How Much Suffering is Too Much?

Enough. Have you ever said that to God?

Enough suffering, Lord. I’ve had more than my fair share of trouble. When is it going to stop?

Remember the trials and tribulations of Job? His near-perfect life was disrupted by trouble. Lots and lots of trouble. He lost his children, his wealth, and his health in a swift series of events that seemingly defied explanation.

Many of us know someone like Job. Someone who has experienced extraordinary suffering. I have a friend who lost his father, brother, and wife, all within five months. Another friend and her husband have been unemployed for several years and suffer from several debilitating illnesses. Still another friend has breast cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy in the hope that surgery will be a later option. (Right about now you may be wondering if it’s safe to be my friend!)

I recently learned of another person who received bad news. Joni Eareckson Tada has breast cancer…again.

What did you think when you read those words? Did the word enough spring to mind? After all, Joni has been a quadriplegic for more than fifty years. Instead of hiding in a corner or throwing herself a life-long pity party, she became an author, speaker, and founder of Joni and Friends, an international ministry that shares the hope of the gospel and offers practical help to those impacted by disability.

She is an advocate for those with disabilities and the author of forty-eight at least 48 books. She is also an artist, having learned to paint with a brush between her teeth. Joni does all this and more from her wheelchair.

And after battling Stage 3 breast cancer in 2010, she was diagnosed with breast cancer again two months ago.

Why breast cancer? Why now? Rather than ask these kinds of questions, Joni viewed her cancer through a different lens. She has often said that “our afflictions come from the hand of our all-wise and sovereign God.” This diagnosis is no different.

When she was first diagnosed eight years ago, Joni noted with her characteristic sense of humor, “Although cancer is something new, I am content to receive from God whatever He deems fit for me – even if it is from His left hand (better from His left hand, than no hand at all, right?!).”

Joni did not ask why because she was already sure of the answer. She went on to say, “Yes, it’s alarming, but rest assured that Ken and I are utterly convinced that God is going to use this to stretch our faith, brighten our hope, and strengthen our witness to others…”

She added, “For years I have hoped that my quadriplegia might encourage people struggling with cancer… now I have a chance to truly empathize and journey alongside, affirming that God’s grace is always sufficient for whatever the disease or disability.”

After receiving this repeat diagnosis, Joni said, “What good is it if we only trust the Lord when we understand His ways? That only guarantees a life filled with doubts.”

It’s easy for us to quote Scripture when life is pleasant. But when we’re confronted with a dreaded diagnosis, the death of a loved one, or a financial loss, can we say with Joni, “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken” (Psalm 62:5-6)?

When confronted with suffering, often our first inclination is to ask, Why? Perhaps a better question to ask is, Why not? We live in a sin-sick world. God never promised us a life free from trouble. However, we can choose how we will respond to the uncertainties and difficulties of life.

I love how Joni puts it: “Faith isn’t the ability to believe long and far into the misty future. It’s simply taking God at His Word and taking the next step.”

What next step is God calling you to take today in faith?


10 responses to “How Much Suffering is Too Much?”

  1. Joanna says:

    My ladies group and I have been studying “Becoming a Woman Whose God is Enough” by Cynthia Heald. What a wonderful example of someone who knows that her God is indeed enough no matter what the circumstance because she has walked closely with him all of these years. I want to have a faith like that. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Ava Pennington says:

    Yes, she is indeed a wonderful example of an intimate faith-walk for me, too!

  3. The news is heartbreaking but her attitude and understanding of our God is encouraging. Truly, she is a woman of faith.

  4. Ava Pennington says:

    Yes, she is, Beth!

  5. Jessica Brodie says:

    SO true what you said: “God never promised us a life free from trouble. However, we can choose how we will respond to the uncertainties and difficulties of life.” I agree completely. Bless you.

  6. Ava Pennington says:

    Thank you, Jessica.

  7. Debra Allard says:

    Such a good post Ava. I think if Christians never had difficulties the world would never know the difference between handling problems with Jesus in our lives and handling them without Him. He truly is our rock, our strength, and our fortress. Nothing is impossible for Him.

  8. Ava Pennington says:

    So true, Deb…as you are personally experiencing!

  9. Shannan Aprile says:

    Hi Ava…thank you for this. Isn’t it comforting to know, no matter WHAT! We have the assurance that God is right there. Who are we to assume the hard time is directed at us, perhaps God trusts us to handle it in order that thru us…someone else is drawn more near to Him. It changes the focus and makes it a privilege to suffer for His glory. Just thinking. oxox

  10. Ava Pennington says:

    Good thinking, Shannan!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.