I climbed the steps to the kitchen door, the baby in one arm and the other child holding my hand. Releasing the toddler’s grip, I quickly unlocked the door to let us in. It was lunch time and they were hungry. As I entered the back door, I noticed a paper on the table. The script was my husband’s and the note was addressed to me. Apprehensive, I put the baby down and turned it over to read.
One minute later I knew my life would never be the same. I had joined the ranks of the abandoned, wives whose husbands have left them. In shock, scared, and destroyed, I made a call to my folks using the wall phone in the dining room. My voice sounded strange even to me. Family came, his and mine, but I was alone in a world of disbelief. How had it come to this? It would be several weeks before I knew the whereabouts of my husband.
That is how my foray into suffering began. There had been earlier warning signs which brought me to my knees but this was life-changing. I was ill prepared, an innocent, trusting, loving individual. The next twenty years were more like an endurance race, a marathon, than the stuff of dreams coming true and promises kept. But I was not defeated. I gave it my all. I put a brave smile on my face and plowed through the years trying to be a good Christian and always striving to do the right thing. I became a stronger Christian. I was a selfless parent. The marriage came back together; then another abandonment and his unfaithfulness–this one much harder to repair; then together again for fifteen years before we came to a bridge we could not cross together.
Throughout those years I drew close to God. I clung to Him. I never gave up. I loved my husband and prayed for him faithfully. My five children became my life’s joy. I pursued a career out of financial necessity, but I had a home-maker heart and resented this intrusion on my plans to mother and raise my children. My service in the church became my unofficial second job. I gave and gave and gave. There were gifts I possessed which found their home in the church. There was strength in me and an ability to lead. Almost anything I tried my hand at in the church went well. I grew as a person and finally felt I had something worthy of offering. Shy Norma finally found her groove.
But I suffered in the secret place where my damaged emotions lived. No one knew this about me. It was something I didn’t understand about myself. I carried a feeling of sorrow and sadness in my core, which didn’t make sense to me since I loved the Lord and was faithful in serving him. At times it was too much and I wept—and my children wondered why. I sorrowed for what I had lost, those things I could not recoup, my innocence, my sense of security, and my real self. The two abandonments and a few close misses erased my ability to feel secure in my marriage and future. I chose to keep things to myself for my own self-protection and for the good of my little family. I didn’t want them to feel shame or to be injured by their family falling apart. I was calm and collected. There was little fighting or anger in our home. I desired to keep a measure of self-respect which was possible if I didn’t share the details with others. This way of living was a form of self-possession that effectively kept me in and kept others out. I couldn’t let myself be vulnerable.
I NEVER QUIT. I couldn’t let myself quit.
For others, it may be a sorrow, physical circumstance or fearful life situation. A person bears up during the suffering. We also recognize the face of suffering in other people or in other lands. There are moments when I sit in my comfortable chair and think of the throngs of displaced people, refugees who live in reduced, primitive dwellings without water or sanitation. It is a terrible thing. We should care about their suffering. I think of those who live with abusive mates or mean parents, and I know they suffer. Suffering is part of the person who sees injustice done to their people, those who know the pain of rejection at the hands of others. Some feel its sadness overwhelm them, especially when there is no way to fix it.
If we are truly honest with ourselves, we become aware of a world encased in the throes of suffering; and it grips us.
The whole thing seems impossible. Life is difficult and suffering attaches itself in a myriad of assorted ways. It will eventually take its toll as it creates a loss of hope when it is believed that the thing is never going to get better, that it is unutterably hopeless.
All of us possess the ability to counter the effects caused by suffering. Hope is the first tool in regaining our footing. Joy comes next. Joy comes in the morning. The sun will rise again. These are encouraging phrases to cling to while suffering. They help us to ‘keep on keeping on.’ Although it is not possible to remove the presence of suffering, there are books we can read, psalms we can access, songs which will carry us through the dark days, prayers that knock on heaven’s door, and trusted friends who can comfort us. We must seek the strength to carry on during times when we find ourselves depleted and weary.
You are stronger than you think.
Suffering is a teacher. Do not resent the lesson it teaches you. We are resilient beings. There is an inner strength in us we did not know we possessed until the cross of suffering blocked our path. We must reach out beyond ourselves. This will minister to us and rejuvenate our aching soul.
I think of my suffering which started when I was abandoned as a young mother. We suffer but then the suffering changes us. We learn to become strong, and we learn to lean into Jesus. We become more than we were before . . . despite it all, even though the hardship was not in our life’s plan. We come to the place of sharing our sufferings to strengthen the walk of others on this journey we call life.
Friend, you are not alone. Look to God. He has strong arms and a deep heart. Cling to Him in His warm embrace. He loves you more than you can imagine. Your suffering will not be removed but God will help you bear it. You are a beloved child of God.
Action Step – Call out to God in your pain. Allow Him to minister to you, don’t resist Him. Rest in Jesus by repeating the name of Jesus several times a day. Relax. Yield. Be thankful. Document what God shows you by writing it down or sharing it with a trusted friend.
~God is with you. He upholds you.