Suffering brings clarity. This isn’t automatic, but it’s possible. Suffering causes us to focus like few other things in life can. Jesus said in Matthew 13:15, "For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them" (NIV). I’m amazed how easily my eyes form spiritual cataracts, and how I close my eyes to certain obvious things.
Pain has a way of calling every nerve to stand at attention. I’m not here glorifying pain or desiring more, but I have to admit it makes me aware of how truly alive I am. I hunger for clarity in my spiritual life. I want to see the Lord as Abraham and Moses did--like a friend, face to face. I don't want to lose this ability to see what so often I have missed. I resist the inevitable return to spiritual dullness.
This side of eternity, there will always be things won’t be able to see, things beyond our finite ability to understand. I Corinthians 2:9 says, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” (NIV). Yet there is so much that the Lord wants us to see, hear and experience of His sustaining grace and love. A friend once asked me if it’s possible to have this kind of clarity without having this kind of suffering. I don’t know how it could be possible for me. I can be a dull, irascible, and self-centered sort. My imagination easily declares war on windmills and journeys down unworthy paths.
Of the Lord's Twelve, I guess I most identify with Simon Peter. I’m standing in a boat with others, darkness surrounds us, waves frighten us. Then we see something that makes the hair on our necks stand. Our nervous systems are on full alert. It is Jesus, walking on the storm tossed seas of our lives. What we’re experiencing is impossible but nonetheless real. I ask the Lord to allow me to come to Him. He smiles and nods his approval of my request. I step out of the boat, causing even more fear in my companions who are rocked by my recklessness. I walk on water. Step by step, the impossible becomes possible. Then my eyes are distracted by the sheer impossibility of faith. As I sink, fear rises; I cry, He hears and rescues. Oh me of little faith.
Suffering brings clarity. It also needs clarity. I can’t assume, I will not assume that this suffering is the worst, and once I am over it, I can rest assured I will not have to suffer like this again. I have no guarantees that there won’t be more or greater loss. Although I cannot imagine a greater loss, I must remember how dull I can be. Nonetheless, He comes on storm tossed waves, in the midst of great fear, to dull and distracted people like me and Peter and bids us to do the impossible and come to Him.
Lord, I come.