When the Rocks Lighten: How to Count Suffering


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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Abby Alleman

Abigail is a lover of life and story--the ones God writes and calls us to write with Him. She knows that no matter what tragedy comes, our stories are not over. Her newly released book 'A Million Skies' demonstrates the power of God's love and redemption over all of our lives. Having previously served overseas as a missionary with her husband and three children, she and her husband now touch the lives of refugees through the ministry of the Welcome Network. Learn more about Abigail at her blog and website (abigailalleman.com) or follow her on Instagram @abigail.alleman

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