Suffering, What’s the Point?

                I am not going to lie; this is going to be my longest blog to date. But the message is important. I have dwelt on it all day. If you can spare 10 or 15 minutes, this may change your perspective on suffering. This is important and I pray you take the time to read this. My family is going through some suffering. I do not believe God did this, as he can do no wrong, but in the words of Joseph, “what was intended for evil, God used for good.” My prayer is that this encourages you. Everything happens for his glory and our good. Even the heart-breaking things of life, God can use for good…. if we let him.

 Many people know, I have been experiencing neurological issues since mid-December of last year. They also know as much as let them know. That I had to go through rounds of testing, EEGs MRIs, and CAT scans. That I am on medication to control what I can only describe as muscle contractions and tremors. It has been determined that I have seizures due to a fall I took out of my bed. I hit the back left side of my head against my dresser or the baby’s crib, not sure which it was, but it caused a brain injury. Months of stress from work, and life in general added up and caused my brain to forge a new path. My first seizure occurred on a Saturday morning. My second seizure lasted 3 hours the following day, and required a trip to the ER to get it under control using medication. Since that weekend, I haven’t worked. My life has not been the same.

                After weeks of testing, I was placed on medication to control the neurological issues. The medication hasn’t worked to control all of the symptoms. It only controls about half of them. Life is hard. About as hard as it can get. If I’m being honest, it almost broke me. I almost walked away from God. I wanted so badly to rage quit life. It has not been easy at all these last 4 months. It’s been one test after another. It has been the hardest thing I have had to endure in my life. I truly believe if I did not have the power of God dwelling within me, I may have rage quit. I wanted so badly to just give up, find a dying hole and lie down in it. Just give up on it all.

In a way I did quit. I quit fighting God. I told him I give up. The funny thing is, when I finally quit fighting. My life changed. I became renewed. Life is still just as hard, but it is so much easier to walk through when you give up fighting. When bad things happen, and life gets hard, you have two choices, you can let it break you and make you miserable, or you can let God loose in your life and let it build you up.

                God reminded me of all the struggles we have been through just last night. The loss of jobs, the two back surgeries. We have lost insurance before. I thought those times were tough. But they were preparing me for the big test. God reminded me of one of my favorite movies “Miracle” about the 1980 Olympic Hockey team. There is a scene when the team first gets picked, they have to complete a 500-question test. They all complete the test, save one, the goalie. Coach Brooks has the team working their tails off and the assistant coach Patrick doesn’t think the boys will make it another 6 months with this fast-paced training. Coach Brooks looks at Coach Patrick and says, “Do you know why I had them take the test? To make sure I could push them this hard.” God reminded me of the tests leading up to this. Giving me endurance for this test.

                When I told God I was done fighting, my mindset changed. I have true peace. I have true joy. I can walk through this fire holding the hand of my God and knowing I will make it out in the end. I still have a way to go. He is still completing a work in me. But I know he will complete it to the end and I will walk out looking more like him in the end. Jesus said unless you take up your cross daily, and follow after Him, you are not worthy to be his disciple. He said in this life you will have trouble. He promised suffering. I know the false gospel preached today says God wants nothing more than for you to be happy, to have all you can in this life, and to enjoy life to the fullest. That is a lie straight from satan himself. Real Faith gets tested.

                To truly have faith, you must be tested. To learn obedience, you must suffer. The author of Hebrews says of Jesus, “Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered (Hebrews 5:8 ESV). Suffering is promised all throughout the new testament. There is no greater way to become like Jesus than to suffer for him. I know to some, that doesn’t make any sense, but I hope by the end of this it will.

“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (Romans 5:3-4)

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18)

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers” (Romans 8:28-29)

“For as we share abundantly in Christ’s suffering, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too” (2 Corinthians 1:5)

“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17)

“Count it all joy my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4)

“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:21)

“Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God” (1 Peter 4:1-2)

“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10)

                These promises of suffering and the benefits, were written by men who knew the suffering of Jesus, and they rejoiced that they were worthy to suffer for him! What do these passages teach us about suffering? We learn obedience. Suffering produces endurance, character, and hope. It is not worthy to be compared to what it will do within us. It works for our good to make us like Jesus. We find comfort through suffering. It is light and momentary and leads to eternal glory. It makes us perfect and lacking nothing. It is an example we must follow if we truly follow Christ. It frees us from sin, to chase after the will of God and not human thinking. The best promise is that in the end, after all the suffering, we will be restored, confirmed, strengthened, and established in Christ.

                There are a lot of people praying for me. I love that they do. Keep praying for my healing, please. It will come one day. I believe that.  But most have no idea what I deal with on a daily basis. I try my best to wear my joy, peace, and love daily. I rejoice in my suffering. This whole thing has changed me from the inside out, for the better, perfecting me, and making me more like Jesus. Do I still have days where I question what God is doing? Certainly, even Paul did. Do I still have days that bring me to my knees? Absolutely. But my hope is in Christ. He is my example. Life is not easy. It’s a daily struggle. But I know that this will be beneficial for me in all the ways listed above.

                I have let people know about the struggles we are facing, usually only after they ask.  Dealing with short term disability, no pay for 6-8 weeks at a time, no insurance, still needing more testing. If you ask me, I will be honest about what we are going through. I tend to not let people in, when it comes to what I deal with neurologically on a daily basis. Allow me to pull off my mask and let you in. To give you a glimpse of what I deal with on a daily basis. What my suffering entails. I do not want to brag or boast of my suffering. I want no pity. But it is time to be open and honest for a minute.

I have been attending Tuesday night prayer and I realize I need to be more open with people.  My life is hard. Just living every day takes determination, prayer, and the strength provided by the Holy Spirit. But it is doing works in me I cannot explain, and making me so much more like my savior. I want you to see that there is hope in the pain, and beauty in the suffering.

                Most days I wake up after my beautiful wife leaves with the older kids, to take them to school. After a long night of sleeplessness, tossing and turning, I wake up fatigued and tired. My muscles have fatigued and are full of lactic acid from constantly contracting day and night. I hear my 18-month-old daughter talking to me from the crib next to my bed, I roll over already exhausted before the day has even begun. I try to push myself up only to find immense pain in my chest, shoulders, and upper arms. When I cannot push myself up, I collapse back down. I then try to roll to the edge and place my feet on the ground (backwards) and push myself up with what little strength I have. The pain that flares up from my heels, calves, and thighs is almost too much to bear. Most of the muscles in my body have contracted or twitched all night leaving me sore in the morning. It takes me a moment to stand up all the way and push through the pain. Keep in mind, this is an average day. On the bad days, my hands do not work, I have no grip, and the pain can drive me to want to stay in bed.

                It again takes a minute to find the strength to pick up Hannah from her crib and place her on the floor. I am grateful that she can climb up the steps because I lack the strength to carry her. I place her on the floor and hobble up the stairs with her, where she gets breakfast and a fresh diaper. It’s a struggle but I get it done to the best of my ability. I take my pills.  I do a little cleaning up around the house. It keeps me occupied and keeps me busy. By 10am I am beat. The medication has made me sleepy (to take them at night means no sleep at all, it’s weird the way they work). Michelle leaves for work and takes Hannah to be watched by friends. I usually go back to bed at this time and sleep for 2-3 hours. The only real, deep, sleep I can get all day and all night.

                After a good long restful nap, I feel more refreshed. This allows me to get more done. I am usually pain free by this time of the day. I take a shower, and walk the 3 blocks from my house to the church. I spend some time in devotion, prayer, and writing. I try to get home by 4pm to get dinner ready for the girls when they come home from school. By this time fatigue is starting to set in again. I push past the tired, and get dinner ready. Three nights out of the week I am head back to the church for Youth Group or prayer, or I have a men’s Bible study that meets at my house. I take another short nap before going to any of these events. It’s a requirement or I will start to have a seizure before the nights end. I refuse to let it keep me from doing kingdom work (Sundays are my hardest day).

                After youth group, men’s group, prayer, my body starts to fight me again. Usually by 7pm my body is starting to act up. Muscles will start to contract without me telling them to. The shaking, tremors, and muscle contractions start and do not stop until the morning. I am tired, but I must push through and get the girls ready for bed. Michelle arrives home anywhere from 7pm to 9pm, and we stay up and talk. By the time I need to get up and move to bed, the pain has returned. Things have contracted long enough that there is no strength left. It hurts to stand; it hurts more to walk. I take my time and slowly walk down the stairs. We climb into bed, and I proceed to lay there for several hours. Some nights I just get back up. My brain will not shut off, even with the help of additional medication. It is rough every night. I am so exhausted you would think I would fall asleep immediately. But I can’t. I don’t fall asleep until 2am at the earliest. And sleep is not restful. Then I get up and do it all over again the next day.

                This is not only hard on me; this is hard on my wife and kids as well. There are times I get short with them because the pain becomes intolerable. Michelle has had to do more to keep the house running. She does all the driving as I am not allowed to. She helps keep me going and motivates me. I love her and couldn’t go through this without her. But she needs strength too. It is just as hard on her, watching me have seizures, and feeling me shake and twitch next to her, knowing there is nothing she can do to change it. My kids have to help me more. There are times I have to have the older watch the younger as my brain begins to shut down and I need to rest. It’s a test for all of us. Not just me.

                Even as I write this, fatigue is setting in. My hands and my arms are working against me. My legs shake. Its 8pm, I expect nothing less. Every day is a struggle. Every day I suffer for Christ. Why has he asked me to do this? Its already stated above. To be more like him, to be made perfect, to produce character, endurance, and hope, to free me from sin, to restore me, confirm me, to strengthen me, and to establish me. If this is what it takes, then I will rejoice, I will gladly bear it. I will count it all joy! I will share in Christ’s suffering to be made whole again! Again, I don’t want pity. I do not boast in my suffering. I boast in Christ who is perfecting me through this trial.

I love that so many people pray for me. Keep praying for healing for me, it will happen one day.  If you want to pray for me, please pray this way, that God does his work through this. That he completes it to the end. That I would reap all the benefits that suffering has for me. I want healing. The pain and fatigue I endure every day is unbearable at times. But I want nothing more than to be more like my savior. If this is what taking up my cross and dying to myself daily looks like, if this is the example of Christ that I am commanded to follow, if the leads to a far better weight and glory; bring it on! I will endure to the end! And even on my hardest days I know, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength!” (Philippians 4:13). Also pray for my beautiful wife Michelle, as this has been change and a challenge to her faith as well. Pray it strengthens her, changes her, and completes the same work I am asking it to do.

                I stand with the Apostles who suffered to know Christ better. Paul said it best, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ, and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith. That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and share in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own” (Philippians 3:7-12 ESV).

                I don’t know where you are in your walk with God. If you are in a time of struggle, suffering, or hardship, just know you are not alone. I don’t know what your suffering might look like, a wayward child, the loss of a loved one, medical issues, doubts and fear from normal everyday life; there is hope! The testing of your faith is making you more perfect. If you give the Spirit that dwells within you permission, he will renew your mind! He will strengthen you where you are! He will complete the good work he is doing! Even in times of trial, we can count it all joy, because it is making us perfect……. if we let it.

                To truly follow Jesus is to share in suffering. Let this suffering do its work. God’s word promises comfort in the end. Remember what the verses we read told us. We learn obedience. Suffering produces endurance, character, and hope. It is not worthy to be compared to what it will do within us. It works for our good to make us like Jesus. We find comfort through suffering. It is light and momentary and leads to eternal glory. It makes us perfect and lacking nothing. It is an example we must follow if we truly follow Christ. It frees us from sin, to chase after the will of God and not human thinking. The best promise is that in the end, after all the suffering, we will be restored, confirmed, strengthened, and established in Christ.

                Take heart and let the work be completed. Don’t fight it. When you give up and stop fighting, you are rewarded through the suffering. If you are going to pray for me, pray that I finish my race, I complete the test, so I can be rewarded in the end. I pray the same for you. That you would find joy in the pain, strength in your weakness, and beauty in the suffering. His grace is sufficient. His strength is made perfect in our weakness! So let it do its work.

                It is ok to ask God why. People think it is being a bad Christian to ask God why something is happening. That is a lie. God would much rather you have it out with him, ask the hard questions, yell at him if you must. Just don’t give him the cold shoulder and walk away. He loves you so much that he suffered and died for you. I give you permission, yell, scream, cry, ask why! But then get really quiet and let the Spirit answer. He is testing your faith to make you more like him. Maybe you have been praying to be more Christ like. This is the way to get there. Don’t give up, but give up fighting. The end result is worth more than we can ever imagine.

                It is said that silver refined in fire 7 times is so pure you can see your reflection in it. Suffering is the fire, and when God scrapes the dross off of you (the silver) it can be painful. But it is pulling out the imperfections and impurities.  In the end, he will look at you and see himself reflecting back. Do not lose heart. Keep your head up. God has a plan and if you let him do his work, it will make you complete, it will give you joy, peace, and comfort through the struggle. I know it is hard, I am walking through it as well. Testing is hard, fire is hot, but we have a savior who lives within us and will hold our hands through the process. Give him permission to change you through struggle, you will never be the same again.

You are not alone in this.

James Delisle

Published by Hillside Christian Church

We Proclaim: Faith Alone in Jesus Christ is all you need for Salvation! Baptism is an act of obedience following a confession of faith. An outward sign of an inward reality. Sunday Morning at Hillside Adult and Children’s Sunday School — 9:00 a.m Home of the Great Commission: Matthew 28:19-20 Children's Church 10:15 a.m. Worship and Preaching of God’s Word— 10:15 a.m. Praise Band Lead Worship: Easy Listening Contemporary Style and Traditional Music Arrangement

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