shared suffering – year 4 and counting


There was a big part of my heart that was empty and confused after my best friend, and sudden husband, who I had so briefly been reconnected with after 11 years apart, died.   It confounded me at first, but after healing with good counsel for a few years it occurred to me in a quiet time of prayer that I was so terrified to be married that no intellectual understanding, or even practical supportive love would soften my resolve to do something I so desired to do.

Our marriage lasted 19 days.  When I expressed to my pastor at that time that I should have married him right away, as soon as my husband had wanted to so that we could have had months instead of days together, (though we thought we had about 5 years), he emphatically shook his head and insisted that he wouldn’t have married us because I wasn’t ready.  I was too muddled to make sense of that but later I can see he was right.  It was only when it got to the point that it seemed I was about to lose Jim that the Lord made me ready.  Before I thought the pastor might be just trying to make me feel better, for how could anyone respond kindly to such a question, but I see that kind response was also starkly true.  As unreasonable and self centered as it was, there was also some glimmer of hope, buried deep, that the sheer force of this realization on my part would somehow change things.  But all it changed was me.

Over these past 4 years, I’ve continually discovered how deep my love for him is, which is as painful as it is a relief.  It is a relief to know that I am able to allow the Spirit to connect me to someone in the way that the Lord intends for those who mutually choose that.  At the same time, there was this lingering question of carrying the new discovery of what I can bring to relationship with the inability to feel that way towards anyone else.  For awhile I clung to Isaiah, that the Creator is my husband, but there are also all these pieces.  The familiarity of his voice, shared laughter, the comfort of touch, the assurance of sitting near him, knowing that I was the one he wanted most at his side.  I needed to accept the absence of this and the sufficiency of His loving presence without the human nearness, only in Spirit.  It seems He is asking this indefinitely.  It empties me.

Elisabeth Elliot writes, “It was a long time before I came to the realization that it is our acceptance of what is given that G-d gives Himself.  Even the Son of G-d had to learn obedience by the things that He suffered.  He had come for only one purpose: ‘Lo, I come, in the volume of the book it is written of me, to do thy will, O G-d.’  And His reward was desolation, crucifixion.

“Each separate experience of individual stripping we may learn to accept as a fragment of the suffering Christ bore when he took it all. ‘Surely He has born our griefs and carried our sorrows’  This grief, this sorrow, this total loss that empties my hands and breaks my heart, I may, if I will, accept, and by accepting it, I find in my hands something to offer.  And so I give it back to Him, who in mysterious exchange, gives Himself to me.”

I’ve known the Lord since 1996 by name, but this experience opened a whole new level of intimacy with Him.  I would never have chosen it.  I don’t regret it, I don’t wish it to be different, and I can’t even claim to want it except for the love which I have no words for that I feel from Him that I could never part with.  It puts me in awe of Jesus’s decision in the garden.  It is an honor to share in the suffering and I do have the assurance of seeing my husband again, and then today, I was listening to Francis Chan and he spoke about listening to a homosexual man in seminary describe his conversion experience.  The Lord did not take away his longing for what he know he shouldn’t have, but all that paled in comparison to the mere glorious fact of our gift of His Son.

May my eyes be continually fixed on the gift that cost Him everything and may every thought of my own loss be seen as but a tiny, infinitesimally small bit of what it must have taken an all loving G-d to watch His perfect Son suffer and die.  I am thankful to share in it and built up in hope of the fact that a gift beyond my comprehension brings victory.  Love always wins.  Always.


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