Note: This article is a guest post by Melissa Harrison.
On this, my forty-third birthday, I have been contemplating how gracious and merciful the Lord has been to me, especially lately.
Three weeks ago, I was in a hospital emergency room in extreme pain; the most severe pain I’d ever experienced—even worse than being in labor during childbirth. The pain was so excruciating, in fact, that I wasn’t sure I’d see forty-three years of age or, to be completely honest, that I wanted to.
I was in such pain that I pleaded to the Lord to take me home to heaven. Yes, it was that bad. But, as time passed that day, God graciously allowed the doctors to find the source of my suffering—ovarian torsion—which was eventually resolved after nearly four hours of surgery.
Little did I know at the time that as I was lying helpless on a gurney in that hospital emergency room, that I was actually being enrolled in God’s schoolhouse of affliction.
You see, when you find yourself stripped of every comfort and crutch—including the one person you would normally rely on—and you’re left feeling completely helpless, that’s when the Lord has your full attention.
At least that was the case for me.
It was those long hours of pleading to the Lord to allow the pain to stop, even if it meant my own death, I discovered the following things about Him—and myself.
Lesson 1: The Lord is good and everything He does is good.
By God’s amazing grace, never once during my ordeal did I question what He was allowing to happen to me nor did I feel abandoned by Him. The pain was purposeful. I knew that much. I just didn’t know to what purpose.
Lesson 2: No matter how much pain the Lord providentially ordained for me to endure, it in no way compared to what Christ willingly and innocently endured on the cross for my sins against Him.
I’d read on previous occasions how people can be in such physical agony as to cause them to vomit. I wasn’t sure how that could possibly happen. But it happened to me—eleven times within a twelve-hour period—by my husband’s count.
By now you may be asking: So, what’s the big deal? Well, have you ever considered how complex your body is? All the tissues, muscles, bones, nerves, and organs seem to function seamlessly. And yet God sustains our physical existence through some of the most extreme circumstances imaginable.
How often we take for granted how big, awesome, and powerful is the God whom we worship (Ephesians 1:19a). My body was able to endure the depths of such pain only because the God who created my body sustained me through it.
Lesson 4: I was reminded that God hates pride. Indeed, God hates all sin. But He has a particular hatred of the sin of pride. Pride is placing oneself on the throne of your heart where only God belongs. And when that order is inverted, He will not hesitate to use physical pain to mortify any and all illusions of idolatry that manifests itself in the pride of self-sufficiency (Proverbs 11:2).
One verse that has consistently given me great comfort over the course of my walk with Christ is Phillipians 1:6, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” While in God’s classroom of affliction, I was sustained by the truth that the God who died for me has promised to conform me into the image of His Son (Romans 8:29).
It is God’s will that His children be made into the image of Christ, which often entails suffering of various kinds (Philippians 1:29). It is what the Bible calls sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:7). God will employ whatever means necessary to mature us spiritually. And for that, I am grateful to Him. Even if it meant having to endure twelve hours of tormenting pain and four hours of emergency surgery.
“The Christian life is a call to glory through the path of suffering.” — John MacArthur
I am neither a writer nor a blogger.
My poor words could never do God the justice He deserves for bringing me through the situation He sovereignly designed for me to encounter. So, I ask your forgiveness if this post seems disjointed or confusing. I simply felt compelled to express an overwhelming desire to give glory to my Father in Heaven, who is great and greatly to be praised (Psalm 96:4)!
I would also hope that this will be an encouragement to anyone who finds himself or herself going through God’s school of affliction at this very moment—whatever that suffering may look like (1 Peter 1:6-7).
Keep the faith.
God is trustworthy.
God is faithful.
He will sustain you.
 MacArthur NASB translation