Joy in the midst of suffering

Published 3:42 pm Friday, February 23, 2018

When we learned last year that another grandbaby was on the way, I told Madeline that Papa would be holding that little one after she got here.  Madeline was quick on the draw as she stated without hesitation: “I will still be your girl!”  And now that little Raegan has arrived (and is already four months old) there is no indication of jealousy from any of our girls when Papa holds the baby. 

We have endured a lot just like all families; most of it has been very good but there have been a few challenges peppered in along the way.  But no matter what, God has been good to us and we have reason to keep joy in our hearts.  I was reminded recently while making a visit to the local emergency room that we can find reasons to smile even during seasons of difficulty in life.

As we well know, the flu has been a real challenge in recent weeks and it has hit some families really hard—including Madeline’s.  For a nine year old to go through days and days of discomfort, it is a tough road to endure (while her mother was terribly sick at the same time).  When Gale got the call that Kristie was on the way to the emergency room with her it was cause for concern.  Surprisingly the trip was not because of the flu—it was an accident.  As she got out of the bathtub she slipped and her toes collided with a small stool that resulted in a large, ugly, bloody gash between her toes.  When it rains it pours!

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How do you explain the hardships of life to a little girl that was already sick and now about to have a big needle stuck in her little foot?  Some things cannot be satisfactorily explained, but there are things to be thankful for even in moments like that.  With Nana on one side of the bed and Papa on the other, we held Madeline’s hands and she squeezed ours as a very talented and compassionate local surgeon patiently worked on her.  Finally seven neatly placed stitches were in place and the healing process was ready to begin.

Understandably there were some tears, but I noticed that when it was all done, Madeline sat on the procedure table and started to produce a huge smile.  I suppose it was a smile of relief that recognized that the doctor had finished his work.  Sure there was more pain to contend with in the days ahead, but for that moment a major victory had been achieved.  And just before I started to write a few minutes ago, she presented her foot for me to see—the stitches are now removed and she is back in her school shoes.

There are times in life when it seems impossible to have joy.  As a nation, we have witnessed that in a most horrible way in recent days.  Yet in the midst of tragedy and heartache, we can still have joy deep in our hearts that is based on our relationship with God within and not on the circumstances around us.  As Paul wrote to the Christians in the church of his day, he commended and encouraged them with these words:  “You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit”  (1 Thessalonians 1:6, New International Version).  As surely as the Holy Spirit gave them joy during their sufferings, He is able to do the same for us today as we allow Him to guide our lives.