There’s a distinct strength about a man or woman who has endured the fires of life and come out the other end more passionate for God.
I’ve seen a number of family members suffer in recent years, some with cancer, others with painful sickness, some have lost those closest to them.
A dear friend of mine, Ted is one of these individuals. Ted was diagnosed with cancer in 1996 and began painful treatment, three years later he broke his back after falling from a ladder, and only a few months after that he required brain surgery.
Ted went under the knife again, this time to repair arteries in his heart that were 90% blocked. Four hours later he had a heart attack but miraculously survived. After being stabilised he was sent home with a blood clot, undiagnosed pneumonia and fluid on his lungs.
As I listened to his incredible story of suffering I wanted desperately to know how after a lifetime of service to God, his love for his heavenly Father had not dwindled.
Without hesitation Ted responded with a powerful statement his Godly mother taught him during a time of suffering.
“We serve God for who He is, not for what we can get out of Him.”
I was amazed to hear the words, spoken with a quiet inner strength and a deep authentic love for his creator.
Battered and bruised, Ted has continued his journey of faith, and it is clear he has kept perspective during a time where emotions and feelings can get the best of any human being.
Oswald Chambers writes in My Utmost for His Highest, “Sorrow burns up a great amount of shallowness, but it does not always make a man better.”
Someone wise once told me, trials and tribulations can make us bitter or better. I have met people who have become consumed with their suffering, and as time passes the anger and resentment builds up, they are bound by their bitterness and become a slave to their circumstances.
But as Christians we are called to live a selfless life of joy.
Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus...”
It’s a remarkable challenge, and one that is impossible without the power of the Holy Spirit in us giving the strength to persevere.
Last year my aunty Debbie left behind six children, and her loving husband, after losing a ten year battle with cancer.
During the decade of painful treatment, Debbie’s love for Jesus Christ shone brightly to those around her.
While waiting in the hospital for her regular chemotherapy treatment she developed friendships with other patients and selflessly chose to be a blessing to those in need around her.
She was a joyful woman who gave thanks in all circumstances.
“You always know the man who has been through the fires of sorrow and received himself, you are certain that you can go to him in trouble and find that he has ample leisure for you.” (Oswald Chambers)
God in His sovereign love uses suffering as a way to develop us into men and women who bear fruit for His kingdom.
People who have suffered in very specific ways can in turn provide vital care to other individuals who are suffering in the same way.
“If you receive yourself in the fires of sorrow, God will make you nourishment for other people.” (Oswald Chambers)
It’s encouraging to know that through the fires of life, God has a plan, and will make all things work together for good.