As I pointed out in my last post, when you believe Jesus to be the Son of God you can no longer see God as out of touch with our suffering. In Jesus Christ, God has suffered with us. He is “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” (Isaiah 53) Just as redemption and hope came out of the suffering of Jesus, God can bring good results out of bad circumstances in our own life. The person who can best identify those good results is the one who has endured the suffering.
I am a pastor today because at the age of nineteen I suffered something akin to a nervous breakdown. I had incredible pain and the symptoms usually associated with only extreme cases of nervous disorders. What made this so odd is that I had nothing to be nervous about. I went through a battery of tests and nothing was found that could explain my distress. Deep depression settled over me. I had no recourse but prayer. Out of that heart cry to God I stumbled on a morning. It was Sunday morning and I forced myself to go to church. I really did not feel like being out in public. I had lost sixty pounds off my football frame of over two hundred pounds. I looked sick and people could not resist asking about my health. I knew everyone in the small town where I lived and so more than anything else I wanted to hide. That morning a converted Jew gave his testimony. He was lively and funny. Out of a crowd of over three hundred in attendance he sought me out that afternoon to learn more about me. When I told him of my strange suffering, he looked me in the eyes and said God is calling you to preach. You are a preacher. I was stunned. Since he was speaking that evening I went back to hear him. I really didn’t listen to his message that night because I could not get out of my mind the words he had said that afternoon. When the invitation was extended I walked forward and asked for prayer. I simply said to the pastor that I may be experiencing God’s call on my life. Several came and knelt with me in prayer. After the service dozens told me that they had already expected this. Many of them were former teachers in Bible study and at public school. The confirmation of their many insights into my life made me certain that this was God’s plan. I returned home, lay down, prayed myself to sleep, and woke up healed. God had removed the symptoms completely. By the end of the week I had been invited to fill a pulpit in a nearby city. I was nineteen. God has opened more doors than I can walk through from that day to this. Suffering forced me to a level of introspection and soul searching that I could never have done without the pressure. A poet once said it this way, “I needed quiet, so He drew me aside.”