/ Suffering and God's purposes / Keith Evans

From Suffering to Simplicity

(This month's post is contributed by guest author, my wife, Melissa Evans, as she shares lessons from her recent significant illness)

While vacationing in Arches National Park, I lay awake in a hot tent as my family slept peacefully under the stars.  Distraught, I wept bitterly, pleading with the Lord for deliverance. My face, arms, hands, and feet burned profusely as if drenched in acid. In the dark, away from cell service, I writhed, broken and dismayed.

After my tears emptied, I stopped pleading with the Lord to take away my affliction, but instead prayed, “Lord, hold me in your arms through the difficulties. May I rest well, fully trusting in you. You’ve promised your beloved sleep–may I find my comfort in you.” Immediately, I experienced the Lord’s nearness. The pain remained, but I felt lifted. Through the promises of Psalm 127 and 123, I found surreal rest in my Savior’s arms and peace for another night.

The prior six months were a roller coaster of ever-changing symptoms without answers. Though my health appeared “fine” on paper, my body deteriorated at an alarming rate. We don’t realize the frailty of our temporal bodies until the most basic abilities, such as pressing simple buttons, perceiving temperature and sensations, thinking clearly, standing, eating, or even having a normal heartbeat are stripped away. I digressed into systemic dysfunction, believing death must be near.

Often, the suffering seemed unbearable and foreign, but the Lord was faithful, holding my hand along the way and promising never to give more than could be endured. Over time, my pleas shifted from “spare my life and deliver” to “grant me strength, endurance, and the ability to care for my family.” Humbled, I relied on others to cook, clean, do my laundry, and even homeschool. We were blessed to be cared for deeply by family and friends within the body of Christ, but it was sorrowful to be in such need.

Throughout my suffering, I never asked the Lord, “why me?” but instead, “why?” I searched my heart, realizing the Lord was answering long-standing prayers for sanctification.

I’ve always struggled to prioritize the best over the good. Many of us do. As wives and mothers, we deceive ourselves, thinking we’re aspiring to be a Proverbs 31 woman. It seems righteous to pursue hobbies and entrepreneurial endeavors as we earn supplemental income, waking up early and staying up late for lavish meals and a “happy home.” This perception of dying to self and giving to others is often tainted by selfishness, as we seek the hidden desires of our heart. Despite elaborate meals, put-together children, an ordered home, financial gains, and lives full of Instagram-ready moments, I knew I too often pursued these good things, maybe even “great” things, while forsaking the Lord’s best.

While there may be nothing inherently wrong with these endeavors, if they are carried out selfishly or detract from ministering to others, our families, or fulfilling our primary calling as wives and mothers, we must reassess our priorities and motives. I asked myself, “Am I willing to faithfully do the mundane – wash dishes, practice math, cook a simple meal? Or do I seek success the world applauds?” You won’t often see the routine, faithful aspects of mothering praised on Instagram, but it is the path we ought to choose with joy.

Too often I chose the desires I wanted to pursue, not the things Christ would have me pursue. I wasn’t given to hospitality as I ought. I didn’t care for my family wisely or manage the home faithfully. Through this time of great suffering and humility, I saw my unfaithfulness with open eyes. The Lord blew away all my vain efforts of grandeur, as in Haggai 1. I had sown much, but harvested little and now He had stripped it all away.

Functionally disabled, I couldn’t even do the most menial of tasks. I faced the question: would I change and seek the Lord wholeheartedly, humbling myself under His mighty hand?  As in 1 Peter 5, I cast my anxieties (as well as my sin!) on the Lord, knowing that in due time He would lift me up. I repented for my unfaithfulness, and the Lord in His kindness, brought a diagnosis and ongoing treatment for multiple systemic bacterial infections. While we’re not always put through this extent of suffering for our sanctification, we should examine all hardships to understand what the Lord seeks to teach us or which sins we need to repent of.

Earlier this spring, I leapt up to wash dishes while my family remained at the table, talking and laughing. As I quickly finished and rejoined them, I wept tears of joy. It had been nine months since I had strength to wash dishes and with such efficiency! I was overcome by the privilege to serve and care for my family in this simple way. I suspect few housewives have ever shed tears of joy over the simple act of washing dishes, yet I find myself in awe of the Lord’s profound ability to use suffering and humility as a means to draw us closer to him and conform us to our dear Savior.

In Psalm 113:9, it is the Lord who makes a joyful mother, causing her to find reward in her home. What an honor that He would choose to afflict me. In so doing, He has revealed my sin and selfishness, simultaneously providing the kindness of restoration. He has heard my cries for healing, to care for my family, and for sanctification, so I may now see clearly to pursue His best. I can truly find reward in keeping home! Hallelujah, Praise the Lord!

Keith Evans

Keith Evans

Professor of Biblical Counseling (RPTS); Pastor; Married to Melissa. Father of 4 wonderful girls.

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