I can’t remember any season of life where pain has touched so many lives around us, can you? In my church, family, and neighborhood, I see divorce. Cancer. Loss of loved ones. Prodigal children. Isolation. Financial hardship. Physical pain. Injustice. Wounding, stressful trials can seem overwhelming, with joy and hope slipping away from broken hearts. We wonder if it’s truly possible to find joy in a season of suffering.
Perhaps you, too, are grieving with friends and loved ones in their painful trials today. Maybe you are personally experiencing deep wounds that leave you confused, afraid, and exhausted. You’ve heard the familiar words of James 1:2, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds…” but that kind of joy can seem out of reach.
Today we welcome Sheryl Aeschliman, founder of Simply Scripture, who shares her own story of discovering joy on a journey through a dark valley of struggle and pain. Just as God shined his light into her darkness, He is ready and able to help and comfort you and me.
Three Reasons Why You Can Find Joy in Your Season of Suffering
The car door slammed shut. I pressed my head a little too hard on the steering wheel while I screamed, “No, God! Please don’t do this to me! I do NOT want to walk down this road. It will be too long and too painful!”
After a few minutes of undignified snot-bawling and a few more unintelligible waves of pointless arguing with God, I grew silent. I grabbed for a Kleenex to erase the evidence of emotions that were dripping off my chin and looked in the rear-view mirror. What a mess.
While angrily dabbing my heart-stains off my cheeks, my Heavenly Father began to say, “I know you don’t want to walk this road, but I have a plan.”
Ok, Lord. I (resentfully) trust You. There, I said it. I trust You in the joyless pain of this ridiculous trial You are calling a “plan.” I crammed my pitifully soggy Kleenex back into my purse for an inevitable round two.
It was at that moment I knew I had stepped over the line of being honest before the Lord into splattering my sinful-stumbling heart of disbelief, doubt, and disrespect all over His glorious throne.
The tears began to roll for a different reason this time.
Lord, I am Yours and I am totally out of line, here. Show me how to joyfully submit to Your plan even when it hurts beyond words. I choose to serve You when I don’t understand. I choose to worship You while I am waiting. I will follow where You are leading, even through this dark season of suffering.
The Lord knew it wasn’t a situational change that I needed as much as a change in perspective. He faithfully showed me how to keep my eyes fixed on Him while I waited for Him to fix me.
In my recent study of Philippians, Paul’s words jumped off the page to tell me how to be joyful in the waiting. He was in prison and facing a death sentence as he wrote that book. Yet the word JOY is mentioned over 20 times in just a few chapters, which caused me to realize Paul knew about finding joy during trials.
These are three precious changes in perspective that the book of Philippians showed me in my pain.
This suffering will cause the gospel to advance
Let’s face it. When we get thrown into a set of circumstances that send us reeling and waiting on God for breakthrough, we all tend to spiritually hit the big red button called doubt. We doubt God listens and we doubt He cares or even sees the chaos.
I believed those lies but Paul never let one shred of it into his heart and mind. Instead, he trusted His God was going to work his suffering out for good. In Philippians 1:12-14 he declares,
Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.
And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.
Paul understood that suffering is a part of every human experience, but how it is handled is what matters.
Suffering is all about the gospel becoming reality to me and through me. Walking through this lengthy trial with the Lord is showing me His forgiveness and how to extend that forgiveness to others. He is teaching me how to rely on His sovereignty and relinquish control into His hands. He is giving me hope when it seems like my heart is crushed beyond repair.
God is lavishing me every morning with the beautiful, good news that He is expert in turning awful things into part of His perfect redemption story. He is comforting me in ways that I never knew possible. His Holy Spirit refines, directs, empowers, and helps me through each day.
My faith is only growing more beautiful, intricate, and solid in the testing as I cling to the cross. My trials are to my spiritual advantage if I have the right perspective. Just as Paul could rejoice on death row, so I can rejoice in my trial as well.
This suffering will purify and clarify my calling
Suffering is a purifier. It purifies motives and messages, as well as trajectories and trends. Hardships and trials will intensify the pursuit of God while prayer becomes authentic rather than routine. I learn total dependence on my Heavenly Father as He takes me to the end of my hoarded resources and opens the door to endless riches in Christ.
This strange phenomenon will eventually produce an abundant harvest of spiritual fruit like joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness and self-control. There is a little catch I learned in the book of Philippians, though. That kind of godly fruit is only produced if I walk through the trial side by side with the Lord. Otherwise, the enemy will sow seeds of bitterness, resentment and doubt.
As the pressure of suffering is steadily increasing in intensity, it causes me to re-evaluate my physical and spiritual life in a way that matures me and molds me into the image of Christ like none other. Accepting this trial as a blessing drives me into the loving arms of my Father as He teaches me the power of joy in suffering.
This suffering will strengthen other believers
I don’t live on an island. I live on a mid-west farm surrounded by cattle, corn, and other humans. Believe me, in a small town those other people know me well and watch the fruit of my life. They see how I negatively react to things and how I rightly respond to others. They get to see an up close, real-life, no-holds-barred kinda faith when the going gets tough. I discovered that how I wait on the Lord has a powerful effect on their walk with Him as well. Testimony matters.
God will use the very things that break my heart to help mend a struggling sister in the same boat. He is really good at redemption, reconciliation, and release. In my season of suffering, God can accomplish his Word in Psalm 40:1-3:
I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.
I don’t know what God is allowing to happen in your life right now. But I challenge you: Go ahead. Think of one area of your life where you are suffering or waiting on God to work. Then, make a list of ways that the gospel can be advanced in your personal life through that trial.
Next, list the ways that this trial is purifying your thoughts, motives, or actions. Spend time asking the Lord to help clarify your calling, and then write down the areas you sense He is leading you to serve, to surrender, or to step up. Thank God for all the ways He is equipping you to serve someone else who may face that same exact trial.
Finally, praise Him in the storm. Thank Him for His love and power that gives pure joy in your season of suffering.
Sister, God is turning you into a spiritual super-woman! As you walk through this trial, ask the Lord to change your perspective. After all, your trial is not a hinderance or a handicap–it is your Heavenly Father’s way of making you battle-ready. That my friend, is a reason for joy!
Sheryl Aeschliman is a farmer’s wife, mom, grandma and Jesus lover above all else! As an author, teacher, and leader in women’s ministry, she draws from over 25 years of experience in helping women of all ages discover Biblical truth. Her calling and passion to equip Christian women led her to create Simply Scripture as a platform to encourage others to dig into the Bible with confidence. Sheryl writes and teaches online Bible studies designed to guide women into the grace that is only found in Jesus Christ.
To connect with Sheryl and discover more biblical encouragement for your life, head to Facebook, Instagram, and her YouTube channel. Find community with other believers to grow through her online Bible study group, A Simple Gathering.