When Suffering Counts for the Kingdom

It’s been a long time since I’ve raised a toast to my cancer season and uttered the words, “Bless you, Cancer.” I’m glad I haven’t forgotten how to do so. There’s been a lengthy span of less thankfulness and more confusion in recent days. Not so this past weekend. On Sunday, I was able to whisper my blessing while sitting in the chapel at Rogers & Breece Funeral Home.

Vic passed away. He was my cancer buddy, sitting next to me during my first round of chemotherapy and many times following. He, too, was a warrior, fighting valiantly to lengthen his earthly tenure. God knew I needed him that first day; God also knew that he would need me in the days to come. Not just me, but my husband as well – the preacher man and friend who also attended Vic’s funeral but who would find his place behind the pulpit, not beside me in a pew. Billy was the chosen man to eulogize the life and witness of our friend, Vic, a role he never expected to play yet one he graciously accepted.

If cancer had never been my portion, then I am not certain who would have been chosen to tenderly and kindly lead Vic’s family and friends along this tremendous road of grief. Without our cancer connection, I don’t know who would have taken the time to pray with Vic . . . who would have made for him the connection between the earthly and the eternal. Sure, God can do it all on his own, but because of his tender mercy and loving trust, he willingly allows us the opportunity of kingdom influence. I feel so honored to be trusted with so much; I know my husband feels the same. And here is what I want you to know:

God is still in the business of making your suffering season count. Some days it feels rather weighty, this carrying of past or maybe current grief. Sometimes it feels forgotten, influence hidden away in the crevices of lessons learned in history. Sometimes in our movement away from personal pain our hearts can grow bitter about it all, wondering about the reasons we were allowed its portion in the first place. But every now and again, suffering makes sense. Suffering has a reason. Suffering (on the backside) feels suited to our flesh, and we are able to bless it rather than curse it.

I am grateful for those times when I understand and fully realize that the pain I’ve endured is a pain that has extended the borders of God’s kingdom. That the stretch of my flesh has also stretched his to reach long and wide and high and deep and wrap up in love the lost sheep of his earthly pasture. That when I reach outward to others through my pain, God reaches downward to others through his love, and therein the sky splits revealing the bright light of heaven that guides us safely home.

Maybe today you’re wondering if your pain matters . . . if, in fact, there is an eternal component to it all. That if somewhere down the road or somewhere right around the corner it might matter for more than just the personal perspective it’s wrought in you. That maybe God won’t leave it as part of your history but, instead, reveal it as part of his kingdom ministry. If that is where you’re at today, then here is what I want you to know:

God is still in the business of making your suffering season count. Nothing is wasted in the economy of God. He’ll keep using your pain, friend, because he understands the road of suffering and the great price you’ve paid to walk it through faithfully. He now intends to bless it most fruitfully—to sow and grow something in others with the seeds of your surrender. You may not see it now, but you can trust that God has seen it all.

And every now and again, you’ll catch a glimpse of the glory. Hang on for the glimpses. As they arrive, your heart will be strengthened for the steps ahead. As always . . .

Peace for the journey,

17 Responses to When Suffering Counts for the Kingdom

  1. Oh, Elaine! Thank you for sharing your thoughts here. What a poignant reminder of God’s love for us that He truly makes every suffering season count. Even when we can’t imagine it. Or see it. Thank you for sharing this touch of Vic’s life. I will say a prayer for his family and am grateful to God that you and Billy were God’s hands and feet and mouth at such a pertinent time. Much love to you.

  2. I do believe in ”divine appointments” here in our physical life and seems like your meeting Vic and him meeting you was one! We will never know this side of heaven how much good….or bad for that matter…we may have done in the lives of others. Thank you for sharing this story. I feel sure it was painful for you even though it was a blessing.

    Love you my faithful friend!

    Marilyn

  3. What a beautiful tribute to your friend. Vic sounds like he was a wonderful person.

    I am greatly encouraged by your insightful thoughts about pain and suffering. Yes, it’s so easy to question it, to rebel against it, to be consumed by it. But, through the strength of God, we can soar above it. I am reminded of these verses:

    “For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!” (2 Corinthians 4:17, NLT)

    “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18, NIV)

    God does not waste anything. And even suffering, if yielded to Him, is redeemed.

    GOD BLESS!

  4. Thanks for the reminder, Elaine, that God is still in the business of making our suffering seasons count. Reminders like this one are always such an encouragement. So sorry for your sad time but am thankful to hear that God allowed you and Billy to provide such a ministry to your friend and his family. We are indeed blessed when He allows us to play a part in the lives of others. Hugs and blessings to you!

  5. Another soul for the kingdom because of you and Billy and your obedience to walk out the journey God allowed you. What a blessing to Vic and his family you have been. What a blessing you are to me, my friend.

  6. I love it when the clouds part now and then and “suffering makes sense”. Mostly it’s cloudy though…. Can’t wait for the sunshine! (Figuratively AND literally!)

  7. I read your words with tear stained cheeks, so weary in the battle, and praise GOD that HE has a purpose. I’m at the point of hoping HE takes me Home soon and wishing as always that I lived closer to family.
    I suppose our pain is the sweetest “offering” when we can give it to HIM with pure motives. Shalom.

    • I know of weariness, Jess, and I hear the pain in your voice. I’ve been hearing it a lot lately – the painful longing in the voices of friends. Please know that as you are struggling, so am I and so are others. You are not alone, not for a second, in the pain. God does have an agenda for our pain, even when we can’t see this. I wouldn’t write it if I didn’t know this to be true. I’ve seen God’s hand in my own pain. I don’t know what this will look like for you in the days to come, but I’m praying God brings to your awareness a glimpse or two or ten of glory to carry you through!

      Be in touch as you’d like. I’d love to catch up.

  8. This is what it’s all about Elaine, this testimony of God’s grace to others, so often stemming from the very trials we’ve been through. What a special tribute to your friend, and how blessed this family is to have you and Preacher billy on their team. This is Kingdom stuff sister, and beautiful to hear.

    Love you.

  9. Thanks sweet friend for reminding me that God has seen it all: my suffering & my efforts to move forward with something that’s bigger than I am. At times, I think my current path is not meant to be, but then I think about breast cancer and losing James & Kirk and I know God recognizes my faithfulness. His infinite wisdom will steer me to where I’m supposed to go.

    Love,
    Brenda

    • Yes, God does recognize your continuing faithfulness, Brenda. One faithful step at a time, until our steps bring us to the finish line and we hear God’s “Well done.” Keep to it, sister.

  10. wifeforthejourney:

    You have endured so much since your cancer diagnosis in the summer of 2010. Cancer has impacted everything about our life…..I believe meeting Vic and Wendy has been one of the ways God has started to bring redemption to our life together. “Bless you cancer” is indeed a word of thanksgiving that only God can make real. God has brought an authenticity to your life WITH the suffering BECAUSE of your suffering.

    Like I’ve told you on numerous occasions, there are a lot of people, well educated, wealthy, well known, that can write on a lot of topics BUT if they have not “been there” through a suffering season of their own, THEIR words are hollow. Because of YOUR cancer journey, there is a whole world of sufferng people that you can speak to with credibility. With Christ, suffering does not have to be the thing that ruins us. Thanks be to God that you have seen fit to reach out to hurting people with a message of hope in Christ.

    We are richer for knowing Vic, and our many other Cancer Center friends. Thanks be to God for all He has brought us through!

    Love,
    Bily

  11. Given the ponderings of my heart this morning, I ought to have included this on my blog. There’s value in suffering, and never more so than when someone as courageous as you demonstrates how to redeem it.

  12. So sad, but what a blessing you and Billy were to Vic. That’s why we are here, to be the hands and feet of Christ. Thank you for being there for him. Blessings!

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