The day I learned of LaTanya's death, I started to study Romans 8: 17-27- a passage of scripture that is all about suffering. Nothing could have been more appropriate for that moment, as LaTanya suffered as much as anyone I've ever met.
When we remember someone, or even when we speak about their difficulties in the present, it's rare to openly talk about their suffering. It is equally as unusual to admit our own sufferings. It's true that you'll bump into the odd individual who enjoys telling others all about their personal pain. But I find that most folks don't like talking about their suffering.
I know that I don't like talking about my suffering a whole lot with others because I fear that it will annoy them. I also feel like my suffering, which is emotional and spiritual, is so much less than the suffering I see in some of my closest friends.
I know people who are suffering physically from illnesses that might not get better. I have friends who are suffering in singleness (I know that some people count singleness as a gift, but for some of my sweet friends, it is most definitely a source of suffering) and watching the years slip away. There are those dear to my heart who have had their hearts shattered by broken promises. Some face unfair situations in their places of work or ministry. Others are encountering the vacuum left in the universe after someone precious has passed, and finding it an ugly and frightening space.
So I'm writing this, not because I consider my suffering comparable to theirs, but because, as I have learned this week, when it comes to suffering, there is no remedy save hope and fellowship.
My particular suffering comes from deep disappointment and a heart that grieves over sin. Brokenness has won the day in one part of my life. And despite years of fervent prayer, the broken pieces lay shattered. For so long, I have put my hope in the idea that God will put those pieces back together. Certainly sin shouldn't win. Everyone involved in this cursed mess claims to believe...
But, what LaTanya and Paul have helped me discover is that that kind of hope- though it is right and good- is not the hope that I've been promised in God's Word. There is no promise that it will get better here. There is nothing in God's Word that says that He will heal our illnesses or our broken hearts, or our stubborn, wrecked relationships while we are here on this Earth. LaTanya got that. One of the ladies from my Austin BSF class reminded me how LaTanya loved to talk about how she could not wait to dance with Jesus in her new body. She knew that body was going to be birthed in another place, one promised to her, but one she did not know outside of God's word. All her hope was in that place. And mine should be too.
Paul writes in Romans 8 that suffering in this world is like going through labor pains. We groan, as does the rest of creation, under the weight of the brokenness of sin, the ravages of injustice, the wretchedness of death, the ache of longings unfulfilled. But as we groan, we do so in expectation- not for something that will happen here- but for something that is guaranteed to happen on another Day. The Day of the Lord. When He rights all wrong. When He fills every desire. When He MAKES ALL THINGS NEW.
I often wake up in the night in grief over my particular suffering. Maybe you do too. Sometimes I try to distract myself from it by reading or looking at my phone. Sometimes I let it fester into something that leaves me feeling despondent. But last night, as I put my face into my pillow, and I groaned inwardly, I didn't have the same outlook as I have had. Studying Romans 8 has encouraged me to groan and grieve and suffer the way that God desires- with an outlook that I WILL BE DELIVERED from this painful place. I just have to wait the rest of my lifetime. And in light of eternal glory, Paul says... that's actually not asking that much.
When I went into labor with Grey, it was really rough. He was turned the wrong way and we ended up needing forceps to get him out. I remember that pain. I remember how I thought that I might die. But when I sit and hold his healthy little body in my arms now, I don't care about that pain. I don't care that I thought it might kill me. I have fullness of joy.
LaTanya feels that kind of joy now, only in greater measure than I could ever convey in words. Because from her stead at my Savior's side, she can remember every moment of suffering and for her, now, it all feels light and momentary.
My suffering friends, I grieve and groan with you. I wait with you for the eternal weight of glory that will surpass all of this. May that glory be beautifully heavy in our hearts and our hands and outweigh the suffering God has called us to share with Him here. But may our feet be light on that Day... we're going to need to dance with LaTanya.