“Often, we endure trials seeking God’s deliverance from them. Suffering is painful for us to endure or to see those we love endure. While our instinct is to flee trials, remember that even in the midst of suffering, God’s will is being done.” –Paul Chappell
Soon after becoming a Christian, I was listening to a podcast and the pastor speaking was encouraging his listeners to pray that God would allow them to suffer and go through hard trials. At the time, I was so hungry for God’s spirit that I nervously made that prayer. I didn’t know what would come of it, but lo and behold, God came through with flying colors. A few months after making that prayer, I landed up in the hospital…again.
For some of you, that prayer may not make sense or even seem quite idiotic. I mean, who enjoys to suffer? Don’t we all wish for a carefree life?
Well, God’s plan is backwards to the world’s beliefs. Comfort on earth is not the point of our existence. Our purpose is not to find happiness. Our purpose is to love god and love others.
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”’-Mathew 22: 36-29
We love God by following his commands. When we love others as ourselves, we are loving God with all our heart and soul. To love others fully, we need God’s grace and his spirit that resides to those who believe. Generally, we receive His grace the most when we are going through trials and desperately rely on God for strength. When we do though, it’s not merely for our gain.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any comfort with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” -2 Corinthians 1:3-5
After reading this verse a few nights ago, I was inspired to write. While I have thought a lot about how God has been shaping my character through my trials and I have been treasuring the fact that I have grown closer to God because of them, I often forget about the purpose for these things. God’s grace is not all for my comfort, but for the comfort of others.
During this hospital visit, God gave me solace in a way I had never known before. Compared to my first hospital stay, I was remarkably calmer and had much less anxiety. At times, I questioned why I was even in the hospital because I had times of so much peace and even joy. Not all of it was a bed of roses for sure. I entered psychosis, heard voices and was confused beyond belief. There were moments of intense anxiety. I was traumatized by the event and I am still healing, even more than a year later. However, this time I had God on my side and received so much love from him.
I knew that God wanted me in the hospital for some reason, but in the moment, I didn’t know all the reasons why. I knew that God would be shaping my character, but in those times, that wasn’t always a satisfying answer. After I meditated on that verse, it finally clicked for me. While there are many reasons why God allows us to go through trials, some of which we will never know until we meet Jesus face to face, I believe one of the main reasons God allowed me to go to the hospital again was to comfort the patients in the hospital.
The first night there, a scared, 18-year-old girl came in the middle of the night to my room. She was shrieking and was distressed. Even though I had just entered the hospital, I was remarkably calm in that moment and sat on her bed and offered some encouraging words (the nurse later came in and berated me for sitting on her bed, but whatever, she didn’t mind and it calmed her down). I started praying for her and within minutes she fell asleep peacefully. In the morning, she woke up feeling refreshed and said my words really helped her. The next day she was full of joy and was released from the hospital. When I gave her a hug goodbye, I felt a love for her that I had never had with a stranger before. It seemed almost super-natural. I felt God’s spirit and love flowing through me, it was so effortless.
This feeling would continue to overwhelm me during my hospital stay. I tried to get to know a lot of the patients in the hospital and extend the grace God was giving me. At one point, I even started singing to some of them. (It was barely on key, but when I was that state of mind I had a euphoric sense of confidence which made me believe I was an amazing singer. Nonetheless, the patients enjoyed my efforts)
I was in the hospital for 10 days this time, which was a lot longer than the doctors said I would be and I was anxious every day to get out. I assumed that God was primarily testing my patience but now I believe I was there so could continue loving the people around me. Maybe my roommate would have been in the hospital for a longer period had I not been there to pray and love her. Maybe someone there was in desperate need of companionship and my presence helped them overcome their deep loneliness. Maybe my roommate or some of the others will even come to Christ after seeing me carrying around a bible everywhere with a sense of calm on my face. I have no idea the extent to which I impacted the people around me. I do not know all the reasons for my sufferings, but I do know that God put me on this earth to love others.
He is the reason I am writing to you today and I hope that these words can comfort you through whatever trial you have or are going through. Unfortunately, our world is broken and there will always be hardship for as long as you live. But with Jesus, we have hope—a hope that will never fade if we believe and put our trust in him.
“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” –John 16:33