Being a Minor Sufferer

I have the most mediocre, run-of-the mill trials.

I mean, really.thinkstockphotos-469098080

And, since I know You’re listening, Lord, that doesn’t mean I want them ramped up to a Daniel or Job on the scale of suffering!  Just making sure You know I’m okay with my Mary and Martha level.  I’m good with that!  😉

Unlike my Job-like friends I talked about in this article, I’m kind of this mediocre sufferer.  My trials are always highly obnoxious, only a little scary, and a bit sad.  Not real earth-shattering.  Let me make a “RJ’s Suffering List” in a Paul-like way.  You remember the Apostle Paul’s list, right?  Involves a lot of beating, people trying to kill him, and even a shipwreck? AND his list is all stuff done in the name of Christ!  Like real persecutions for his faith.  MY list is just regular life woes.  Would only count as “thorns in the flesh”!

So, that disclaimer being said, RJ Conte’s very vulnerable, honest, and pretty complete list would go something like this:

Separated her shoulder and ankle ligaments – twice each

Had hormonal imbalances.

Had a doctor perform the wrong test, which scared her senseless for a bunch of years

Had to deliver two healthy babies by emergency c-section – couldn’t have her perfect births

Lost relatives to spiritual and physical death

Went through 18 months of infertility after having two children successfully 

Lost some cartilage on one side of her knee 

Has chronic environmental allergies to everything, including most animals

Gets pneumonia or some other respiratory infection once a year from colds

Has a couple ex-friends who won’t talk to her due to her infuriating stupidity in her young adult years

Has had other friends get caught in serious sins

Has occasionally been treated selfishly and not loved the way believers should love one another

Has a daughter with a massive amount of food allergies – none that are life-threatening, but all that lend itself to obnoxious hives and maybe vomiting

Has had to move a little bit often, and leave churches a couple times

Doesn’t make money on her novels…

Because her novels are overtly Christian, and the world isn’t quite down with that

Had to have Accutane because the acne went on FOREVER. And, even now, in adulthood, some of it has come back

Has been insulted on her physical appearance…

Maybe because she’s never at a perfect weight, but always has those last 15 pounds she’d love to lose…

And what do you know? Finds out she has gestational diabetes in her recent pregnancy, and probably some insulin resistance, which probably caused her infertility to begin with…

Therefore, has to give up regular Mountain Dew  *sob*

 

Woot!  That’s my LIFE Trial List!  I put ALL of those on there so that you can hopefully identify with one or two or five or all of them.  See?  I’m a normal human being like you. Please tell me Paul isn’t laughing up in glory. No offense to anyone whose list is identical to mine, but it’s kind of measly.

What do you do when you’re the “normal friend” with the normal, daily life trials?

The person who doesn’t have much to say or help to give out because you’ve not gone through much of anything that interesting – or that every other Christian hasn’t gone through to some extent?

And sometimes you wish you could trade in the whole group of the small guys for one big, God-glorifying trial that’s over a few days after it begins but makes you this awe-inspiring Christian with a great testimony?

And then you’re ashamed of yourself for saying so, because the Elijahs and Jobs of the world look at you like, “You’re thirty years old, for grief’s sake, and have it all.  Seriously?”

Okay, maybe they don’t do that, because they’re freakin’ Job, for goodness sake, and have so much love and compassion and godly character that they could drown you in it.  But you’re convinced they probably are tempted to think that way about you.  That they’re secretly wringing their hands at home, staring at your Facebook posts, and hating your guts. Right?

I have a dear person in my life whose short years are littered with a few, scattered, mediocre trials.

“I kind of had a crush on someone but they didn’t like me back.”

“I have some big fears.”

“I didn’t make the grades in college that I liked.”

“My managers didn’t treat me well.”

“Someone close to me moved away.”

But this person has completely walked away from the Lord. They can’t see beyond their own suffering, which they see as horrendously awful, even though very few in their life have any clue what would warrant their dramatic, victim response.

The little ongoing things are REAL, folks.  They’re sneaky.  They creep in and go on and on and on, making us think our life is less than perfect, will never BE perfect, and drive us crazy with their prickly itchiness.  Sure, we may not have lost our entire family to death or been tortured for our faith or be stricken as a paraplegic, but things are still NOT RIGHT.  And, as pathetic as we can feel, those things linger day after day after day and break down the joy that we’re supposed to have.

I’m going to introduce a radical concept: all trials are trials.

Call out!  Ask for help.  Reach out.  Ask for prayer. Get godly advice. Don’t be ashamed.

Sure there’s some validity to saying, “Wow, I’m a stupid, babyish ninny.  Get a grip and move on with life, and don’t let these little things bother you.” But I really don’t think that’s always helpful or productive, and few human beings are in that kind of place. And God totally gets that.  You don’t hear him calling us “stupid, babyish ninnies.”  God only gives us the trials He knows we can survive and also come out the other end (1 Corinthians 10:13). So for some, those may seem “smaller” but there’s no belittling comparison scale in the kingdom of God.

And His GRACE is sufficient for ALL of them.

If you or I are really struggling in a little Martha trial (“My sister drives me NUTS, Lord.  Make her clean house and play host with me!”) chances are, that’s where my spiritual idols are.  And the feeling of being used as a slave by one’s lazy sister, whether the right perspective or not, has the same capacity of driving us away from the Lord as the massive shooting of one’s whole family does for someone else.

DON’T let that make you feel small, pathetic, or worthless.  All things that make us believe that God is making a mistake (Martha: “Jesus, why are you letting her SIT there?  Jesus, do something differently!”), all of those things that make us doubt that God is good, drive us from Him.  And, before you know it, your “mediocre list” has become a gigantic battleground for the devil.  It’s a fight for your very soul.

Can I highly, highly, highly recommend One Thousand Gifts, which I’m re-reading for the51vwntxh1sl-_sx347_bo1204203200_ 2nd or 3rd time? Ann Voskamp is a very, very average homeschool mom and housewife.  She had her one “big tragedy” in young childhood when she was hardly old enough to even get it. But, besides that, her trials have been run of the mill.  Compared to anyone else maybe.  However, Ann saw that bitterness, ingratitude, and a coldness to God were sneaking in right under her nose while she washed dishes and did laundry and made dinner for the millionth time day after day. And, in beautiful, poetic words, she explores the beauty of all of life – everything God gives – the great and the impossible. And how her entire life’s perspective changed.

This Christmas I asked for butcher paper.  Yep, this giant, larger-than-life roll.  My sweet mother-in-law, without question, went and bought it for me, and it sits under my tree like a giant possibility of gleaming white.

I know what my very first use of it is going to be – the making of a floor to ceiling list.  Of gratitude.  That the Conte family can walk by and add to at any time.

So that those little bugs don’t get in the way – my shoulder is aching again as I type this, and I’m really, really hankering for a piece of holiday pecan pie that I shouldn’t eat.  (Man alive.  Die, taste buds, die!  You cruel villains!) Because those little bugs grow and grow and grow in our hearts to become the most giant of Godzillas. To become life or death to our souls and our First Love (Revelation 2:4).

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This guy has it all.  Pure happiness in liquid form, baby.  😛  😀

So no one is a “minor sufferer” at all.  Even giving up the Mountain Dew can be a giant
battle that leaves you a little breathless, a bit bruised, and more surrendered for the kingdom of Christ.  Hey, if you’re going through a sugar detox, come to me, and I will WEEP with you, bro!

 

It all matters in the Great Fight that is this Christian life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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12 thoughts on “Being a Minor Sufferer

  1. Amen to this! There is NO such thing as a “measly trial.” If it hurts, it HURTS!! ❤

    I would quibble with the line, "If you or I are really struggling in a little Martha trial….chances are, that’s where we are spiritually." Because that lends itself to the mentality that (like I've ranted against before!) the closer you are to God and the "stronger" your faith is, the bigger your trials will be. In reality, I think the hardest trials are the ones that topple our most treasured idols, no matter HOW big or small that might be. Even the "Jobs" of the world can have a private little trial that's a greater struggle than the "biggest" one they've had that others can see.

    And even if we have "big" trials in our lives, the small ones can still hurt and grate on us lot. It's not about "believers with big trials" and "believers with little trials," like you're saying. It all matters (both to us as individuals and to the church!), and also we ALL have big and little trials. God works with our unique personalities and situations and only allows what is very wisest and best for us at that time. He knows what would break us – and He only bends and refines; He doesn't break. ❤ He's out to refine YOU and he knows what will perfectly refine YOU as an individual, whether it looks "big" or "small" to the outside world. He knows the exact idols our hearts are entangled with, and He knows precisely how much force to use to uproot them. He knows when a job requires a hammer and when it requires a scalpel, and He does each job with the utmost love and as gently as possible. ❤

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  2. Yes! Just because it’s not earth-shattering from someone else’s perspective doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt deeply or make those feelings invalid. And, frankly, I try hard to be thankful for my little trials over the big ones that could come my way. (And the pessimist in me has to resist the urge to be waiting for the other shoe to drop!)

    As for the sugar cravings – if it’s any consolation those tend to become much easier to resist after a couple of weeks. But of all the times of year to have to resist 😦 I feel for you!

    (And my baby was an emergency c-section, too! I was looking forward to trying for an all-natural birth and then never got to feel even a single contraction. And she’s my only treasure (by choice) so sometimes I feel there’s a huge component of motherhood I’ll never know.)

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  3. Very well said. What a great reminder! I’ve been kind of feeling like a major sufferer lately. Just a lot of little things going on that I don’t like.
    Have courage, RJ, and keep fighting the good fight! That’s what I’m doing. 💛

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  4. Not surprising, but Bethany said much of what I wanted to say. God meets us where we are, and He has different plans for each of our lives. We don’t measure how spiritual we are by how big our trials have been or how great our suffering is. I promise, anyone who has suffered greatly would trade places in a second with those who haven’t, those who seemingly have it easy, yet that isn’t what God has for them.

    And, we can’t compare suffering, anymore than we can compare pain. You can have two people with the exact same injuries and they can feel that pain very differently. Some have a high pain tolerance, others have a low pain tolerance. I think the same is true for suffering.

    Just because I have walked through trials that may have been harder to walk through does not invalidate someone else’s pain in walking through “smaller” trials. Those trials are still big.

    I think one thing that you learn as you suffer, no matter the scope of the trial, is how to empathize with others who suffer as well. I don’t scoff at those who haven’t gone through what I’ve gone through. I recognize that God has us in different places for different reasons.

    I was just thinking that, as a crafty sort of person, I make things. Some of those things are useful and get a lot of use because that is their purpose. Other things are made to hang on the wall and be beautiful. They don’t get worn or ragged because they were made to be pretty. However, both the item that is used often which gets worn and the thing that was made to hang on the wall ultimately have the same overall purpose of bringing me, the creator of them, glory. They show that I can make things.

    While that isn’t a perfect analogy, my point is that we all have different jobs in the kingdom of God. We didn’t get to choose which job we have, we just have the privilege of bringing our creator glory no matter which job we have. We get to show off His craftsmanship.

    Good blog post, RJ!! I think you did a good job of making your points, and I hope you truly believe those points! 🙂 🙂 Your suffering is not invalidated by anyone else’s “bigger” trials! The trials that you have walked through have been big deals. What you’re walking through now with gestational diabetes is a big deal. And, there is an element of grief associated with walking through health challenges. We grieve the loss of our health. And, it’s okay. It’s okay to grieve over that. You will come to accept it, but it’s okay for that to take a little time.

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  5. I understand where you’re coming from. I’d say my list is a little more “ugly” but that in general I feel like my trials are nothing. I can throw out one or two big ones. (okay, so maybe just one that lasted years and years and years), but overall I’ve had a good life. There’s a lot of struggles I haven’t faced and the last 4 years especially have been very good to me.

    After cutting out the “cancer” that was my big problem, ever trial I’ve faced has been small potatoes. I feel guilty sometimes for moaning about not selling books, or being stuck in the middle of winter wonderland, or any other number of small day-to-day things when people out there are facing so much worse.

    I think there’s a balance that we need to find. Those with bigger struggles have to be generous enough to realize little struggles are still struggle and shouldn’t be scoffed at. And people with little struggles need to take a step back occasionally and put it in perspective. Not because I think people with small problems shouldn’t have a person to talk to or the freedom to express their feelings, but at least for me that I believe God would want me to appreciate what I do have when I get hung up on something.

    I could whine about the cold, or I could think about how I have the money to heat the house to a livable level and can afford Mt. Blanket. I want to be generous in listening to people’s troubles, no matter the size, and I want to be thankful enough to count my blessings.

    Never be afraid to share. 🙂 Everyone’s “argh” moments matter and stuffing it just causes so much emotional stress.

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    • Beautiful thoughts, Kristen.
      And sometimes it’s the little “chafing” thorns in the flesh that seriously put us over the edge with God.
      Oh, to have the right, grateful, eternal perspective on it all! It’s so easy for us to see the eternal perspective on someone else’s thorn, but not on our own even!
      Thanks for sharing!

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