You’re going to say thanks for the suffering

We’re moving to NYC this weekend. And as I was packing, I was reminded of one of the most profound memories I have while living in South Carolina — the day God told me, that one day, I was going to thank Him for my suffering.

(And He was right.)

You’re going to thank Him for yours as well…

It was two years ago, when I had first moved to SC and was still up to my ears in marriage counseling and panic attacks, that I did something completely out of character for myself — I escaped to a cabin in the mountains by myself.

It was during that weekend in the mountains of North Carolina, and against my better judgment, that I went canoeing. By myself… and with no idea of the impending rain storm that was moving in, coincidentally, around the time I had paddled concerningly far from the dock I had originally pushed off from.

As the rain unleashed onto the lake that day, I’ll never forget how furiously I had paddled. How I had pushed strong and purposefully through the water while the wind pushed against my best efforts as I oared, sending my boat spinning in the opposite direction. Until finally, I was able to slam the boat onto some random part of the shore, leaving me to drag it uphill the rest of the distance, my feet sinking up to my ankles in mud with every step.

It was then – when I was out of breath, covered in mud, and mumbling curse words under my breath – that the Lord spoke so clear it startled me. (Isn’t that usually the time God speaks most clearly? When we’re drenched head to toe in disappointment, and mumbling curse words under our breath.)

I’ll never forget it…

Almost audibly, God said, “Imagine where you would be had I left you to navigate the storms of your life on your own.”

It wouldn’t be pretty, that’s for sure, I thought… Thinking of my failed attempts at controlling the direction of the boat, slamming onto some random shore, and dragging what was far too heavy for me to carry on my own until I had nearly passed out.

Thinking also, of the ways the Lord had been there for me through the storms of my life in 2014. How my life, like my canoe, had been traveling along on its merry way when a single rain drop – one confession made on a bitterly cold night – seemed to usher in a storm into my marriage that would jostle my little life into a chaos I couldn’t see my way out of.

How had it not been for God and the stillness only He could bring, how my husband and I would’ve been paddling strong and hard and not getting very far, aimlessly searching for a way to escape the storm, while our best efforts left us cursing and struggling to pick up the pieces in our own strength.

But how I was never left to navigate the downpour alone…

(and how neither are you, no matter how terrifying a storm you are up against today.)

Psalm 107:23-30 says this,

“Some went off to sea in ships…Their ships were tossed to the heavens and plunged again to the depths; the sailors cringed in terror. They reeled and staggered like drunkards and were at their wit’s end.“Lord, help!” they cried in their trouble, and He saved them from their distressHe calmed the storm to a whisper and stilled the waves…He brought them safely into Harbor!”

Our God is with us in the most treacherous waters, and He hears our cries and will bring that which is being ‘tossed to the heavens and plunged to the depths’ in our lives to a place of complete stillness and safety (my life and marriage are proof.)

More than that, God reminded me this week there’s a special gift for those of us navigating the deepest – and often, the most distressing – seas.

Not only did the sailors in the passage find themselves scared and uncertain amid a storm but the Bible says, “They, too, observed the Lord’s power in action, His most impressive works on the deepest seas.”(vs. 24)

Don’t miss this: The deep sea you are navigating today, is the platform on which you will observe the Lord’s most impressive works tomorrow. Your mess is the prerequisite for the miracle — Your very own miracle, like the ones displayed on flannel graph boards from your childhood and declared behind pulpets every Sunday from all over around the world. A miracle, that if you allow it, will capture the attention of the masses and stand irrefutable among even the biggest critics. And it won’t be in spite of the storm you are in, but because of it!

“The storms you are faced with are a gift; they’re an invitation to see first hand My power in action” God said to me in a cabin in the mountains all those years ago, and I could barely comprehend it.

“…Which is why one day, believe it or not, you’re going to say thanks for the suffering,” God continued.

I could never have seen it that way at the time. But years later, and while packing up my life in South Carolina this week, that’s exactly how I feel — Thankful.

Thankful God never made me venture the storms in my life alone, and thankful God miraculously matched my efforts to rebuild my marriage and breathe life back into my spirit. (Had He not, I have no doubt my marriage would have ended just as poorly as my canoe trip.)

I told God how grateful I was that He calmed the chaos in my life and my heart, and ushered me safely to the place I am today. And how I know He’ll do so time and time again.

Then I thanked God for the gift I had failed to see I had been given all those years ago — suffering.

The storm that caused my suffering. The safety and stillness God brought in the midst of my suffering. And the beautiful and irrefutable stories I can now tell because of my suffering.

…Stories I will tell, for years to come, of the Lord’s most impressive works on the deepest seas.

// 52 weeks to write, 39 to go. //

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Krista Ortiz

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