Rejoicing in Suffering

~ Blog post by Autumn Cockrell ~

If you could have planned your life, what would it have looked like? I’ll go first.

I would have met a good man when I was 17, started college but then get engaged by the time I was 18. I would have published a book before getting married and be pregnant at 19, or at least by 20 years old. Now,  at 23, I would have at least two children and possibly be pregnant with another. My husband and I would have a nice house, good health, and I would be writing my second book.
Needless to say, my life looks nothing like that fantasy! I started college at 17, but I went through four years of crippling depression and anxiety and considered taking my own life. I also chased after two boys that didn’t love Jesus and that resulted in heartbreak. At 20, I was diagnosed with a chronic illness that would not only affect every aspect of my life, but it would greatly impact my ability to have children. I attempted to get my book published only to have 17 rejections thrown back at me over the course of five months. At 21, I met and married my now husband but was unable to get pregnant right away. When I was 22, my husband had not one, but three surgeries back to back to fix a broken collarbone. He then had to be on IV antibiotics for three months to fight the bone infection that had developed during the three surgeries. He didn’t work for six months and we lived off of my salary. Now, at 23, I’ve been walking through fertility treatments for seven months to try and have a baby with no success. I don’t write this in hopes someone will take pity on me. I write this to point something out to you.
Look at how I would have had my life: easy, short, sweet, to the point, and simple. Now look at the life God gave me: complicated, joyful, emotionally draining, long, sweet, painful, depressing, straining, difficult. Yet, it is so beautiful and I will take this life over the simple one I would have written for myself! Why? Because while the life God has given me has been hard, it has taught me so much about God, His character, His love, and what He wants for me. Throughout the rollercoaster that has been the past 6 years, one thing has stayed the same: God! For He is the same today, tomorrow, and always! (Hebrews 13:8)

In your life, do you find yourself celebrating God and the life He’s given you?

When recounting our lives, we often focus on the negative and what God hasn’t given us. Maybe he hasn’t given us the job we wanted, the relationship we wanted, the number of children we wanted, the house we wanted, and the list goes on and on. We focus on how we suffer and ask God why He doesn’t ease up on us, give us some good news, a better relationship, relief from depression, and so on it goes.
Let me direct your attention to Romans 5:3-5:
“Not only that,  but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
God wants us to rejoice in our sufferings because, well, look at all the good suffering produces for the Christian life. We all want endurance, good character, and we all want hope! But, if we can only gain these through suffering, shouldn’t we welcome suffering with open arms?
Looking back on what has happened in the life God has given me, I did not welcome the suffering He gave me. However, I can see now how it was good for me. Through depression, He taught me of His love. Through mistakes and sins committed, He showed me His grace. Through financial uncertainty, He taught me how peace and stability are found only through Him. Through infertility, He brought me so close to Him and I feel like my faith is on fire for the first time in years.

Let’s be real here, do we always rejoice in suffering?

No, we don’t. But as Christians, we should strive to practice rejoicing in our pain and know that it will teach us more of God, His love, mercy, and grace. In suffering, we learn that the life God has for us is so much better than what we wanted for ourselves. In suffering, we will learn endurance, character, and hope. In suffering, we learn more about God than we thought possible.
~ Blog post by Autumn Cockrell 

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