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The Gift of Suffering?

Posted 5 years ago and just as relevant…

In the not-too-distant past I attended a Purpose Driven Life™ program at the church I've been going to. After short video presentations each week by the book's author, Rick Warren, the group divided into smaller, more intimate discussion groups where we would tackle certain questions before rejoining the larger group to talk about what insights we may have had. One week, one of the questions was what benefits we might have derived from some of our life's trials or situations. A young woman in our group, mother of 2 young children, said she received the "gift of cancer" and it had done much to improve her relationships with both God and her family. I had never thought of cancer, that most dreaded and hated of all diseases, as a "gift" of any sort until she shared her experience, strength and hope with the rest of us (by the way, she is still battling it). I can remember a time in my life when I cursed God for not removing it from my mother as I stood by -- hopelessly watching her suffer. 10 years later I witnessed my father's struggle with cancer. Neither time could I conceive of cancer as a gift or offer thanks for it. I guess I was not spiritually grown up enough at the time to see it that way.

I still miss my parents and the friends I have lost along the way and remain a little sad for their suffering, but believe I have found the grace to accept such things that I can't understand so well and even sometimes be able to offer a sincere prayer of gratitude for them. I don't know what benefits, if any, they may have derived from the suffering they went through. Perhaps they received a renewed sense of commitment to God as they understood Him and/or their loved ones – I can only hope that is the case. I know that I have received gifts as a result. My faith has wound up being renewed and my commitment to God is as good as it ever was (hopefully better).

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