A few weeks ago in BSF, we studied the raising of Lazarus in John 11. Although the miracle of raising a dead man is powerful, I found the words and actions of Christ prior to going to Bethany just as impactful. When Jesus receives word that his beloved friend is gravely ill, He replies, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (verse 4). Then the Scripture says that Jesus loved Mary, Martha and their brother Lazarus very much, so when He heard Lazarus was ill, He stayed where He was for two more days (verses 5-6). From that tiny word “so,” we must infer that Jesus’ delay (and therefore Lazarus’ death) was somehow for the good of Mary, Martha and Lazarus.
In the BSF study notes for this passage, the author writes that in this miracle, God’s glory was revealed in a way that blessed all those who witnessed it. Of course, Mary, Martha and Lazarus were blessed in a special way, and in a way they would not have experienced if Jesus had come immediately and healed Lazarus before he died. The same is true of the suffering in our lives. In every trial, there is a unique blessing for the believer, an opportunty for God to be glorified, and an opportunity for other believers to be encouraged by our response of trusting God even in hardship. I learned in the BSF notes that suffering can be wasted, or it can be used to glorify God and seek the blessing He will give in that trial.
Shortly after reading this lesson, our entire family was sick. Nothing serious, but enough to put me out of commission for three days and send us to the pediatrician multiple times in a span of 12 days. As I lay in bed with body aches and a pounding head, my BSF lesson on wasted suffering came to mind. Although I knew my sinus infection was a very minor hardship, I realized that not even minor suffering should be wasted. I started to look for ways that God was blessing our family during our illness. And God showed me several ways. I gave thanks to God for the snow and ice that kept my husband home from work, because I never would have made it without him. I gained renewed compassion for people who are ill. My appreciation and love for my husband grew as I watched him take care of the kids on his own and spend quality time with them while I was sick.
I can’t tell you I spent those three days smiling toward Heaven, singing praise songs and meditating on God’s goodness. I did plenty of complaining and feeling sorry for myself and wishing things were different. Looking back, I can see that the difference between the moments of wasting the suffering and not wasting the suffering was a matter of my focus. When my eyes were on myself and my misery, I moaned and groaned and complained. When my eyes were on God and His glory, I could see the ways He was blessing and providing for me and my family.
I don’t share this out of pride. I don’t think that having a few moments of thankfulness in the midst of a sinus infection is anything to boast about. But I’m thankful that God provided this small test, an opportunity to apply and reinforce what I’m learning in His Word. I want God to be glorified by my life, no matter what the circumstances. I don’t want to waste opportunities to learn more about God’s character and draw closer to my Savior. Even if that means seeing the good in a really, really runny nose.