I’ve suffered a lot over the last five years as I’ve battled a debilitating chronic illness. And, I’ve also seen God bring about a lot of good through my suffering—I have more gratitude and joy in the little things; I’ve matured spiritually; my husband and I have a sweeter marriage; I’ve been able to encourage many other people who suffer from chronic illness through my story.
But I must confess, if you were to ask me today, “Do all these good things make your suffering worth it?” I couldn’t honestly say that it does. The physical agony and mental anguish of my most difficult days were just too much. I still don’t feel like it was worth it. Does this mean I’m not godly enough or mature enough?
Perhaps… but I don’t think so. When I look at the Bible, I don’t see outcomes in this world being held up as the ultimate answer to the problem of suffering.
Maybe this world isn’t supposed to make up for all our suffering. Maybe the “turning for good” that God allows us to see here on earth is only a foretaste. Maybe it isn’t meant to satisfy our deepest cries. Maybe it’s only supposed to whet our appetite for the redemption that’s coming.
2 Corinthians 4:17-18 (ESV) says, “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. ”
I find great comfort in that. I don’t need to look to the things I can see for the assurance that my suffering has a satisfying purpose. I can trust in what I cannot yet see, that my suffering is preparing an eternal weight of glory that will far outweigh all of it. Every sleepless night, every hour that I screamed in pain, every terrifying ER visit. All of it.
It’s okay that the resulting good that I can see on this side of heaven doesn’t feel like enough yet. Because right now, I can only see a fraction of the good that God is working through my pain. In heaven, I will be able to see the full picture and I will surely say, “It was all worth it. I wouldn’t change anything.”
Ana Harris is a committed disciple of Christ who seeks to glorify God and encourage others through her story. Over the last five years she has walked the difficult road of chronic illness with help from her incredible family and husband, Brett. You can follow her recovery journey at anaharriswrites.com.