Transformed through Suffering

April always reminds me of my hospital stay leading up to my son Clive’s birth five years ago. This is a picture from my first day at the hospital during that stay.

Life isn’t normal right now, and we are being transformed through our experiences. Some days we may just be able to hold on. Other days we may have a brief insight. We’ll certainly look back on the Covid-19 crisis and remember moments that changed the way our lives looked. Schools closing, face masks in public, people we know becoming ill… While my book is focused on the loss of loved ones through death, so much of it can apply to the loss of normal life. I hope these words (an excerpt from my book’s chapter about Joy) will help you as you process this crisis.

Transformed through Suffering

April 10, 2015, was my last day of normal. I wore a blue and green striped dress, brown leggings, and a belt just above my bump. It was the last day I went to work, smiled and rubbed my belly innocently, and went to my routine doctor’s appointment. While drinking the “dreaded” glucose test beverage, I thought of all the complaints I’d heard. This isn’t so bad, I thought. I mean, it doesn’t taste good, but it’s the least I can do to help care for my baby. I felt grateful.

About an hour later, I was told, “I hear an irregular heartbeat. I’m going to call the hospital and have you admitted.”

“Should I go home and get anything?” I asked.

“No, just call your husband. You need to go straight there.”

“What about my glucose test?” I asked, hoping they could draw blood so I wouldn’t have to repeat it at my next appointment.

“Let’s not worry about that.” I’m sure she wondered about my comprehension by this point. “Can you drive yourself to the hospital, or should I get an ambulance?”

Somehow I managed to call Sam and drive myself to the hospital in a daze. That night, as we settled into a hospital room and awaited testing, we named him Clive.

Everything in life is marked by time with these events: before Clive, after Clive, before Winnie, after Winnie. Before the hospitalization, after the hospitalization; before the diagnosis, after the diagnosis; before the heartbreaking news, after the heartbreaking news. Before death, after death.

I look back at pictures of us before our children died, photos with them, and photos of pregnancy, and it pains me. What JOY we had, what ignorant bliss. I wouldn’t want the former me to know the pain that lay ahead, but it still hurts to see the innocence that was shattered.

Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

                        – Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit

You are not the same. Your suffering has changed you. While parts of you may still feel more broken, all of you is more real. You become.

While I like to believe that I never expected an easy life, or that I never believed that good things come to responsible, kind people, suffering revealed my hidden thoughts and dangerous expectations. I watched others’ suffering but never expected the immense suffering that lay ahead of me. Now, living in the aftermath, my perception of security is shattered, illusion of control is gone, and I am forever changed.

We exist in two realms: before suffering and after suffering. Our innocence is lost as we step over this great divide and find ourselves trying to reconcile who we were before and who we are after. We witness the ways grief has changed us—forever –and acknowledge the impact on our lives.

Our lives as we once knew them are destroyed, and we embark on a journey of transformation. We lament; we seek comfort; we protect our peace. We discover our identity as children of God—an identity that cannot be stripped from us. We wrestle with faith, begin to hope, and even forgive. We see the Enemy’s plans and fight back with God’s strength when ours fails. In all of this, we transform. Pain and suffering shape and grow us in ways we can’t imagine. They deepen our souls as they break and rebuild us.

The desert and the parched land will be glad;

the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.

Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom;

it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.

-Isaiah 35:1-2 (NIV)

REFLECT: Can you recall one of the moments your life changed dramatically? How does it feel to look back on joy experienced before that moment?

If you’d like to read more, my book is available for purchase here:

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