When the Rocks Lighten: How to Count Suffering

by Abby Alleman on August 26, 2015

Countitalljoy

It’s been a heavy, transition-packed few weeks around here. As I have been packing and unpacking, there has been a lot of hard news.

It’s the kind that stops you right where you are and makes you remember it is a gift to be here. A gift to serve. A gift to be alive. A gift to be a family. A gift to know Jesus.

And yet, somehow, I forget.

There’s an amazing family I know. They have given themselves whole-heartedly as missionaries on multiple continents. They have raised a beautiful family at the same time. It seems like they have done it all right. Yet, their only son is dying from brain cancer.

And yet, somehow, God remains good.

There’s a woman I know. She is just a little older than me. She has loved God and been in ministry for many years. She has prayed faithfully for our family. Over the past few she has suffered from colon cancer and it has progressed to her bones.

And yet, somehow, this sickness does not define.

Then, there’s this tragic story which my friend, with ties to this family, posted on Facebook. A young mother serving the Lord overseas, killed, leaving behind a husband and three young kids.

And yet, somehow, death has lost its sting.

As I write this, there is a life-giving organ transplant happening in my immediate family. Someone I love very much sacrificing a part of themselves for someone else I love very much.

My heart is slowed and the ‘ba-bump, ba-bump’ is somehow more precise.

And then there are my sweet kids. They have been watching the ‘Torchlighters’ video series which features heroes of the faith. They have seen William Booth confront violence with the truth and not his fists. They have seen early martyr Perpetua die in the arena. They have seen Augustine stand against pagan religion. They have seen Amy Carmichael fight to protect Indian girls.

They have asked many questions. In turn, I have asked them too. Why did Perpetua and her friends die? Why did Amy Carmichael rescue those girls? Why did William Booth let himself be punched and not fight back?

It comes back to how we count suffering. I listened to this sermon by Tim Keller (also available on podcast). He ends talking about our possible responses to suffering. He says we can blame God, blame ourselves, blame others or embrace Jesus.

In each story I mentioned, the people are choosing (or chose) to embrace Jesus in their suffering. Therefore, they have abundant courage. Because, no matter what happens, they get their heart’s desire. They get God.

This is our great legacy and hope. James says ‘count it all joy’ when we face trials. Paul says, ‘for I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.’ The apostles ‘rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer…for the name.’

Let me pause here. I don’t mean to be callous related to your past or current experiences. Or my own. But, I do know, for the journey ahead, we all need a greater grace than we have known, a digging deeper into who we really are.

You see, there is a beautiful place of vision. It is one where all becomes a beholding of the face of Christ. But there is also a barren wasteland. I know it well. Here, every imperfect thing is counted like a rock in a giant pack of burden we carry.

I have spent many days weighing myself down, counting suffering all wrong.

But I want something more. I want to be within sight of Jesus where every suffering, from small to great, is changed.

His glory transforms all it touches and our sufferings become the gold that clothes as we draw close to Him. We become resilient to live boldly, radically and fully. We endure as the first missionaries and followers did. We endure as the precious ones who are, right now, enduring.

We endure and count it all unto Life, unto Joy, unto God.

What rocks are you carrying on your back? Do you believe Jesus wants to lighten your heavy load?

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About Abby Alleman

A farm girl at heart, Abigail (Abby) loves the surprising stories God writes. Since her first plane trip at the age of twenty landed her in Barcelona, Spain, Abby knew her life would never be the same. She holds degrees in both Math and Spanish and is a former high school teacher. She has served as a translator and short-term missionary in Latin America and inner city Philadelphia. But her most treasured journey is when her big dreams came crashing to the ground, when heartbreak and humility brought her home to her family, God and eventually right to her husband, Jared. They have worked with the student ministry of CRU for ten years in both the U.S. and Hungary. She has three small kids and blogs her life and love of story at Abigail Alleman ( www.abigailalleman.com ).
  • Richelle Wright

    Love this, particularly – “…there is a beautiful place of vision. It is one where all becomes a beholding of the face of Christ…. I have spent many days weighing myself down, counting suffering all wrong.
    But I want something more. I want to be within sight of Jesus where every suffering, from small to great, is changed. His glory transforms all it touches and our sufferings become the gold that clothes as we draw close to Him.”

    My prayer as well…

    • Yes, Richelle, me too. It’s humbling to write things for all of the truth of living them…

  • This was my quote for today, from Richard Rohr: “Only near the poor, close to ‘the tears of things’ as the Roman poet Virgil puts it, in solidarity with suffering, can we understand ourselves, love one another well, imitate Jesus, and live his full Gospel. The view from the top of anything is distorted by misperception, illusions, fear of falling, and a radical disconnection from the heart.”

  • Hi, my name is Lynae. This is my first year serving overseas. I am teaching at a bilingual Christian School in Honduras. There are so many rocks on my back right now. My kids are very poorly behaved, I do not speak the native language, I fear I am not equipped for what I am doing here, I miss my family, and lastly I feel like I do not have the support I need to make it through the year. I could go on, but that would be too depressing! Thank you for this post! Although my sufferings are not considered to be “great” by the world, they seem great to me. This post has helped me put things into perspective.

    • Lynae, this is a beautiful name! All of these things are real…it’s just Jesus wants to make them new. Praying for you!!

  • Anna Wegner

    “And yet, somehow, God is still good.” I’m reminding myself of this a lot lately. Thanks for your post.

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