Not So Sad Suffering

I mentioned in my first post that I am currently out of school this semester due to a medical withdrawal. Some of you reading this will know this story, but others of you will not, and for those of you who do know, consider this an update. I want to begin with this: this is not a sad story. At the beginning, it will seem that way, but please read this to the end and allow me to explain.

Here’s the situation. In August, I drove back up to Columbia, SC where I attend college at Columbia International University. I love my school, and I was excited about this semester for several different reasons: starting a field ed teaching Bible to 5th graders, getting back to my prison ministry, etc. Most of all though, I was excited about being an RA on a freshman men’s hall. Residence life means ministry at CIU, and I was excited to have the opportunity to work with an awesome team and to minister to a bunch of new freshman guys. I had gotten my floor chart that summer and me and my team had been praying for these men for months. In mid August, these guys moved onto the hall and they were awesome. I loved getting to hang out with them, and they were seriously encouraging to me in my ministry. In just a few short weeks, we were already seeing growth. School was going well, and I was just starting to get settled into new classes. Early September is when things got weird.

One Wednesday, I had just gotten out of a Greek class. I was feeling tired and a little bit dizzy, so I went back to my dorm and laid on a friend’s couch. Pretty soon, I had passed out on the floor. I went to an urgent care that evening and was sent home later. Fast forward, I passed out again, and I ended up having to come back home to have some tests run. I came back home, and I eventually ended up in the hospital to be tested for meningitis. That was a pretty scary time for me because I had never heard of a type of meningitis that wasn’t fatal, and I was really unsure of what was going to happen to me. By God’s grace, it was not bacterial, and therefore it was only a virus. Whether it was meningitis or not, we knew it was a virus, and I would get over it. For about a week I was home, resting and getting better. As I was getting ready to go back to school, I was still feeling very tired, so I went back to my doctor for a follow up. I got my blood tested for what felt like the thousandth time, this time for mono and Lyme’s disease. To be honest, I really thought that my fatigue was just natural from my recovery, and that I would get back to school, start feeling better, and finish my semester. So I went back. The night I got back, I found out that I had both mono and Lyme’s disease, and it became very apparent to me that I was not nearly as well as I thought I was.

In the grand scheme of things, the things that I am sick with are not a big deal. Nothing that I have is life threatening, nor will it be in the future, The hard part was making a decision to leave school. After a few days back, I knew that I was not going to be able to continue at school this semester. I knew pretty soon after I got back, but I didn’t admit that to myself until later. I was disappointed and angry, and most of all, I didn’t understand. After making the decision, I had lots and lots of hard conversations with people that I love, the most difficult being the conversation with the guys on my hall, It really pained me to have to tell them that I wouldn’t be on the hall as their RA this semester. Not to mention the fact that missing a semester of school would really throw a kink into plans I had for the future. All the plans I had for graduation and a career and marriage didn’t seem so secure anymore. So the question was this: why? Why was I suffering? What was the point? This brings us to the reason that this is not a sad story.

Isn’t God’s desire for me to be happy? If God loves us. why would he allow us to suffer? This is important. Scripture does not tell us that Christians are immune to suffering. In fact, it says quite the opposite. Scripture tells us that as Christians we will most surely suffer, and get this, it’s a good thing. There are so many passages that I’d like to unpack, but for the sake of keeping this post readable, I will unpack just one. Check out 2 Corinthians 4:16-18:

16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

I absolutely love this passage, and it has been beyond encouraging to me in this season. I love how Paul describes the affliction (light and momentary) compared to the weight of glory (eternal and beyond all comparison). Friends, our suffering is not in vain. It is refining us for something that is so much bigger than ourselves. As Paul writes here, the things that we see here will end, but the things that we do not yet see will last forever. Our suffering is so brief in the scope of eternity! Isn’t it such good news that one day, the Father will wipe away the tears of the Christian, and death will be no more (Revelation 21:4)? It’s true! The trials that we go through now are building up towards an eternal weight, that will never fade away. Our suffering has an end. The life of the Christian does not.

The story has a happy ending friends. If you are a follower of Jesus, your suffering is for a reason, and the reason is so, so good. Dwell on the teachings of the Scriptures. It is so clear that the Lord uses our suffering for our good, and more importantly, His glory. What would the non-believer say if they saw the Church suffering biblically? We have an opportunity to show the world the grace of God in Christ through the trials in our life. Let’s pray that when people see us suffer, they would ultimately see the grace of God in our own lives.

Presently, I still don’t know why the Lord has me at home this semester. And that’s okay. What I do know is that the Lord has a plan, and His plan is good. If nothing else, the Lord is teaching me how to suffer well. Please pray that God would be glorified in my situation. Perhaps as you read this, you are suffering as well. Please be encouraged by the fact that if you are a follower of Jesus, you are not suffering in vain. If you are reading this and you are not a follower of Christ, please contact me. When we submit our lives to Jesus, our suffering is momentary and good.

In conclusion, I need to make a clarification. Our suffering will not be easy. It is much easier said than done to say “Hey, let’s suffer biblically and it’ll all be okay, alright guys?” Of course it’s not easy. But another great aspect of the Church is that we do not suffer alone. The body of Christ is intended to be a buffer for the suffering Christian. Together, because we have a great High Priest, we can bring our trials before the throne of God. Thank you, Lord.

Thank you for reading! Please contact me if you’d like to discuss this further!

Also, I wanted to post this sermon that John Piper preached at the Legacy Conference earlier this year. It’s so good, and has been very helpful to me.

Grace,

Mitch

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10 thoughts on “Not So Sad Suffering

  1. Wow this is so awesome coming from a young man, there are so many people much older who still struggle with the wisdom shown here!, God bless!

  2. Go Mitch! We sure miss you – but we are even more proud of you. I sure hope this gets circulated on your hall. I’ll give your crew the heads up. Blessings brother.

  3. Mitchell, loved your message, and you are so very right, and so very mature in your working through this time. I can already see how God is using you at home, and will continue to this entire semester….love you and miss you, Grandmama

  4. Mitch, Tuesday morning I was teaching Progress at Kirkland and we were going over the captivity period. I mentioned to them that even in the darkest days, there is always progress. When I prayed to close the class I prayed the Scripture, “Though He slay me”. Immediately after class, Braun told me I needed to see the Shane and Shane video with the Piper sermon. AWESOME. Then I get back to campus and someone had sent me a link to your blog. Amazing how God communicates the same truth to different people in different locations at the same time. Blessings to you my brother. I look forward to reading more.

  5. Mitchell I am so proud of who you are and what you are becoming. This little “time-out” with school was for a reason. God does have a plan for you and it will become obvious in time. Maybe he wanted you to stop, reassess where you are and where you are going before you begin again. God called a “time-out” in my life as well. I wasn’t headed in the right direction when I was first in college so he arranged a little detour just to get my attention. It worked…….a year in Vietnam
    made all the difference in my maturity. He had a plan….and I began again with a much healthier prospective of where I was going and what I needed to be. I know it is a confusing time for you but you will benefit from it in time……it will become clear. Love you Grandaddy

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