December 13, 2017

What Suffering Teaches Others

Wally Morris

My wife and I were married in June 1978. Three months later, in September, just before I was to begin my senior year of college, Susan had a “minor” stroke from which she completely recovered. Four years later, in June 1982, she had another, more serious stroke which affected her speech and permanently weakened her right arm and leg. Through intensive speech and physical therapy, Susan recovered some of her previous abilities. Today, she receives quarterly physical check-ups, exercises regularly, watches her diet, and is actively involved in the ministry of our church.

Our daughter Katie was born in December 1981, a few months before Susan’s second stroke. As Katie grew, we noticed her speech wasn’t developing as well as other children her age. After extensive testing, doctors determined that she was born with nerve damage in both ears, impairing her hearing. Today she has a Masters degree in counseling and is married to an assistant pastor in Colorado.

In September 2003, my mother was told she had colon and liver cancer. After weeks of many chemotherapy treatments, she discontinued the treatments and died in April 2004.

As a pastor, husband, father, and son I have watched others suffer. As for myself, I am reasonably healthy, except for high blood pressure, but I am convinced that if our cat disappeared, my blood pressure would be normal. Much of the writing about suffering and hardship focuses on what that suffering teaches the one who suffers. And this is entirely proper. But what about those who watch those they love suffer? What does suffering teach them? Here are some things I have learned.

The Lord Is Ultimately In Control Of Life

When Susan first had symptoms of what we later knew was a stroke, I had no idea what was happening. All I knew was that my young, beautiful wife had a bad headache and was confused about the day of the week. I was 21 years old and had no control whatsoever of the events in our life.

That night, as I went home to prepare an overnight bag so that I could spend the night with her in the hospital, by myself at home I poured out my confusion to the Lord. I told the Lord that I did not understand what was happening but that I would trust Him in everything. That sounds so mature and spiritual, yet I was not that mature and spiritual. Those words are the words of grace in my time of need.

In Matthew 10:28-31, Christ gives the disciples encouragement for the difficulties they will face as they go out to represent Him to other people. He tells them not to fear people who can hurt them but to fear God Who is more powerful than any human. This same powerful God, Who has such power to destroy, uses that same power to care for the smallest creatures of His creation. He even knows the exact number of hairs on every human head. Such extensive knowledge is the basis for our peace. God’s attention to detail guarantees the possibility of our peace if we will trust Him. Since we are more valuable than birds, surely we can turn control of our lives to such a God.

Fear is one of the opposites of peace. Fear tells us “It all depends on me. I have to maintain control.” Yet we know there are some things we can’t control, fix, handle, or predict. No matter how much you try, you will reach the limits of your control. Then what will you do? Many try harder to gain control (obsessive-compulsive), many become afraid, and many get angry. All are wrong responses. If nothing escapes God’s notice, then He knows what you are facing now and will face in the future. He has anticipated your needs and questions in His Word.

Trust In The Lord

A crisis is a test of faith to trust God in obedience, a time when God is giving you an opportunity to trust Him. Deuteronomy 32:39 teaches that the Lord has ultimate control and authority over life, death, sickness, and healing.

Because the Lord is in control, then I learn to trust the Lord, not only because of the fact of His control but also because of the character of the One in control. His goodness, wisdom, love, and power are all qualities that help the scared bystander trust God.

Many are afraid to trust God because they are not sure what the results will be. Therefore they struggle to maintain the illusion that they are in control and become frustrated when life’s circumstances refuse to yield to their control. Yet the believer has only one valid response: Trust and Obey.

Patience

Because the Lord is in control and I must trust Him, my response must be patience. I have to wait. Trusting the Lord and waiting on the Lord are often connected in the Bible. When Susan was in the hospital, I waited. When she was in a rehabilitation hospital for several weeks, I waited. When she struggled with communication or what used to be “simple” tasks, I waited. As she slowly endured much speech and physical therapy after she came home, I waited. Today when she strains to form the words that are in her mind but are so slow to come out of her lips, I have to be patient and wait.

However patience is a character quality that I have not learned easily nor have I finished learning. James tells us that the testing of our faith produces patience. I wish there were an easier way, but would an easier way produce the same result? Isn’t it interesting that the development of patience requires patience and time?

Why do we need patience so badly? What is so essential about learning this character quality? One reason we need patience is because Christ may not come back right away. In fact, His return may be farther away than we think. So, in the meantime, how will we live? In frustration because life doesn’t move on the timetable we think it should? The developing of patience helps us wait for the return of Christ. And it also helps us with life in the world now.

Conclusion

When I married Susan, I promised to love her “in sickness and in health, for better or for worse”, vows which we originally repeated from memory and renewed again at our 25th anniversary. Susan is not the same woman I married. In many ways, she is better. I am not the same either. For that, I have the Lord to thank … and Susan.


Wally Morris is the pastor of Charity Baptist Church, Huntington, IN, and blogs at A Moment of Charity.


Although Proclaim & Defend is the blog of the FBFI, the articles we post are not an expression of the views of the FBFI as a whole, they are the views of the author under whose name they are published. The FBFI speaks either through position statements by its board or through its president. Here at Proclaim & Defend, we publish articles as matters of interest or edification to the wider world of fundamentalist Baptists and any others who might be interested.

Submit other comments here.