I just recently finished reading, for the second time, and completing a book study, on a wonderful book called “When I Lay My Isaac Down: Unshakable Faith in Unthinkable Circumstances” by Carol Kent. This book is a book that I could refer back to time and time again on how to cope with life and the sometimes all too challenging circumstances that we can find ourselves in. The author’s story and the type of demanding circumstances that are spoken of are not like that of daily trials and frustrations, but the kind of circumstances that are life altering, the kind that make you dig down deep to work through.
Do you know these kind of circumstances? Have you ever been pushed to your physical, emotional or spiritual limit (perhaps even all 3 simultaneously)? Have you had to choose whether or not to live with grace in the midst of life’s most distasteful of crisis?
It is a choice we make, how to carry ourselves when our world is falling part. Some moments, though, are so intense that we have no choice but to groan, wail, and cry out to God. But in the wake of the storm, after the initial intensity of the situation, I think it is most helpful if we decide. The decision is maybe made over days, weeks, or months . . . it is a process. It is a decision to attempt to thrive, not just survive. For me, it is a decision to accept God’s love, even when it might seem He has turned his back on me.
If it is possible you have experienced a time like this in your life, you might be wondering how we really do that. . . in the midst of a tragedy, a monumental challenge, how do we thrive? How do we live with grace? Well, I don’t have all the answers, but this book gave me a better sense of how to do it. This book placed inside my heart a knowing that it can be done, and yes, even with some grace.
The last chapter spoke of being fruitful in our suffering. The author states, “I know that there can be fruitfulness in suffering because I am experiencing it. Not the kind of fruitfulness I once knew-one that was measured by achievements and productivity, but a deeper, richer, more meaningful fruitfulness that is based on a love relationship with Jesus. A relationship that begins with loving Him more and letting that love spill into the lives of others.”
These words comforted me and reminded me of what has come from my own suffering in life. These words reminded me that the times of seeming tragedy have most often been times where my relationship with Christ was thrust into a deeper place, a closer place. My periods of suffering have at times seemed completely fruitless and barren. When I slept at night in the hospital bed of a psychiatric unit, I could not foresee any possible gain. When I lost my first marriage and was left alone, to care for my two year old daughter without a job or way to provide for her, I most certainly did not feel the possibilities of what was to come for me. And, when I received the diagnosis of fibromyalgia, my mind could not conceive of any possible good to come of it.
Just today, as I struggled to move my body out of bed and put life into motion, I had to probe into that deep reserve of energy that God has put inside each of us. I had to ask God for His help, because I was not able to feel joyful, this day seemed too hard. . . it was just a painful day. I found myself wondering, am I really being fruitful in my suffering? Am I really able to bare fruit during this time of my life? I was not so sure.
But in recalling this book, and this author’s poignant reminder of what we are capable of with the help of Jesus, I find myself answering my own question with a resounding “Yes!”. I may not be fruitful in each and every moment, but with each prayer, each meal I prepare or provide, each piece of laundry that makes it into the wash, each time I reach out to someone who is hurting, I am being fruitful!
I will continue to seek ways to be fruitful. I will pray for God’s help, to work in me, a way to be fruitful in my suffering.