pain : it's bringing us closer.

We are crawling out of one of those whirlwinds as a family - where it feels like you escape reality and go deep into a hole that you may never get out of. The hole was the stomach bug - or some sort of African version of it - and it ravaged my two older kids. 

Lucia got it as Amos was recovering, and hers was worse than her brothers. Two nights ago, her stomach was in so much pain - from right before dinner until 6AM she was moaning from stomach cramps. We had thought we were in the clear, and she ate some food too early and was hit so hard.

She couldn’t move much - and it was reminiscent of a woman in labor. I had to convince her to move to the bath, or running water. I tried holding her grown, 4 year old body - swaying her to sleep for a handful of minutes at a time. I pressed her stomach, scratched her back, had her lay on her belly, had her lay on her side. 

We knew there wasn’t much the doctor could do, as stopping the cramping prolongs the bug. I kept asking her if she wanted to go to the hospital - and that I thought it would be gone by the morning. Her strong and resilient eyes looked at me and would say, “No, momma, just pray.”

So we prayed. Whenever she got so exhausted from the aching, she would ask me to pray. I would lay my hand on her stomach, or on her back and pray in the spirit. I would pray out loud, and she would to, asking God to take away the belly aches. We would tell it to go in Jesus name. 

It didn’t though, and by 3AM, after consistent stomach pains, I was spent and so was she. I looked at her and started crying and said, “Lucia, I would take it if I could! I hate seeing you hurt. I hate it. I want it to go!” 

I was so exhausted and so frustrated and said in my heart, “God! Why don’t you just take the pain away? I KNOW YOU CAN.” and I heard His voice say the most unexpected words. “Tiffany, this is going to make you closer. It’s tying your hearts together.”

It stopped me.

After I heard that we turned on worship music and we worshipped. I held her and we sang, and then we laid down and I sang, and after some hours of this, around 5:45 as the sun was beginning to rise, she fell asleep. She woke up at 7:30 AM with most of the pain gone.

The next day, after she had taken a nap she looked at me and said, “Momma, I love you so much. Thank you - we did it. I'm all better!” I looked at her, feeling like we had walked through a fire together, and said, “You did it, Lucia. It was so hard, and it hurt so bad, and you didn’t give up. You didn’t get angry. You made it through.”

I was crying, and she teared up too. Somehow, that long night of pain, it changed us. And when I said those things to her, it extended beyond our long night of stomach cramps - it covered the past year of her life. 

She, and her brother, did it. It was hard - they left their friends, their comforts, their family. They watched toys be sold and go off into other family’s vans. They wept and wailed when they said goodbye to their grandparents and cousins - saying, in their chid like vocabulary, “If it’s possible, let this cup pass from me!” They learned to sleep soundly in new houses and new homes, in a new city in a new country. It hurt - and their hearts are not unaware of pain. They didn’t grow angry and they made it through.
 We are closer because of it and God is even more real to us today than before.

Often I want to shield my children from all pain - pain on the playground, pain from friends, pain in their bodies, pain from my own mistakes. I am well aware, from my own experience, that pain marks us, wounds us. However, in life, pain is unavoidable… but God promises to work it for our good and take us through the process of healing. He says that our sufferings produce a perseverance that keeps us going even when it hurts, that produces character - that does what is right even when its hard - that gives birth to HOPE. Hope that is LIVING and ties our hearts to eternity. It carries us through this side of life, full of brokenness and evil and many moments of pain - victoriously. 

The past year of our lives has been full of hard things. I bet, if you evaluated your life, the past year has held some suffering for you as well. “Through trials and tribulations we enter the kingdom of God.” The new testament is filled with suffering: accusation, opposition, abandonment, persecution, murder, isolation. The most beautiful picture of our future hope, the book of Revelation, was written out of an encounter given to a man isolated as a prionser on the Island of Patmos. His suffering produces the picture of where this thing is heading: our future Hope. Suffering will be, in harmony with the heights of joy in knowing God and making Him known, our reality - but He can do something in us, so deeply, in these moments of suffering that bind us to Him and bind us to each other. 

God isn’t afraid of pain nor suffering and I don’t want to be either. He willingly put His son in the midst of it - to overcome it on our behalf. Jesus walked through it with the hope (not wishful thinking but future certainty) of glory of redeemed brothers and sister in His kingdom set before Him - carrying Him on. He’s not afraid to allow suffering to lead us to the greater good. He equips us with His living Spirit, and the ability to thrive and reign in life IN THE MIDST.

Surely, the idea is unpopular. I also know - that we should consider our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. (romans 2) I know that trials and pain do not have to weaken hope or weaken us, but they CHANGE us so that we increase in our ability to SEE and AGREE with God, change us to beings more like Him, so that we can be more free, more whole, more victorious - stable in the midst of a storm, rooted in the midst of turmoil, confident in the midst of pain. He makes us able to function out of the reality of the Hope of what we may not yet see, but wait patiently for.

I am reminded of this old Rita Springer song, and I truly believe, as we encounter His face - shining in glory - and peer into, with the ability to fully comprehend it, our eternity - we will say, "It truly was worth it."

I don't understand your ways / Oh but I will give you my song / give you all of my praise / you hold on to all my pain / with it you are pulling me closer / and pulling me into your ways 

Its gonna be worth it, / Its gonna be worth it all, / I believe this. / Its gonna be worth it, / Its gonna be worth it all, / I believe this.