“Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.” — Helen Keller
Life is Hard. Plain and simple. There are countless quotes or stories I could share for this chapter. Suffering: It’s not fun to talk about. Everyone loves to share all the highlights– I mean, social media culture has riddled us all with this plague. Thinking it’s “always” great for others, while life for us– is well, challenging.
But the 30 second highlight reel of someone’s life doesn’t adequately depict what’s going on. And your father and I have felt compelled to share our story. TRULY share our story. The highs, lows, and everything in between. So this chapter focuses on how to surrender, forgive and suffer well. Because life is full of challenges and learning to surrender and trust in Jesus as you walk through life will be your greatest asset.
Your dad put it perfectly: It’s hard to write this chapter to you because we want to take your pain away. When you fall outside and scrape your knee, you come running to us for comfort. We clean the wound, add the bandaid and with a hug, send you off to continue your play. We want to shield you from pain– but the truth is– we can’t. We need to prepare you how to handle the pain that will inevitably come.
I learned this lesson the hardest when you, Aliza, were a newborn. Three weeks in you weren’t gaining weight. You began vomiting repeatedly and we found ourselves shockingly at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. The doctors had no idea what was wrong at first. The intake doctor even believed all your symptoms pointed to AIDS and they weren’t sure of a treatment plan. SO ALL THE TEST BEGAN. And I watched as they put a needle about the length of your tiny body into your spine. The scream PIERCED my soul. I knew this pain was good for you- but I couldn’t explain it to you. I couldn’t take it away. I simply had to be there with you through the pain. After months of transfusions– we eventually were diagnosed with the perfect storm– and about a year later you were back on a healthy trajectory of growth.
I learned then at the deepest level that pain can lead to answers and growth. BUT IT ISN’T FUN. Not even a little.
This season of life here since the pandemic has been particularly challenging for us. Your dad read a book that was completely formative for this season. “Suffering” by Paul David Trip. See, it seemed overnight that we lost friends, support systems, had major medical issues hit our family, and struggled to keep the business afloat. If this were God’s given dream for us, WHY did it seem so hard? Why did we feel so isolated? This book reminded your father of an incredible truth: loss happens, death happens, pain happens and it isn’t because God is punishing us. No. But in the midst of it all God remains with us. He walks beside us with his unfailing love and grace and helps us through these times.
Your dad wrote: My daughters, you will go through so much in this life! Trust me, please, surrender to Jesus. It is not easy to do this which is why you must daily surrender everything to Jesus. Paul says in Colossians 3:13 that we make room for people’s faults in our lives and we must forgive others because God forgives us. This model that was laid out to us is not an easy one and we know that from experience. Surrendering to forgiveness is not an easy thing to do, especially if you did nothing wrong. Yet if you hold on to unforgiveness, it will drag you down into self pity and destruction.
It’s hard to comprehend pain. We may never understand it on this side of heaven. We must form our thoughts (especially when walking through challenging times) around this truth: God is always with us. Your dad had another book that helped heal his heart in this time called “The Confidence Gap” by Russ Harris. It is a deeper look into this psychological way of living called ACT (acceptance and commitment theor
y). He goes into detail about how one can help themselves move on from pain in a healthy way. Another book that was key during this time for your dad was “Gentle and Lowly” by Dane C. Ortlund. It really opened his eyes to a God who loves me and desires to be WITH me in all things, even in my sin. As much as I wish God would remove it, He does not and yet He pushes deeper with me as I press on to him.
When going through challenging times, it’s easy to isolate yourself. DO NOT! NO! Reach out to your support system. Pray. Listen to worship music. Go for walks and yell at Jesus. WHATEVER you do– don’t isolate. There’s far too much danger there. Keep taking it ONE step at a time.
Here’s the beauty in suffering. One day, when you least expect it, you’ll see something incredible born out of the pain you endured. You can’t see it when you are in the middle of the mess. But– if you remain faithful and LEAN into Jesus– you will survive and see the joy that can be found on the other side of suffering.
Sometimes when people talk about hardships– it’s easy to be like- oh yeah, well you have NO idea how hard THIS is. And dear daughters, you are right. I may not know the kind of pain and suffering you find yourself in– but I am no stranger to pain.
Let’s recount the last three years:
A worldwide pandemic stopped us in our tracks. Our business model overnight had to instantly flip. We lost our entire team. During the next year we closed 3 of our 4 operating coffee shops, and also opened another location in Hilliard. Opening a business in the pandemic is not a great idea. As the pandemic raged on, we came dangerously close to closing the whole operation. Then, just as we felt like life was settling into a new normal, Grandma faced her insane battle with Covid. 118 days in the hospital and countless trips to Toledo to help care for Grandpa– who has suffered with parkinson’s for over 20 years. We helped renovate Grandma’s house so she could come home. Meanwhile, life kept going– and then that following summer– out of nowhere it seemed– we had an ENTIRE staff transition again.
Your dad and I would find ourselves questioning God’s goodness and blessing. Calling out miracles and words that were written in an angry fit. He promised a light burden (Matt 11:30) but all I have here is the opposite. We cried! Questioned God. Doubted His call on our lives. Even entertained what it would be like to close the businesses and do something else. The Lord was so kind to us to hear our yelling and questioning and comfort us in a deeper way than I could have ever imagined.
It was during this time that Christ alone was what we needed. We realized that God blessed us and gave us a vision to show us how to love people through seasons. That people come and go. Awards come and go. But what matters when things get tough isn’t your friend or family but Jesus alone. In the mess of it all– He never left us.
LIFE WILL BE HARD. BUT GOD IS FAITHFUL. People often ask me, how do you do it all? My response– Jesus and coffee. And that’s the truth. Lean into his truth and he’ll show up. And you know what else? Jesus provided just the right people at the right time to help. Friends to help with the renovations. Connections to hire new staff. A card of encouragement at just the right moment.
If you are willing to look– you can see the beauty in the ashes of pain.
During this particularly challenging season– your dad had an image come to mind. He describes it this way: The image that came to mind is one of a tree experiencing growth! The first round of growth is the pruning of the branches. The branches have fruit on it, showing that there is life. Our shop had notable fruit or good works that one could not deny was Jesus. Yet those years it seems like the Lord was cutting, pruning us. It hurt. It was sad to see limbs that once were strong, cut down. Fruit that seemed so promising turning sour or dying from an internal sickness. The second stage of growth that we noticed was more internal – roots growing down! As roots grow in the ground, it has to break up the hard rocks that are unseen. This is what we have to go through! Your dad got a counselor during this time and found out some surprising negative core issues that he carried around with him. It started to change him and we slowly began to see the blessing this suffering lead us to.
Colossians 2:7 says “Let your roots grow down into him and let your lives be built upon him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.” This passage gave me so much hope but also a guide on what to look for in my life. When you learn how much the Lord has forgiven you and still loves you, you start to forgive others. EVEN IF they don’t forgive you– or offer their own apologies. May that not be for you by daughters! Forgive people when they hurt you. It may take time to come to a good, healthy state of mind to do that. But you are not garbage. You are not a mistake. You are not a loser. You are not missing. You are deeply loved. You are surrounded by so many heroes. You are blessed. You matter to God! As you grow, you will suffer. You will experience pain but it is not because God doesn’t love you. It is because the sin in this world still rules, but God gave Himself to you and His spirit lives in you to restore and grow you into a beautiful daughter of the King.
So dear daughters, in whatever pain and suffering you find yourself– remember YOU ARE NOT ALONE.