Any kind of loss, adversity, or suffering brings you face to face with a NEW reality of circumstances you didn't sign up for. It will bring out human emotions, feelings, and thoughts that you never believed were possible. The journey and life path that are now yours "for a season" of time will make you internally dig deep to find anchors for your soul and spirit. Your mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual stability are vital. You will ask questions to people and to God like, "why me, why him/her/us?" Why has this happened? How long will it last? When will it be over with?
All valid questions. And the circumstance of loss you are encountering may feel like unwanted, invisible guests showing up to stay and not telling you when they will be leaving. You earnestly want that this trial of suffering to come to an end. It’s out of your control. It's become a fiery test of human endurance that you didn't choose. You’re failing physically, loss of a job, loss of income, loss of friends and support, loss of a child or a relationship, and maybe you’re approaching death because of an incurable disease. Suffering has many names and faces. But at the core of it is anguish, a wilderness desert wandering, a darkness you've never experienced.
Without childlike simplicity, you envisioned that the very things or people you had counted on would be there forever. With you and for you. But even they have been stripped away in various degrees.
When you are in pain or suffering, it is hard to think of anything but pain and suffering. But strangely, over time, you begin to understand it brings an emptying of self to a deeper part of you that you may have never engaged with if it hadn't arrived. It is unannounced, uncontrollable, and is larger than anything you have ever experienced. Long term suffering has levels of trauma or cascading trauma attached. You can only take one day at a time. The overwhelming fact that life has suddenly changed and will never go back to what it was, or who you were, or whom your loved one had been, is shocking. And that loss in itself takes time to absorb.
The journey of adversity has made you desperate for answers, and more deeply, desperate for God. You wonder at the mysterious ways of God and seek for understanding.
Suffering can open up the human mind, will, spirit, and soul in a way like no other to take you into new levels of greater intimacy with God. Why? Because your dark night of the soul brings you to the end of your "self-focused life" and it will cause you to seek the face of God knowing that your hope and life is fully dependent on Him alone.
Your contentment in life prior to now was dependent upon you. It is easy to be content when you have no needs. Suffering and loss of any shape or kind that you are now faced with, makes you face the reality of who or what had brought comfort and security to you. It’s now being stripped away. And when you look back, you will never be the same again.
Something is leaving. Something is arriving. The superficial leaves. A deeper you is arriving. You are becoming more authentic and transparent and alive in the deeper part of you - your soul. An awakening like a seed underground is shedding its outer shell to push through the darkness to the light above. What has been cold and raw and dark is going to press you to the resurrection life of springtime. Your hopeless and helpless situation that has brought the pain of suffering was never meant for you to walk it out alone. The self-despair and impossible odds that you are facing bring you to turning to a higher power than yourself. Only God, the Creator of the universe, can bring life out of death. When your life and soul are barren, in a winter time wilderness, a dark night of the soul of hopelessness, God says, "Trust me." "I haven't abandoned you." "I want to give you resurrection life." The painful process has led you to trust Him. If you need wisdom, strength, guidance, comfort, or next steps, He brings them to you. And in reality, the supernatural world of God and Christ becomes yours. He doesn't want us to feel like orphans (abandoned) but to KNOW the personal relationship with God’s Son, Jesus Christ. He brings people, answers, next steps, through a supernatural process. And while life, people, or your body, may have failed you, the Lord is your personal shepherd and takes you into a place to walk closely with Him.
It’s an incremental, step-by-step, transition. To trust Him and walk by faith, to realize that He can be this close to you. In your soul. Your core. You will experience Him at a level of friendship and intimacy you never thought possible. He can bring change into your circumstances and suffering because He is about bringing good out of bad. Bringing life out of death. You won't see it at first. It’s a step of faith. It’s another step of faith. Like a dot to dot coloring page, when you look back you will see the full picture. It’s the place you are at now that you ponder, wonder, and want hope and victory in. Trust Him. Talk to Him. Seek Him. The answers are coming in a way that you never envisioned. They are usually out of the box you are in. They are in ways that can only be explained as Christ IN you, the HOPE of Glory.
Jean was married to Dan Milliken for 43 years. Daniel's Heart in honor of her first husband. You can read about Jean's story of "refining fire" and what God has taught her over the past thirteen years of her husband’s blood cancer and incurable brain disease on her blog. As Dan lost all of his cognitive abilities, Jean cared for him in their home until the very end of his life. Jean quotes, "He taught us lessons of how to love God and love people, while actively doing it because he had no voice to speak it. He never lost his eternal hope in Jesus Christ as his Savior. He pointed us to Jesus by the way he walked on earth and how he died. He loved God. He loved people. And whomever knew him knew it. His testimony lives on through the Daniel's Heart Foundation."
Jean is the Director of Soul Thirst Ministries. She lives with her new husband in Tacoma, Washington. Together they can be found boating or spending time with the 5 grandchildren they now share.