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In May of 2019, I was living my best life. 

I had just graduated college, was thriving in extracurricular activities and loved the way God was using me. After finishing an intense few months of student teaching, working three jobs, leading a dance ministry team, participating in two praise teams, and maintaining a relationship, however, it was clear: 
I was burned out. I was certainly not living my best life.

What appeared as thriving, was really surviving. And as I was surviving, I was actually dying. Not in a literal sense, but in a physically deteriorating one
When I was diagnosed with IBS-C, I thought that I knew what pain was like. After countless trips to the ER and nauseating stomach cramps, I never expected it could get worse until it did. The Doctor’s said it was from prolonged stress and genetic anxiety. But who really wants to hear that? An answer without a solution.

About a year after my IBS diagnosis, however, I began to notice that something else was off with my health. 

Not only had my anxiety sky-rocketed, but I was now experiencing debilitating periods every single month. It wasn’t until I blacked out from the cramping half a dozen times that I listened to my concerned kin and formally got it checked out. 

Flash-forward to 2022 and I have a swarm of diagnoses that try to define me: IBS-C, a tortured colon, Endometriosis, Subclinical Hypothyroidism, Panic Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, the list never ends. 

Living my “best life” in 2019 and beyond of pushed to the brim boundaries and over-extended services was not adding to my life. And though I’d bought into the lie that productivity would make me worthy, loved, valuable, and acceptable (you fill in the blank), it left me sick and weary. 

I still fight that beast of a productivity-driven faith and life today. 

The Ugly Truth
Because as I look back on the last few years of my life, I know that my faith has been under pressure. I have asked God so many questions. And while I wish I could say my battle with physical and mental health struggles has always drawn me closer to Him, that wouldn’t be truthful.

There have been many days that I have wondered why God hasn’t healed my Dad. Why God wouldn’t heal a man who has suffered 12 years in physical agony and only continued to deteriorate? Why God would allow a man who brought me to Jesus to turn into one so far from Him? 

There have been many months that I have wished and begged God to take me out of a season that is hard to walk through. A season that I know He can use for my good and His glory, but I don’t want to face. A season I want to rush, or jump, or skip altogether, but He says is in the business of pruning and necessary.

There have been years that I have suffered from physical and mental pain and questioned why God won’t just take it away. How He can be a good and powerful God who chooses to heal some here and now and chooses to heal some later. How He could allow good Christian people to say such cruel and nasty things? How He can watch me have a panic attack driving and not take it away? 

There have been decades that I have sang on a praise team, said a prayer, or read Scriptures but felt I was just checking off boxes and going through the motions. Times where I beg for more of Him but feel like I am praying to a brick wall. 

But it is within those days, months, years, and decades that I realize those moments are real. Those are the moments that while I do not always feel close to God, I know He is there. 

How I Feel

There is something about pouring out my raw emotions and ugly truths on paper with red bleeding ink that brings healing to my soul. It seems that the more I tell Him exactly how I feel, the more my focus shifts from me to Him.

I begin to think about how everything is a miracle.

How even in the pain He brought good.

I see the way He had my fiancé call me while I was having a panic attack driving in the middle of a storm.

I now see the way He brought sunshine through the clouds before a run on a rainy day.

I start to notice the small things He does every day within the pain that I often glance over without notice. 

I realize that even as I suffer there is something good.

I Want to Know Christ
In Philippians 3:10-11 of the New Living Translation, the Scriptures state these words about life and suffering: “I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised Him from the dead. I want to suffer with Him, sharing in His death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:10-11, New Living Translation). 

While this life-changing prayer may not seem the most appealing to you, I want you to know that when I read it, God spoke to my soul, and I know He can speak to yours.

Because when I read these simple verses, I heard this:

“Amber, if you want to know me more, you have to be willing to share in my suffering and not just the resurrection. You have to tell me the raw emotions as they are. You have to tell me what is really in and on your heart.”

This life here on earth is complicated. Not everything will make sense. Indeed, few things will. 

But in a whisper, Jesus says this, “But if you share in my suffering, someday it will all be worth it. Some way or another, if you believe in me, you will rise above what appears to be your greatest struggles.”

Today, I am not sure what physical or mental suffering you may be enduring. I know enough family and friends’ experiences to know it is a cultural phenomenon. 

Pain and suffering are ugly things that rear their head when we least want to deal with them. 

But though Jesus’ statement most often refers to suffering and persecution for sharing the Gospel, I believe it also applies to the brokenness of humanity and health that we often face today.

Now We’re Getting Somewhere
I do not know why we have to taste the bitter tears of gnawing pain and broken hearts. 
I do not know why we have to experience fragmented realities and demolished dreams.
I do not know why an all-loving and powerful God would have us walk through such difficult and confusing things. 

But I do know that if through and in suffering I am made more like Christ, then all the pain and anguish are worth it. Not because they are fun to go through or because God sent those things, but because He can and will bring something good out of them.

And I am confident that as I pen honest words on a page and my heart is bleeding, He replies, “Now we are getting somewhere.”

Not because He desires for me to suffer.Not because He turns every mess into a message or test into a testimony.Not because of common religious cliches that sound cute but bring devastating harm. 

But because the moment I choose to sit. Stop. Stare. Soak in His presence. Stay in the silence that scares me. Stay in the suffering that pains me. Share what is on my heart and mind. Look to Him. 

That is where He moves. 
This is where He speaks. 

That is where my beating heart meets the pavement. Where He gives me a new vision so that I can truly begin to see. Not with my eyes, but with my heart, soul, and mind. 

Those who know His name trust in Him. Those who know His name see Jesus in their suffering.

I am learning to know Him in the suffering. 

It’s my prayer He’s still working in me from within it.

Agape, Amber