As we continue to consider our Navigator Vision, we come to this sentence: “There is perseverance in the face of hardship and suffering.”
On a Saturday night in late June, while in Mexico celebrating their tenth wedding anniversary, my friend Tim Soerens of the Parish Collective and his wife, Cote, were hit head-on by a drunk driver. Their injuries were substantial and their expenses enormous.
My wife, Iris, and I were grief stricken when we heard the news. Tim and I have like minds and hearts when it comes to influencing those around us with the love of Christ. I’ve lost track of the hours in prayer, planning, laughter, and ministry we’ve spent as we’ve worked closely with one another through the years.
Tim and Cote’s joyful perseverance in the face of suffering has been inspirational. So has the amazing ways that their neighbors and friends have rallied around them. Just recently, in cast and walker, Tim helped facilitate one of our leadership initiative sessions in Oregon. He arrived late because he had to have pins removed from his foot, which was crushed in the accident. He moved slowly, was a bit emotional, and testified he is more convinced than ever that loving your neighbors is a radical and transformative act.
Suffering and hardship are a part of what it means to labor in God’s Kingdom. I’m reminded of a Navigator newsletter a few years back which stated, “Living as we do in a broken world, from time to time we break.” We follow One who was despised and rejected; a man of sorrow acquainted with grief (see Isaiah 53:3). We are His followers and His witnesses; suffering and hardship come with the territory.
Some of my Navigator colleagues have openly shared about times of suffering in their lives. Dave Lyons, for example, reflects on lessons from his son Ian’s battle with the cancer that eventually took his life. Dave writes, “Pain reveals and refines the habits of our hearts, our relationships, our core beliefs, and our view of God Himself. God’s approach to shaping His people in this broken world has always incorporated suffering.” (Click here for a video of Dave’s reflections on his son’s cancer.)
Also, David and Jill Brown entered the world of suffering when David broke his neck in a bicycling accident. They shed light on the difficulty of finding God’s purpose in suffering and share that they had to “reframe” their perspective through prayer. “[We] decided to start and end each day expressing thanks to God. The results amazed us. Our situation didn’t change, but we opened up to its blessings and opportunities.”
My colleague Vic Black has examined prayers in the Bible that flow from a place of suffering. He points out that these prayers include expressions of fear, pleas to God for deliverance, and resentment over circumstances, but also wholehearted praise and adoration.
Shortly after Tim and Cote were released from the hospital, my wife and I went to visit them. There were two hospital beds in their living room because they could not climb the stairs to their bedroom. They were in pain and not very mobile. A whole community had rallied around them in amazing ways. After describing their accident, surgeries and more surgeries, and additional challenges, Tim looked up and said, “It’s all a gift.” This is one of Tim’s favorite expressions, but one that suddenly had new meaning.
As I think of our Navigator commitment to persevere “in the face of hardship and suffering,” I’m reminded of the words of early church leader James (James 1:2-4, MSG):
Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.
These words from David Lyons challenge me as well: “We have many tools and techniques and Bible studies designed to help people become more like Jesus. But God also has His own tools and techniques.”
If you have experienced or are experiencing suffering right now. I pray that this pain will bring you into the arms of the God of all comfort (see 2 Corinthians 1).
For Your Consideration:
How have hardship and suffering been a gift to you?
Do you know someone whose response to suffering has inspired you? What have you learned from them?
How would you share biblical truths on suffering with someone who is in pain? What would you say to them? What tone and attitude would be most helpful?
Al Engler is the director of Nav Neighbors. To contact him or to learn more about his ministry, click here.
Editor's Note: This is one in a series of articles unpacking the Navigator vision. The series begins with Unpacking Our Vision: An Introduction.