We’ve invited three of our own to post on the blog from the prompt, “what does a blessed life look like?” We hope you enjoy their reflections and are driven to reflect on God’s goodness to you as well. Thanks for reading.
Manchester Road is one of bustle and brightness, and it led us straight to the entrance of our St. Louis apartment. It has four lanes, is dotted with stoplights, and lined on both sides with businesses and restaurants and such, all competing for attention with their signs and colors and lights. Our daily routine would take us mostly to school and work, each of these requiring the most travel on none other than Manchester Road. Between the stoplights, the businesses, the lights of the other cars, and street lamps, there was no lack of bright lights, even at night. It was constant.
Which is why we had a rule in our household. Well, I wouldn’t really call it a rule but more like a standard we agreed to keep. At least once a month we decided we had to place ourselves in a position where it was necessary to use our brights while driving. (Weird? Yes! But weird is who we are, folks!) Accomplishing this was often hard as in the daily grind of life we wandered through our little part of this city guided along by the light of the stoplights and streetlights and billboards and restaurants and storefronts…all bigger, brighter, and better than the one before.
You know what else you miss when your world is so full of artificial light? Stars.
We spent one particular weekend in the middle of nowhere in Indiana. In stark contrast to our life in St. Louis at the time, there was nothing around. And I do mean nothing. Yet when we walked outside of this cabin in the woods and looked up, we saw stars. Not just one or two or ten but an entire sky full of them!
Amazing, isn’t it? How much you can miss and yet think you haven’t. How satisfied we can feel with the artificial when the real has been hidden for just long enough. And isn’t it like that with God at times? We marvel at what we know of Him because even a glimpse is great and awesome and amazing, but it may be just the equivalent of seeing the stars from the city. Seeing a clearer or greater view may require us to go a bit further into the darkness.
It’s a strange thing, blessing. It can be, and often is, seen in the things this world might call the same. A new job, a promotion, a clear scan, a wedding, the birth of a child, a steady paycheck, a home, a long life, an uneventful commute, a vacation, ease, comfort. Blessing. My life has seen much of these things, and for it I am ever so thankful.
But for the believer in Christ there is another form of blessing. It is often richer, and deeper, and more valuable. And rarely will you hear the world call it such, though occasionally you might find it thrown about as a sort of band-aid for the unexplainable and hard things of life. It takes form as the often used ‘blessing in disguise’ or ‘happens for a reason’ but it isn’t a cliché. And I hope you don’t hear it from me as dismissive of pain and trial and hurt. But it is the truth of God’s word fleshing out in our broken and hurting world, whispering light in the midst of darkness, hope in the midst of despair and purpose and order in the midst of chaos. It is the blessing of suffering.
After the birth of our first son, a story of suffering began that would span the next several years, its pain sometimes fresh even yet today. But the suffering has also been the blessing. Let’s drive toward the dark and I’ll show you…
I was hemorrhaging. We were visiting Ohio with our one month old child to look for a place to live when we moved from St. Louis in a couple of short months. Earlier that morning we had been wandering through homes, searching for the one. And now I was scared and confused and crying on the bathroom floor, covered in blood. Though the pregnancy and birth had appeared to go off so smoothly, part of the placenta had been retained and now my body was violently trying to rid itself of the now unwanted leftovers. Several hours later I would undergo a procedure that would, unbeknownst to me at the time, leave me scarred, both physically and emotionally.
The next few years we were often led into the darkness. Most often, dark rooms. Dark rooms where we would look at the bright screen to find that our babies didn’t survive, or that my body was scarred and incapable in that state of housing another life, or that function was restored but the past trauma led to a scary and possibly life-threatening scenario for me and the baby I was now miraculously carrying.
- To the body that underwent procedure after procedure, surgery after surgery, loss after loss? It was suffering.
- To the dreams that had long held a desire to birth many babies and raise a large family? It was suffering.
- To my soul that through the darkness of the circumstances was able to grow in love for and hope in Jesus and his sacrifice on my behalf, to see so much more clearly the provision, experience so much more strongly the protection, and now recall so much more vividly the faithfulness of God? It was blessing.
Paul, in the book of Romans, says that “we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.” The NASB version then translates the next words as “and hope does not disappoint.” When the end of suffering is hope, the beginning and middle of suffering is blessing because it ushers in the greatest comfort for our soul…HOPE.
Without suffering, there exists no great need for hope just as without sin, there exists no need for salvation. It is when we see our sin clearly that the beauty of grace becomes stunning to us. It is in the midst of suffering that the promises already secured but not yet realized become our greatest hope.
The greatest suffering ever known was that of the perfect man, Jesus, bearing the weight and judgement of sin. And it wasn’t intended as simply a means to blessing, it was the blessing. The blessing of a life in Christ is that the greatest suffering of all time exists simultaneously as the greatest hope of all time. The hope of forgiveness, the hope of life, the hope of adoption, the hope of Christ.
In St. Louis, sometimes the journey to get to the dark place was intentional. We made a choice to drive into areas we knew would be dark, because we knew the outcome would be worth it. But sometimes, we would end up in a dark place and the husband would look at me and smile as he turned the knob, as if to say “watch this.” And we would watch as the light pierced through the darkness, the stars filling the sky above.
Amazing, isn’t it? How much you can miss and yet think you’ve seen. Yet when we venture out just a little further into the dark night sky or we press into God and His truths in the very center of our suffering, we realize the stars are more numerous, the greatness and power and love and grace more deep…and you begin to wonder how you were ever satisfied with artificial light and just a glimpse from the city sky.
It’s a strange thing, suffering blessing. For those in Christ, a devastatingly beautiful, hopeful thing.
— Libby Lehman