But what can I say? He has spoken to me, and he himself has done this. I will walk humbly all my years because of the anguish of my soul. Lord, by these things men live; and my spirit finds life in them too... Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish. (vv.15-17)I have read those words before and I confess that I have struggled to make sense of them. Does it really mean that suffering is for my benefit? How do our spirits find life in suffering? Can anguish be good for me?
I have seen spirits languish from a life of prosperity and ease. I have noticed that when things are good, we still find things to complain about... the neighbor's car parked in front of our house; my friend not calling me back; the price of gasoline; the weather. When times are good, we take life for granted. When there is no suffering, we can get petty and picky.
But when we are humbled by suffering, we start being thankful for small mercies... hot tea with honey; a sunrise; a day at home and not in the hospital; being able to breathe. When we are humbled by suffering, we become kinder and more generous. When we are humbled by suffering, we are forced to let go of our pride and self-sufficiency. When we are humbled by suffering we become better people than we were before.
I know I am a better person because of Anna and the grief that I suffered. My brother-in-law is a better person because of the physical injuries he suffered. Joni E. Tada is who she is today, and able to help millions of people, not in spite of, but because of what she suffered.
Unless we choose bitterness and despair, we can become better because of our suffering. And even though we wish that bad things never happened, we can be thankful for the good that results from them. That does not mean that I will ever desire suffering. It's hard; it hurts; and it's humbling. I don't seek it, but when it comes (and because we live, it will come) I can lean into it and learn from it and be transformed by it.
On July 23 we left Virginia for our vacation at Beaver Lake. We were looking forward to a week of boating and fishing with my sister and her husband. There was another family there doing the same thing and on July 25, on a huge lake with 500 miles of coast line, our lives intersected. We were taking turns with the wakeboard and we had just paused to switch skiers when we heard screams. A young man had been thrown off a jet ski and run over by a boat just a few yards away from us. Because our boat was faster than theirs and because my brother-in-law knew the lake, we told the man's family that we would take him to the marina (18 miles away) and they could call 911 and have the ambulance meet us there. We pulled the man (and his mother) onto our boat, wrapped him in our towels and tried to stop the bleeding. It seemed like it took forever to get to the marina. Although the young man was talking and struggling to get comfortable during the ride, by the time the EMTs got there they had to start CPR. We didn't know if he would make it. But he did! He is still in the hospital, but he is out of a coma and he will be transferred to rehab soon.
I read Isaiah 38 on July 23 and on July 25 I wrote in my journal, "I trust that E's accident will also be for his good." That's a lot of trust. That's a big order. But I have a big God. I don't know the rest of E's story... yet, but I expect that this will change his life forever and that someday he will be able to see good come from his suffering and his spirit will find life in this too.