The Paradox of Suffering
by Richard Spillman
In Romans 5:3 there is a statement that, to be honest, is difficult to handle. Paul says “we rejoice in our sufferings,” with the clear implication that we should all find joy in our pain. This might be easy to say before any suffering begins. It might be easy to understand once the suffering is over. But joy in the midst of suffering? I just don’t know. Perhaps it depends on the level of suffering? Maybe there is a way to dull the pain so joy can emerge? What does God want from us when the pain runs so deep we can hardly breath?
These are questions that can’t be answered until you are actually overwhelmed with suffering. Only then can you begin to search for some spark of joy. Anyway that was how I came to find purpose in my suffering.
My mother trafficked me through most of my childhood. I was repeatedly raped as a child, exposed to things no child should see, had any sense of trust of anything or anybody shredded. It’s a pain I still carry with me after all these years. The fact that I survived, I'm told by my therapists, is a miracle. I should have ended up on drugs (never even tempted) or ended my life (sad to say tempted). I didn't because God protected me. You see He had a plan. I did pay a price - most of my childhood locked away in forgotten memories that will stay there (I hope and pray they stay locked away. My greatest fear is that I will remember), years of therapy, struggles at the brink of death. But all the while, God was there.
Now here is the most important part … and he has redeemed the experience. Giving me the grace to survive and have a relatively successful life might be enough but He had even grander plans. Today, I often can tell when someone has been sexually abused as a child. In those instances, and there have been many of them, when a door opens for me to share my story one-on-one with a victim the most frequent response I get is tears and a "I've never told anyone this but ..." Much to my continuing surprise, God somehow uses me to unblock lives that have struggled under the weight of an often unspoken horror. Those are the times I glimpse a purpose in suffering. Those are the times I find redemption for pain.
Given the chance to do it all over again would I choose this path? No. Do I thank God for the experience when He uses me to help others? Yes. Therein lies the paradox of suffering. One that I can't unravel but one that I have found peace living with.
For me, the answer always lay in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4. "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God." To become an instrument of God’s mercy and compassion – that is the key to joy in my own suffering.
God comforted me and continues to do so and my joy comes from the gift to comfort others who at one time lived in the depraved, distorted world of my youth.
So this is my prayer: Lord, mold me into an instrument of your mercy. Let me minister to the broken hearted. Let my pain melt into a river of compassion.
Richard Spillman is a retired Computer Scientist who typically writes Christian non-fiction (The Passion of Job and Do What Jesus Did both available on Amazon) as well as a Christian blog (www.spillmanrichard.com). His latest passion, however, is Christian fiction. His first novel, Awakened, is waiting for a publisher to pick it up. He is represented by Jim Hart of Hartline Literary Agency. The story asks the question: “What if Lazarus didn’t die a second time?” He was led to write it after avoiding being kidnapped by ISIS in the Philippines, and then receiving death threats (to behead him in standard ISIS fashion) during the rest of his missionary service there. Besides the blog he is active on Twitter (https://twitter.com/awakenedtrilogy) and Instagram (http://ink361.com/app/users/ig-3176880720/spillmanrichard/photos) where you can see pictures from his missionary travels around the world.