By Stephanie Parker
I don’t always deal well with trials and "suffer well," but the other day, I had a break through by the grace of God. I got a phone call that sent me reeling. It could have taken me in two different directions, I could have fallen into the cycle of anxiety and insecurity over the unknown (which I often do) or I could cling to my Savior. My kids were in the backseat. I had a choice. I could let them see me fall apart OR I could let them see me fall at His feet. In that moment of decision, it was as if all time stopped. The Holy Spirit whispered this verse to me, “The Lord gives and takes away. Let the name of the Lord be praised (Job 1:21).” The LAST thing I wanted to do was praise God in that moment. Those little eyes and ears in the back seat made me think carefully about how I’d respond to the news I’d just received. I want them to grow up and know how to handle troubles and suffering in a healthy way. How could they know what that looks like if I don’t show them? So, reluctantly, I cranked up the radio. God showed up. Big time. The song was Mercy Me’s, ‘Even If.” These are the words that rang in my ears the second my fingers turned up the dial,
“It's easy to sing
When there's nothing to bring me down
But what will I say
When I'm held to the flame
Like I am right now
I know You're able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don't
My hope is You alone.”
With one arm raised in praise and the other arm on the steering wheel, I worshiped with all my might. Tears streamed down my face. But they weren’t tears of sadness. They were tears of hope and trust and adoration for the God that "gives and takes away."
You see, this song references a verse in Daniel that talks about Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. I knew it well because I had done a Bible Study on Daniel last summer. The three men refused to worship King Nebuchadnezzar and were faced with being thrown into a blazing furnace if they didn’t worship the idol the King had made of himself. Their response to the King was this, “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. BUT EVEN IF HE DOES NOT, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up (Daniel 2:49).
It was as if God was asking me, “Stephanie, even if I don’t save you from this trial the way you want to be saved, will you still worship me?”
God had perfectly orchestrated this moment. He knew that the verse I had underlined in my Bible a year ago would become very real to me when I needed it most. He knew I would hear what he was trying to tell me because he had been preparing me to hear it. I have never felt so loved by my Savior. I have never felt so close to him.
“The LORD is close to those whose hearts have been broken. He saves those whose spirits have been crushed (Psalm 34:18).”
Not only was God there for me, but it opened up an opportunity to show my kids God’s strength in my weakness. My daughter could sense that the tone of the phone call I had received was not a good one. It gave me an opportunity to talk about what it means to really trust and lean into God when the fire is raging around you. To trust God even if he doesn’t resolve things the way you want them to be resolved.
Please understand me, I don’t think ‘suffering well’ means that you don’t cry or get angry, anxious or insecure. Those are very real and natural emotions. It simply means that you lay all of your tears, anger and insecurities at the feat of Jesus and entrust them to his care. It means, praising God when your circumstances make it almost impossible to muster up authentic praise. Sometimes it’s not where you are at the end of the trial, it’s who you are in the midst of it, that matters most. What we do in our valleys can often become a bigger testimony than what we proclaim from our mountaintops.
This all came full circle today when I read Acts 16 and saw how Paul "suffered well." Take some time to read it if you have a chance. This chapter in Acts talks about Paul’s mission to spread the gospel. But, for whatever reason, the Holy Spirit actually prevented them from going to certain towns (See Acts 16:6-7). Then, Paul has this dream that tells them they are to go to Macedonia. When he gets there, he gets falsely accused, ‘severely flogged’ and thrown in prison (Acts 16:23). So far, NOT so good! Paul had every right to be angry or frustrated or scared. Why would God send them to a town only for him to be beaten and imprisoned? I wouldn’t call, "sitting in a cell with open wounds," a successful mission by the world’s standards. But God knew something Paul didn’t. Paul was suffering, no doubt about it. It’s what Paul DID with his suffering that made the difference…That's when God could do his best work! The way Paul suffered that night in the prison cell, affected generations. Check out what it says in these verses and take note of how many people are affected by Paul’s choice to honor God in his suffering:
“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”
The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household (Acts 16:25-34).
Did you catch that!? Because Paul chose to "suffer well," the prisoners, the jailer and the jailer’s ENTIRE family were changed! Who knows how many other generations were affected because Paul chose to honor God in his suffering that night.
I have struggled with choosing to praise God in the midst of suffering but now that I’ve gotten a glimpse of how God can work in those moments, I hope I am more likely to run to him first when the flames close in around me.
I hope this encourages you to seek God in your trials, praise him in your sorrows and trust him when your world is crumbling to the ground. You never know who might be impacted if you do.
“They trusted, and You rescued them.
They cried to You and were set free;
they trusted in You and were not disgraced (Psalm 22:5).”
Stephanie Parker has 3 main loves: God, her husband, Brett and her kids! When Stephanie created the Zipadee-Zip in an effort to solve her daughter, Charlotte's, sleep issues, she never imagined that it would become a business. She is incredibly grateful to God for how Sleepingbaby.com has grown and how it has enabled other families to get the restful sleep they need. Stephanie's husband, Brett Parker assumed the role of CEO which has allowed Stephanie to focus on what she loves which is the creative side of the company, like product and print development. After the Zipadee-Zip was featured on Shark Tank, Stephanie went on to create the book Shepherd's Treasure, a Christian alternative to Elf on the Shelf.