The Gift of Suffering

Courtney’s exact words as we lay in bed Tuesday night were, “I knew this day would come. But I didn’t think it would be today.”

We received the call that evening that her daddy, Ricky Ferguson, had passed away at home on November 6, 2018. It was not expected. It was not easy. It was not welcomed. 

We drove down to Mississippi the next day, and the following 5 days were emotionally exhausting. Our sleeping arrangements did not provide for much sleep, despite the gracious effort from her mom to host us during that difficult time.

I was asked to preach Ricky’s funeral that Sunday, an opportunity that I cherish. It was harder than I thought it would be, but Ricky deserved a funeral where family got to share from their hearts. We were glad to honor him. We will never stop loving “Pappy.”

We left the next morning (Monday) and arrived back to Kansas that evening around 10:30pm. The drive took us about 12 hours. Then it was back to work in the morning.

In the office at Grace, we have a scheduled daily “check-in” each morning at 8:30am. We quickly share our workload for the day, what we are grateful for, and what we are praying for, then we pray. Depending on the day, it takes between 15-30 minutes.  

That Tuesday morning, I could hardly speak without tearing up. I had just returned from a week of grief, tears, and relational expense. When it was my turn to share, I didn’t want to talk. Which, believe it or not, is not really like me (lol).

I was extremely grateful for the people around me... but I couldn’t share what I was truly grateful for that morning without breaking down.

I was grateful for suffering. I realize now as I write this how super spiritual that sounds. But that was the truth. Somehow God turned suffering into a gift right before my eyes. 

How can something that feels so bad be a gift? Well, I think it’s a gift primarily because of how horrible it is.

Let me explain. 

It’s so bad, you can no longer “coast” or pretend to be happy. You can no longer ignore reality. When you are in severe pain (especially emotional) you cannot tolerate polite clichés or “artificial sweeteners.” Superficial remedies are repulsive.  

Suffering drives me to Jesus. It forces me to choose whether or not I will rest in Him, find my strength in Him, and wait upon Him.

Suffering exposes my lack of humility, my weaknesses and temptations, and my dependence on the Holy Spirit.

Oh, how I need His help!!! 

James tells me that suffering produces endurance. And if I let it have its full effect, it will mature me. I will come to know the joy in suffering if I keep my eyes fixed on Jesus. 

This Thanksgiving, I hope you experience joy and sweet time with the people you love. I pray that God uses your gratefulness to encourage and inspire them. 

As for me, I will be giving thanks to God for His grace, His strength, the wisdom He generously gives, and His comfort in the midst of pain.

Happy Thanksgiving!
Pastor Jack