While I am physically terribly inflexible, I have the moves of a Samurai when it comes to attempting to avoid suffering. The great lengths to which we go to avoid suffering speaks deeply to how unnatural pain is to our nature; however, as Christians we are invited to view unnatural suffering in a supernatural way.
The older I get, the more I find my heart longing to learn from those who have suffered well. As such, I find my heroes Corrie ten Boom, Amy Carmichael and Elisabeth Elliot to becoming more constant companions. While their words are direct and sometimes even terse, they have earned the right to be heard. They have no desire to coddle the flesh or bandage a bruised ego. Rather, this trio boldly sings the Savior’s song of suffering. Having walked the costly way of the Cross and gone ahead of us into tragedy, unjust persecution, and extreme pruning, they offer us helps and hand-holds on the way.
This week, God provided balm after balm (and truth bomb after truth bomb) to my achy soul through Elisabeth Elliot’s A Path Through Suffering. One simple line in particular rooted into the soils of my soul.
“If we evade suffering, we will miss out on the splendor.”
The following poem grew from this simply profound truth.
There are splendor fields
Just beyond these hills.
The terribly tight teary trail
Into verdant pastures spills.
Past claustrophobic crevices
Where the way seems to close
Await meandering meadows
Where beauty wildly grows.
Pleasure by pathway of pain.
Tears as trailhead to treasure.
Through the vale of weeping,
On to joy without measure.
When the path seems impassible,
When both flesh and heart fail,
When death seeks to devour,
Do not quit the quizzical trail.
The God-Man came this way.
His love beat down the briar.
He who still walks beside You
Shall carry you when you tire.
When we bend and maneuver and insulate our souls to avoid pain, we are going out of our way to miss the splendor that most assuredly lies on the other side of suffering. Perhaps we need to be more convinced that those who sow in tears will reap in laugher, as promised so beautifully in Psalm 126.
When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them!” The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad. Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like streams in the Negeb. Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.
I’ll see you on the trail!