Flunking First Grade: When suffering holds us back

Flunking First Grade: When suffering holds us back June 22, 2016

When you are six, there’s just a few things that could be called “devastating.” Not advancing to Second Grade would be one of them.

I remember when my mother threatened to hold me back a year. I was the youngest in my  class, an anomaly of the school calendar. I wasn’t adapting well and she thought I might do better by starting over again.

Somehow, I talked – or cried – my way through the threat. But the truth is that I probably wasn’t ready.

It’s that way for me now. The simple truths in life aren’t so easy for me to grasp. I still ask questions like “why” and “how” and “when” just like a first-grader.  I should have learned these life lessons a long time ago.

When it comes to trials, I’m biting my quivering lip, still using expressions like, “It’s not fair.” Talk like that should get me sent to the corner.

It should be easy by now

I heard this verse recently in church and it simply floored me.

“In this world, you will have trouble.” Yup!
“But be of good cheer.” Huh?
“For I have overcome the world.” Oh. I forgot.

How come verses like this still pierce my soul? For some reason, I thought by now I would get it. After so many years, I thought I would be able to have the faith to walk without doubt. I thought I would be able to trust that God has a plan. I thought I would be able to discern the reason for the trials.

Maybe I should be held back!

Translating the simple truth of a God who cares, who is in control and who is intimately aware of my everyday life seems to be a lifelong struggle.

Paul says, Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,  and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.”

Even with a box of old, used crayons, there’s still color and life and the opportunity for something different. Even in brokenness, there is hope for a new creation.

Broken Crayon

Photo by Shawn Ford, via Flikr Creative Commons          

As I get older, here’s  a simple truth I really want to nail down: Suffering isn’t a tragedy, rather it’s a promotion. 

When life sucks –  When things don’t go my way – When the disease creeps into my body, or family members throw their darts of self-righteousness or when friends disappear, I need to see this present suffering as a chance to elevate my perspective.

Suffering is a chance to see things from another view, to elevate above the everyday world and to find a higher meaning, a purpose to all of this.

Not everyone gets that clarity. Most stomp through life, twisting through the well-worn paths and never even looking ahead, let alone above.

Not everyone can see where the parade leads. Instead they march on, following the route laid out by someone else. All they can see is the poor chump in front of them. The crowds are cheering, but the reason is a mystery. Winding through the streets, the deepest thing they’ll ever realize is when it it’s over.

Pastor Eric Parks preached this last week and he said this. “In the end, joy will win. And if joy hasn’t yet won, it isn’t yet the end. “

Don’t hold me back!

I have a brother-in-law who just got The Diagnosis. Out of the blue, without warning. He’s shocked. We are all shocked. His family is rallying. His friends are supportive. His church is praying.

He’s a strong man with a great perspective on this life and the next. But his present suffering is causing him to squint into the horizon and look for joy.

He gets it. But so many others don’t.

Suffering helps us have a razor-sharp clarity, a 20-20 vision that puts us on the observation deck instead of the gutter.

I think I’m ready for a promotion. Second grade, here I come!


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