Joy in Suffering



Shortly after being diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease in 2013, I was told by a GI specialist in Brazil that I would need surgery. Though I was already in a lot of pain, the thought of surgery (even more pain!) seemed unbearable. I decided to get a second opinion, then a third. It was settled. I had to go under the knife. I dreaded the thought, but finally submitted. 

The whole ordeal has been by far the most painful, uncomfortable and inconvenient experience of my life. The surgery, recovery process and then finally the ileostomy reversal (a second surgery) lasted five months. It was terrible! I hope I never have to face anything like that again. Looking back it’s hard to believe that I endured. I thank God I did. Life has been so good ever since. 

So how did I survive? I can summarize it in one word—HOPE. What is hope? Simply put, it is the conviction that something will happen in the future. So what was I hoping for as I endured the pain and suffering of surgery? A better quality, pain-free life. Being able to eat and digest my food. 

But for that kind of conviction to exist, there has to be some kind of basis. If I hope that the sun will rise tomorrow, that certainty does not come from knowledge of the future. I can’t predict the future. My certainty comes from the fact that every morning until now the sun has risen. My hope in a good outcome after surgery was based on the good track-record of my surgeon and the reputation of the hospital for which she worked.

In his first epistle, Peter explains the Christian’s hope in a similar vein:

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials… (1 Peter 1:6).

Peter is saying that Christians can “rejoice” in spite of “various trials” they may be facing. But how? This statement seems incomplete. It doesn’t explain the basis of the rejoicing. You have to read the previous verses to understand what the phrase “in this” is referring to. The “this,” according Peter, is what enables Christians to rejoice in suffering. In verse 3, Peter began by saying that God,

…according to his great mercy…caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…

This “living hope” in a future “inheritance that is imperishable” is what brings joy in the midst of suffering. But on what basis does this conviction of a future “inheritance” rest? For Peter, it was “the resurrection  of Jesus Christ from dead.”

As one of my favorite hymns states, “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.” 

I love Ellen White’s summary of this idea: 

God never leads His children otherwise than they would choose to be led, if they could see the end from the beginning, and discern the glory of the purpose which they are fulfilling as co-workers with Him.—The Desire of Ages, p. 224

If I could have seen “the end [my 2021 pain-free life) from the beginning [my 2013 debilitating life],” I would have never resisted the knife in 2014. My five months of suffering would have seemed so insignificant compared to the quality life that I have lived since then. Now, in the context of eternity and the present temporal life, I’m thankful for the hope of something better that enables us to rejoice in midst of our current suffering.  

Related Information