in the midst of your storm.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Sweetie

I just finished reading your post and realized something pretty amazing. Just as you are simultaneously experiencing both sorrow and joy in your difficult and painful journey, I as your mother experience an almost identical struggle as I read what you write. I ache for my child as her heart breaks. I desperately wish I could take your pain away. Yet my heart soars when I see the intimacy you are experiencing with Christ; intimacy that only comes through suffering.
Just yesterday morning, I prayed that each one of my children would long for Jesus even as they long for the food they eat and the air they breathe. Imagine how my heart leaped when I saw that yesterday you wrote, "He is closer than my very breath."
Honey, I can't promise you what tomorrow will hold for you and William. I can promise you, though, that one day you will look back to this time in your life, as hard and as painful as it has been, and you will thank God for allowing you to fellowship in the sufferings of our Lord Jesus. God is growing you and maturing you in ways that couldn't happen otherwise. I know this, because God allowed me to fellowship in His suffering many years ago when you were only a baby. Oh, it wasn’t in the same way He allowed suffering into your life, but in a way unique and necessary for me. I never would have chosen that path and I can't say that I want to walk that way again, but I wouldn't trade it now for anything. It was at that dark time that He shined the brightest in my life. My love and longing for Him was birthed through that trail of tears.
You break my heart, but you bless my heart even more. I'm so proud of God's work in you, Honey. I love you very much and you know I pray for you daily. I see God answering my prayers in your life and I know He will not fail to complete the good work He's begun in you. You keep the faith and don't lose hope. Joy cometh in the morning. I promise.

All my love,

waddell crew said...

Its Jerilyn again! What a cool mom you have. Not many people have a mom who loves them so much.
Anyways, I wanted you to know that I read this post to James, and I looked up at him at the end with tears in my eyes and realize he has tears rolling down his cheeks. You are such a strong person and we are touched by your honesty.

Glenna Marshall said...

My mom is the coolest. I love you, Mom. I love knowing you pray so specifically for me.

Thanks, everyone, for the encouraging words. God has taught us so much through our circumstances.
Jerilyn, it's so good to read your words (twice!). You can't know how encouraged I feel to know you are praying for us! THANK YOU!

I love the blessings of the Body of Christ. May He be glorified.

Thank you...

Amanda said...

Hey! My name is Amanda. I found your blog through another persons blog, and I just wanted to say that I also can deffinatly relate to 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, and those verses have REALLY made a difference in my outlook on the infertility issues I have faced. Check out my blog if you'd like, I would love to get to know you better.