Sometimes Completeness Looks Like Suffering

I’ve been waiting 365 days for today.

I’ve also been dreading it.

It has officially been one year since I had surgery to address the mysterious internal bleeding that started almost a year before. The doctors said it would take one year for my body to adjust to the changes, which would hopefully eliminate my symptoms. I had hoped to have a great story about how #MLgetswell is finally a reality today, but that’s not exactly how it turned out.

I am better than I was. And the surgery was “successful” in that it eliminated the possibility for future, more serious problems. It’s just that my body is having trouble adjusting. Going into it, my doctor prepared me for the possibility that I wouldn’t ever fully adjust. And that creates more things I have to keep track of, more shuffling of priorities, and more figuring out how to manage it all without allowing anything to fall to the ground. If it does, I get a brutal reminder of what life was like pre-surgery – and that I’m still not better yet.

completeness

It’s disappointing that there’s a significant gap between where I am now and where I hoped I would be. I remember surgery day like it were yesterday, and I remember thinking how the long year would surely go by quickly and as I waited to be “normal” again. I pictured this day. But it doesn’t look anything like I thought it would.

I’ve been thinking a lot about James 1 and Romans 5 the last few weeks as I’ve been both anticipating and dreading today. I love reading these passages together. James reminds us that suffering has its purpose – to make us mature, complete, and not lacking in anything.

Not lacking in anything. That’s a huge, yet ambiguous, promise. It draws me right to Romans, as Paul defines what it means through describing what suffering produces.

Perseverance.

Character.

Hope.

Or, from the other perspective, if we were to never experience suffering, we would be lacking – lacking perseverance, character, and a deeper capacity to hope in the promises for what is so much better and greater than what we see. The pain we feel from being a part of this world is a startling indication that we were created for more.

This persevering, building character, clinging to hope is a cycle we move through continuously. In this life, we’ll never arrive to a place where we can say we’ve totally achieved the goal.  Instead, when the challenges crash over us like waves, we re-learn all over again what it takes to put one foot in front of the other. We learn to persevere. We re-learn what it looks like to allow our perspective to be informed by what we truly believe. Do we trust that God is enough? Do we trust that He knows best? Do we trust that He has a plan, even for this? We build our identity – our character – around Truth. And as we stand affirmed in His goodness, we cling to hope. But not just any hope. Assured hope. Hope that does not disappoint.

The last 21 months have been full of so much hoping, which has mostly been met by disappointment. Almost every day I’ve woken up thinking THIS would be the day it would all just go away. But that day never came. Maybe it will later. Maybe it won’t.

Still, this hope will not disappoint.

The hope in earthly healing will likely lead to disappoint. Our bodies are broken, and even if we find temporary healing, we have no guarantee of health on this earth. Even still, we so often hold onto promises we were never given and believe God will always give the things we have declared “good.” But we forget everything outside of Christ, even things that seem good, are not guaranteed. If they are given to us, they are given for a time, for a purpose. Only our hope in Christ is promised to not run out and disappoint, because it is eternal. Nothing will thwart His faithfulness.

He is faithful, even when we’re not.

It’s an important reminder. Our past disappointments seem to continually open the door for fear to creep into our outlook on the future. We can somehow be more eager to invalidate hope than keep hope in the perspective of eternal versus temporary. It’s an inadvertent attempt to disprove His faithfulness with our list of things He didn’t do, justifying our efforts to try to take control.

We’ve been hurt in the past. And, sometimes, it’s easier to not expect anything than to be forced to reconcile the sting of unfulfilled hopes and faith that seems to be met with silence.  But the greatest tragedy is when our hearts turn cold, saying that He surely will not ever come through because He chose something different than what we wanted for ourselves.

Different doesn’t mean we have been forgotten.

Different means we have been chosen. We have been chosen by God. He sees us, knows us, and desires nothing but good for us. He knows the greatest good can only be achieved through knowing Him more. And He does not want us to lack anything that He wants to give us – for our good.

I’m still learning to keep that temporary hope second to hope in Christ and the promise of complete and unending healing in the future. But I do know there’s a reason why I’m in this place, even if I cannot figure it out. These trials, the disappointments, are not in vain.

If I’m ever given the choice, of choosing the easy path over the one that will give abundantly the things that matter, so that I’m not lacking in any good thing the Lord desires to cultivate in my life, I hope I’ll always hold out my hands to receive instead of closing them in stubbornness and pride. Too often I think I know best, when I really have no idea the great things He has planned. If there’s more of Him to seek, more of His blessings to be given, and more of His plan to experience, I don’t want to reject it for temporary and fleeting things.

I don’t want to reach the end of my life and see that I missed it; missed the opportunity to go where He led, be what He called me to be, do what He wanted me to do, and know Him like He wanted me to.

I want to fall to me knees, hold out my hands, and ask Him to make complete what I lack.

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6 thoughts on “Sometimes Completeness Looks Like Suffering

  1. Darby Dishman-Brandt says:

    Great words of wisdom MaryLynn! God’s grace at work, it’s a beautiful thing living a life of surrender to the One who loves us most! Praying for your journey new blogger friend 🙂 God Bless – darby

  2. Mahogani Thurston says:

    “He knows the greatest good can only come from knowing Him more.” What a beautiful insightful quote, I just clicked on this link–don’t know your story– but I do know trials. We all have them. I too believe that the trials we have are made easier through Christ. It is a completely different experience once we “surrender” and let Christ fill in the gaps.

    I wish you continued strength and hope in your trials of health.

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