We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead.
2 Corinthians 1:8-9
Caregiving has forever changed me. In some beautiful, cherished ways and in some ways I’m not at all proud of too. I’m sure there are more than a few here who can relate. It’s always a rich discussion when we get to this principle during the online discipleship group I lead.
In recent blogs, I’ve written about grief and lament — and how uniquely that is experienced by families affected by disability. Part of this life we’re living involves learning to suffer well. Does that statement sound strange? What might it mean or look like to “suffer well?”
“Suffering well” includes allowing God to refine us through challenges.
I believe we honor God and experience richer lives when we let life refine us — shape us for the better. The scary things is, the Almighty Refiner might choose to use a furnace of very high heat. The fires of life can make us terribly uncomfortable. Our human nature will be to resist the fire. But there are gifts and opportunities there.
Life’s shaping and purifying process makes life so much richer. Sometimes I wish I didn’t know that.
Being refined by God means to stop resisting things that aren’t going our way. Stop. Did you catch that? Speaking to myself here: quit resisting all the heat, my friend. Consider that God’s priority is to inject His presence —love, care, vision, and purposes — into the situation rather than just fixing things with His power. Whatever circumstances you’re in, no matter how intense they feel, regardless of how long they seem to drag on, even when pain seems pointless, and we feel hopelessly stuck — God is there.
God doesn’t leave us to burn and He doesn’t leave us alone.
God was in the fire with Daniel.
“Look!” Nebuchadnezzar shouted.
“I see four men, unbound, walking around in the fire unharmed!
And the fourth looks like a god!”
Consider that God’s priority is to inject His presence — love, care, vision, and purposes — into the situation rather than just fixing things with His power.
If we receive God’s presence and power, He will form our character while teaching us to love Him more and love others like Christ loves. And that’s just the beginning of the gifts He’ll unfold.
God will use the heat in our lives to refine others around us too. That could be our spouse. It is often our children. Certainly, God is using the fiery furnace of our lives with disability to refine the broader community too. Our neighborhoods are watching. Our churches see (even when they don’t seem to be looking).
It can be tempting to grow bitter when we feel like we are the only ones allowing the fires of our special situation refine us. I’ve pounded on God’s chest a time or two feeling unheard, unseen, uncared for by Him or someone else. He further refines me by teaching me to be more patient, and trust Him in using his kindness to lead others to repentance.
Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you?
Does this mean nothing to you?
Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?
Romans 2:4 (emphasis mine)
That’s just one lesson I’ve been learning that I attribute to being a special needs mom. I don’t get to define the pace of someone else’s growth.
There are so many many lessons! Here are just a few more of them in a nutshell. Perhaps sharing them will inspire you. It helps hold me accountable to remembering God is faithful to teach me and give me grace, that’s for sure.
Accept that we are all in process.
You, me, our spouses, our children, our friends, our churches, our extended families. All are sinners who fall short. All are acceptable to God when we repent and turn to the Lord. Each of us who believes in Jesus and trusts Him as Lord is in an ever-increasing process of becoming like Him. That is called sanctification. And God alone authors that process for each of us who love Him. I don’t author anybody’s sanctification (even my own), nor do you.
- Suffering transforms us into Christ-likeness (Philippians 3:10) and that’s our highest calling.
- Suffering cultivates our dependence on God (Luke 9:23).
- We learn compassion for others (Philippians 2:5-8).
- We ascribe to new values and develop eternal perspective (2 Corinthians 4:16-18) even to the point of holding onto life and death differently.
Extend compassion, grace and forgiveness toward yourself and others.
Growth is a process. Grief is a process. Faith is a process. It can help to recognize that the ugliest parts of us are most apparent at home and in our closest relationships. (I believe it was author Gary Chapman who said that marriage is the mirror showing us what is worst about us.) Yes, those we live with are often the “mirror” showing us who we really are.
Expect everything from God and little from each other.
This is a broken world and every person faces weakness and vulnerability. With God, there is victory over sin and death, as well as strength in weakness. We can learn to play to each other’s strengths. We can’t let our circumstances have too much power — but we can let them have power to trigger opportunities that nothing else could trigger.
Understand where your true soul cravings are coming from.
We can’t expect to get our greatest fulfillment from our children or spouse, or our circumstances. That’s a set-up for disappointment. Our spirit is designed to crave GOD. So, only deepening our walk with Him will truly satisfy us and energize us for a life that really breathes!
I want that so much. I want a life that breathes life. A life that multiplies life and love is joy. It is a privilege. And that is what growth looks like. I hope I’m growing. Don’t you? I don’t want to be the same person next year that I was this year. Do you?
The human soul was designed to aspire growth. The Creator is the author of all growth. Leaning into a life that cooperates with Him — even when it stings of disability’s fires — is a rich adventure, in so many ways deeply satisfying.
QUESTIONS FOR PERSONAL REFLECTION
In what ways have you seen God strengthen or purify you (your faith, your character, your mindsets) as a result of challenges, special needs, or some other “fire” in your life?
Have you felt vulnerable to thinking certain prayers aren’t being answered because you haven’t learned enough or changed enough? Talk to Jesus about those feelings and let Him show you the truth.
How does the idea of being held in the gentle hand of the Almighty Refiner give you comfort, peace, or hope?
Lisa Jamieson is a caregiver consultant, pastoral counsellor and author of popular books and Bible studies including Finding Glory in the Thorns and Jesus, Let’s Talk. She leads a weekly online discussion group welcoming caregivers in families living with disability. Lisa and her husband, Larry, are co-founders of Walk Right In Ministries, a non-profit organization building faith and community with special needs families. They live in Minnesota with the youngest of their three grown daughters, Carly, who has Angelman Syndrome.
We use one Bible principle as the theme for each week’s discussion during Real Talk Connect. Please consider joining us any Tuesday at 2 pm Central! Drop in for richly encouraging connection in a casual setting.