Lessons Learned in Suffering: A Husband’s Death
But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in Him.”The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him.
When someone we love dies suddenly the pain is real and it is deep and everything we believe can be called into question.
Last month, my last post was written several days after receiving the terminal cancer diagnosis of my husband and the father of our three teenagers. This surprising and painful diagnosis caused deep agony in our souls as we fought to make sense of it. But time wasn’t on our side to even grapple with seeking answers. My husband died three weeks later after receiving the devastating news.
Without a doubt there is great pain in suffering.
What Does God Want Me to Learn From This?
The unexpected death of a spouse can drive us to despair. The expected death of a spouse can drive us to despair. Even now, one month later, my husband’s death is still very raw. When our hearts have been broken by loss we more than ever need to be reminded of who God is and Who is in total control.
You Are Not Alone
The days and weeks after my husbands death were filled with great emotional pain. I cried out to God with intense agony and sought His presence. I am thankful that His Word shows me that I am not alone in my suffering and that even the greatest of saints struggled with despair; Jeremiah, Moses and Job (Jeremiah 20:14-15, 18; Numbers 11:15; Job 3:11-13). Thankfully, like these saints, when we are seeking to cope with pain and loss we have Someone to whom we can turn. There is no one who knows our suffering like God (Philippians 1:29).
As a biblical counselor I have seen how grief can distort and confuse. In my own tragedy it has. As I began living and parenting in a new role as a widow with three children I find that throughout each day I can experience a deep emptiness and profound sadness that, at times, overwhelms me. If left unchecked, these feelings can cause me to question everything I know to be true about God. But I know my enemy, Satan, is seeking to devour (1 Peter 5:8) and he uses lies to snare. He especially attacks those of us who are suffering and hurting. He knows we are vulnerable. We must be watchful and alert for these temptations to despair.
You Are Vulnerable
Suffering also makes us vulnerable. Vulnerable to emotions like fear and worry. If I don’t run to my Savior the light of the Gospel is dimmed by a deep pervasive sadness. It’s dimmed but it’s still there and I must seek Jesus because nothing else will heal. He tells me He will be enough. He will strengthen me and give me grace to endure.
In grief, we need to STOP and ask if we really think the grace Jesus has promised us is enough?
“Can I be content knowing God promises to supply all the grace I need for today?
“Is Jesus Christ enough right now even though __________?” (husband has died).
“Will I seek God and find comfort and refuge in Him in the midst of this pain?”
“If I am trusting God when things are going well why would I not trust Him when_________?”(husband / father is taken away).
“Is Christ enough if ___________?” (house and financial stability are gone).
Are you prepared for the suffering that is guaranteed to come your way. Suffering is the norm of a fallen world and we should never be afraid to cry out to God or ask questions.
It is important that when we do go through painful events, we don’t pretend it doesn’t hurt by hiding behind Christian platitudes. Trials and pain are real and cannot be handled lightly. Christians do a great disservice to the body of Christ by attempting to put on a happy face or diminish the evil or pain associated with the hurts of this life because…
God has so much to offer us:
In and through our suffering
For those in the body of Christ who are in the life of the sufferer
God isn’t wasting anything you or I go through. We are called not to waste it either.
When you are in the midst of a dark place, grab hold of His purpose in suffering (Romans 8:29-31). Knowing His purpose you will find a sense of meaning in loss and pain. It is not random or worthless. It is for His glory. God is at work in it. He is using it.
Suffering is for Building up the Church
No doubt suffering is one of God’s instruments that produces endurance, character and hope. It is the Holy Spirit working in us to use suffering which grows us in grace-producing godliness. This is a significant purpose in suffering (Romans 5:3,4).
But God has taught me a very impactful lesson in my loss:
My suffering does not just belong to me, it is for the body’s maturing. It is there to build up the church of Christ.
Colossians 1:24-29 not only teaches that our suffering is designed by God to grow us individually in godliness but also to work maturity within the whole church. Realizing this truth was a gift from God. Grasping that my suffering is also somehow designed so the whole body will become mature gives me a deeper understanding in this loss.
In God’s wisdom, we all share in Christ’s suffering and God intends for our suffering to help build others up and strengthen them in the faith.
We are members of Christ’s body and our suffering is for the purpose of building up the church of Christ.
This truth is a balm to my weary soul.
The Gospel Balm
God in His goodness continues to show me how He is using our loss in the lives of those around us. This has been healing and edifying. Through His power our faith and hope in the midst of loss is sustaining others in their own trials. Through His power, Jesus Christ is being magnified as we endure whatever comes our way. Through His power and grace many are resting in the midst of personal chaos. Most importantly, God is being glorified because His grace is on display for all to see.
Without a doubt, God gives joy in the midst of painful circumstances. There are benefits in great pain and sadness and we can learn to suffer well by magnifying Jesus Christ in the eyes of all who see our suffering. Are you ready to suffer well?
Next post: Have you ever wondered how best to help someone whose loved one has died? In the next post we will discuss, How to Practically Comfort the Sufferer: What helps and what doesn’t.
About the author
Karen McMahon is passionate about helping others apply biblical truth to every situation in life. She is the Director of Discipleship Counseling at First Evangelical Free Church in Maplewood, Minnesota and a certified biblical counselor with the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC). She has a MA in Theology from the University of Northwestern – St. Paul and is completing her MA in Biblical Counseling from Faith Bible Seminary-Lafayette, Indiana. Karen loves Jesus Christ, her three children and their 12 year old yellow lab…and sushi too.