Laura: Hey guys, welcome back to another episode of Risen Motherhood. I’m Laura Wifler, and I have my sister-in-law Emily Jensen here.
Laura: Before we get to today’s show, we want to remind you—hopefully you know by now—we post two articles a week on our website. Today on the show, we’re talking about a tougher topic: suffering. If something comes to mind as we’re talking, please feel free to search our past podcast shows—you may find something on what you’re thinking about—or search the articles on our site. We often talk about specific motherhood topics in more depth in our articles than we’re able to on a show. We want to encourage you to head to the site and click the “Article” tab to look a little bit deeper.
Emily: And you can get those articles right to your inbox by subscribing to our RSS feed. They’ll come straight to you twice a week and you’ll be up-to-date with what’s on our site.
Laura: We’ll post a link to the subscribe button in our show notes too, so it’s easy to find.
Okay, we’re talking about suffering today. A lot of shows we do at R|M talk about the daily hardships we all experience in motherhood. We all get bogged down by life, feel overwhelmed quickly with all the responsibilities we have, have challenging relationships; and there are a lot of big and small decisions we face every day. So we talk about those types of topics in almost every show.
Emily: Yeah, regularly. But we definitely know we often experience more profound suffering in motherhood. Those are harder things to jump into; we don’t talk about those as frequently on our show because it’s really difficult to sit and linger in that, to experience the depth of it, and to speak to the ends and outs of it in a short 20-minute show. But we know there are those of you out there dealing with really significant hard things in motherhood that make you say, Why God? It can feel like there isn’t a reason or explanation for them, and it makes it really painful. So, instead of diving into any of those specific things that cause deep suffering in motherhood, we want to cover what hope we have in the midst of that type of suffering.
Laura: Suffering can take a lot of forms; the word can mean a lot of different things to different people. Some of us have experienced more suffering than others, especially depending on your life’s circumstances. We know suffering is a very complex topic, but, as Emily said, we’re trying to apply the gospel to the situations that feel very unfair and leave you asking, Why God? Why is this happening? So this might include, but not limited to, miscarriage, infertility, loss of a child at or after birth, a child with extra needs or medical concerns, a child with disabilities, a broken marriage, difficulties in foster care or adoption, or living with a chronic illness. There are more we could mention, but those are a few of the heavier topics we’re generally covering today.
Emily: Even if you’re not someone walking through one of these things specifically, we hope you’ll still listen. I think one thing Laura and I’ve both learned is one of the best ways you can prepare for suffering is to have a theology of it. We should be aware these things happen to people and ask these questions before we go through it, so we anchor our faith in something really deep like the tangible, eternal good news we’ll talk about later. Maybe you have a friend, family member, or someone in your church who’s walking through these things, and it’d be really helpful to hear specific encouragement that might be helpful for certain times.
Laura: We want to do a couple of caveats before we jump in. The first is—as you know—we have a 20-minute show. There’s absolutely no way we can cover the theology of suffering and why bad things happen in 20 minutes. These are things that have entire books written about them, and we’ll point you to some of our favorites on the show notes. But be prepared that we want to start the discussion, as usual, but please go talk about it in your podcast clubs, small groups; or with a counselor, pastor, or mentor. This is just scratching the surface of the conversation. Second, know that Emily and I haven’t experience all of these things personally. We’ve had friends or family who’ve experienced the gamut of different topics, but we may not say everything perfectly depending on where you’re specifically at. We know when you’re suffering—and when we suffer—you’re extra sensitive to things. We want to be gracious and speak kindly, and we also ask for grace as we’re talking too.
Emily: And the final thing before we move forward is we know it’s hard when walking through something really challenging to feel like your experience is being grouped together with something lighter. You may think, Well, I’d rather trade my issue for that issue, because that seems better. But we want to minister to a wide group of moms, so please keep that in mind today. We know everyone experiences suffering differently and it’s complicated. It isn’t necessarily all the same, and we wouldn’t deal with every situation in the same way. We know for sure the gospel does meet us and does give us hope no matter what type of suffering we walk through. So, let’s just into the gospel and see what hope there is.
Laura: In creation, we know in the garden there was good, purposeful, meaningful work that Adam and Eve did for the Kingdom of God. There wasn’t suffering in the way we know it. Their work didn’t include distress, pain, or hardship. Everything was very good in God’s original creation.
Emily: We know after Adam and Eve sinned in the fall, they were banished from the Garden. Life outside of Eden includes profound suffering; we see that from the very beginning. This immediately begs the question, Why is this specific type of suffering happening to me? That’s a question a lot of us ask. It’s really normal to ask it. Laura and I have asked that question before. And asking the question is a really great opportunity to study it throughout scripture. Just grazing over the top, we see sin directly causes suffering, Satan causes suffering; suffering happens without any clear explanation because it’s a general result of living in a broken, cursed world in the “already but not yet.” We also see that God allows and uses suffering, which can be a really difficult thing for us to understand and comprehend. But we see that God has this sovereignty over the sad, hard things; and he uses them for his good purposes, which we’ll get into more. Suffering can be caused by a lot of things, but ultimately, it goes back to sin and God’s sovereignty.
Laura: Suffering is really complicated and multi-layered. It’s hard to live in the not knowing or understanding, but we know that we have redemption. Jesus, who knew no sin at all, became sin for us, so we might be children of God. We know Christ identifies with us in our suffering, because he entered into it and experienced it himself—to the point of death. And he gained victory when he died and rose again. After Jesus’ death and resurrection, he sent the Holy Spirit for us. We don’t mourn or have this hardship or suffering without hope. I think that’s what sets us apart as believers is knowing the suffering we experience today is not the final word for us. We know there is work being done in our suffering and our hearts are being transformed. So we can walk in faith, even in the midst of really, really difficult, hard things. We have a wonderful relationship with God the Father who is a good and perfect comforter for us. We also get the local church, a body of believers who weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn. We band together in the hardships of the broken world we live in, knowing there is a future, which we’ll talk about in consummation. Again, this isn’t the end.
Emily: I love that this is the unique thing we look forward to as believers. Jesus says Behold, I am coming again! I read that not too long ago and I got tears in my eyes just thinking he’s coming back for us. Someday, when that happens, those who died in Christ will be raised to be with him forever. There will be no more tears in the new earth where we go to live with God and reign with Christ forever. There will be an end to suffering. Also, we can know there won’t be suffering that goes overlooked, or unpunished, or unreconciled. God will be just over that, and we can know there will be a satisfactory answer someday, even if we don’t know it now.
Laura: So we want to talk through a few truths that have really encouraged Emily and I as we’ve gone through difficult hardships in our lives. We want to share them with you as general encouragements in no particular order. The first one is in your suffering, God sees you. I think that’s a huge encouragement that what you’re going through is not unseen. I love the verse in 2 Chronicles for the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him. I love that picture of the Lord looking over the entire earth and he sees the distress and hardship. He sees the evil. He sees the good. His eyes are on the ways of man, and he understands what you’re going through; the Bible assures us of that.
Emily: Laura and I have been studying the book of Genesis this fall with our church. I remember one of the passages that really struck me was before God said he was going to flood the whole earth, it says God “saw.” He saw all the evil going on, and he acted in a way that showed his character. It’s really heartening. Another one we wanted to mention—which we’ve touched on a little before—is God enters into and doesn’t exempt himself from suffering, which is super encouraging to me. Sometimes it can feel like God is just up there and I’m just down here in the midst of all the suffering, and he doesn’t have to get in the middle of any of it. But the reality is God the Father watched his own son die. So if any parent understands, God does. He didn’t keep himself out of this; he entered into it. Christ entered into it. There are several parts of the Bible that talk about all the different types of suffering Christ experienced when he was here on earth. He can relate to us in every way. He didn’t hold himself out of the mess of suffering; he really experienced that alongside us.
Laura: That plays into the next one. God is with us; he is our comforter and supporter. We mentioned it earlier, but the Holy Spirit was sent to help, comfort, and guide us until Jesus returns. I think if you’ve gone through any deep suffering, you can attest to the fact that there’s a supernatural comfort of the soul that comes when you know the suffering you’re experiencing today has an end. There’s a future full of hope and joy waiting for you. God loves to comfort and bind the brokenhearted. He loves to be near us all the time, especially when we’re in pain. He’s there and he’s close. I think that’s when he does some of the deepest heart work to really reveal who he is to us. I think feeling that comfort is one of the gifts of suffering.
Emily: I think the times when I look back on my life and know—in the deepest part of my soul—God was and is with me were the same moments I was also in the midst of profound suffering. There maybe were tears falling, but I can remember distinctly knowing it was well with my soul. That is a gift God gives us through the Holy Spirit.
Laura: It’s one of those things where you see someone—maybe at a funeral or in a season of deep suffering—and you wonder, How are they doing it? Because they seem at peace. That’s the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit in their life. That’s something all believers have access to. It doesn’t mean it always be perfect for you in suffering, but I think there’s a really beautiful comfort that can come over your soul when you’re in Christ.
Emily: Another one is to remember God uses our suffering. This is something we’re not always going to know how right away or always have the answer, but our suffering is not meaningless. We see this throughout so many aspects of scripture where God’s people were struggling and going through really difficult, painful things. And yet, he was using it to either work towards redemption or, after redemption, he was working to grow his church and spread his gospel. I think we can be confident that trials of various kinds can really test and grow our faith. They can be used for other ministries and other ways for comforting other people that we hadn’t previously even thought about. He uses it to spread the gospel in ways that are sometimes a mystery to us.
Laura: This is probably my most hopeful piece in the suffering as I’ve gone through things. I don’t know why stuff is happening or how it’s happening, but maybe five years later, I can see better. While I still don’t love that I experienced that, I’m thankful, because now I’m able to minister to this other woman or I’m able to share my firsthand experience on the show, like sharing about our children with special needs. That’s really hard for Emily and I; that’s not always this perfectly, easy thing, but it’s something God’s given us deep joy in and he’s used to minister to other people through. That’s just one example of many, but I love knowing how our suffering has purpose—even if it’s just to have us long for heaven with Christ, point us to God, and long to go deeper into what he loves and cares about. Suffering has a way of melting off the dross and taking away the things that cloud our vision when life is really good and easy. It has that way of pressing it out and really bringing out the gold.
Emily: Finally, we want to acknowledge that this last point is hard to hear sometimes or hard to comprehend, depending on where we are in our suffering, but we want to remember God is good in the midst of it. He saved us from the very worst suffering of all, which would be life and eternity without him. This is an undeserved gift he gave us. No matter what we’re going through in life, that gift is there if we’ve trusted in Christ. And his character is always good; he never wavers or lets his promises go unfulfilled. It’s difficult for us to sometime see, because we’re not looking back with hindsight knowing all the things God knows. This is where trust comes into play and believing God’s promises in his word, even when we don’t necessarily feel it in that moment.
Laura: We know that this is some hard and complicated stuff that—you can tell—we’re still wrapping our minds around. But if you are going through a deep season of suffering, we’re sorry and sad along with you. We want to encourage you to keep pressing into truth and crying out to God. I speak from experience, some of the seasons of suffering are up and down. Some days, I’m really believing truth and it somehow feels a little bit easier. There are other days that I feel very sad, and it’s very hard to remember truth; I have a lot of doubts and fears. I think that’s very normal if you’re going through suffering, but that’s why it’s so important to remind yourself of truth over and over again, finding the Lord everyday to ask him to reveal himself to you in that suffering. God will be faithful to that—even if it takes a few days, a few weeks, or a long season. It’s not a magic potion; I think that’s important to remember. But I think as you continue to invest—even when you’re heart is screaming inside—there is good work being done, and God will be faithful.
Emily: You can head over to our show notes. We worked really hard this week to curate resources that will be helpful if you’re looking for a book to read or other resources that we’ve found helpful. Remember you can always pray. And another thing we’ve found helpful is reading through the Psalms; there are also great devotionals to pair with that. Preach the gospel to yourself, which is repeating and remembering all the things we said on the show today. There are also incredible hymns out there. I think hymns have been one of the most incredible things to me in suffering. I almost can’t even bring myself to have some deep devotional time, but I can turn on “How Firm a Foundation,” and you just cry because the scriptural ideas are woven in there. The truths are there; it’s such a good reminder. Also, talk with people who will listen and meet with you. It’s okay to get counseling and to reach out to somebody who can walk deeply with you for a longer time. Keep trusting God; his mercies are new. If you’re in Christ, he’s going to help you persevere and grow your faith and joy in him, even in the midst of sorrow.
Laura: As we mentioned earlier, we’re going to curate some resources for you, so head over to our show notes at risenmotherhood.com. You’ll find the podcast link to view our show notes and we’ll have more resources there. We’re also on social media @risenmotherhood on all the platforms. I think that’s it. Thanks so much for joining us, guys. We really appreciate all of you tuning in.