When Suffering Is Our Calling

Each person who trusts in Jesus as their Savior has a calling, a purpose to fulfill, here on this earth. This calling brings many into a relationship with God – forever. The Spirit of God determines that calling. The Spirit gifts us for ministry. Each call and each gift are irrevocable and usable for a specific goal.

This truth is comforting to remember when we realize the open door God has asked us to walk through.

Some are called to full-time ministry.

Some are called to volunteer and support the ministry.

Some are called to go overseas on a mission.

Some are called to be a light in their neighborhood play groups or the workplace; some are called to minister to the one person they see every day at the grocery store, the coffee shop, or their child’s school.

And some are called to suffer.

In illness.

In poverty.

In persecution.

And the like.

I knew a woman many years ago who was called to illness and to suffer a lifetime from it. Her husband and children suffered along with her. She had a brain tumor. As a devoted woman of God, she decided to answer that call.

How did she answer? She couldn’t just say, “No, I don’t want that tumor or yes, I’ll take that.” It was not going away without surgery and a great deal of prayer. It may have never gone away; that was the real truth she faced.

Instead, she answered that call by using it for good – to minister to others. She and her husband did not waste a minute of their suffering. Being a light in the world of medicine where in many cases science is the only answer, they shared Jesus – with the doctors, nurses, and other patients who suffered.

During the removal of the tumor, this woman had a stroke. She was permanently impaired and disabled for the rest of her life. However, God saved her life. Her calling was not over.

She needed rehabilitation every day. Her husband loved her. He took her to her appointments. He spoke of his faithfulness to His wife. He was the example of Jesus loving His church as he loved his bride.

Every part of their life was an answer to the calling God had placed on them.

Was it glamorous? No. Was it fun, exciting, and happy? No.

It was scary, heartbreaking, hard work, and difficult. It was no picnic, but it was a joy.

It was a joy to see others come to Jesus. It was a joy to see their calling make sense. It was a joy to see them have hope in the midst of their despair. It was a joy to experience a whole church body lift their voices to God for and with them. It was a joy to watch many lives be touched by their ministry. Many hearts were healed. Many received salvation. For every single miracle, God was glorified by the non-believer and the believer alike.

The joy of our calling (no matter the type) comes when we focus on the eternal impact of our life, when we can see the light through the door; not just the pain we are undergoing.

Isaiah speaks of a man who suffered greatly for the sake of others. His name is Jesus. To the cross Jesus Himself bore our sicknesses, and He carried our pains. Even when the very people He suffered for, mocked Him, accused Him wrongfully, and attacked His very security by saying, “You are stricken and abandoned by Your God.” He quietly suffered without a word; He did not retaliate or complain. He loved His calling, not because He loved suffering, but because He loved its purpose – its mission to seek and save the lost.

He was pierced because of our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities; punished for our peace; His wounds have healed us from sin, darkness, and eternal damnation.

His suffering was so great that His appearance was disfigured. He did not look human anymore. He did all this so that many would be justified. So that many would be His portion. Because He submitted Himself to this calling, the rebels, the sinners, like you and me, can be forgiven and rescued.

The calling God gives us is our invitation to fulfill the very purpose we have been given here on earth. It’s not our choice to pick the calling; it’s our choice to make sense of it and to follow faithfully through with it to the very end.

Our calling is not useless, senseless, and without significance. The wise servant of Jesus will interpret the calling (no matter what type) into a meaningful ministry. We can endure great pain if we realize there is great purpose.

When I gave birth to my four children, it was not an easy time. From the time of conception to the birth, I was sick, my back hurt, my legs were in pain, and I was on bed-rest for five plus months due to the possibility of preterm labor. Then the labor came. With all four it was an excruciating time of suffering that seemed to last forever.

But I was willing to endure.

Why? The most beautiful gift was about to be born into our family.

When we make sense of our calling, no matter the cost, we can endure. We can have joy. We can get through. We can see the light. We can walk through that door with great tenacity.

Your suffering may never go away. That’s a reality that you may have to face. While you endure, instead of asking for its removal, ask for more strength, more power, and more opportunities to tell others about God’s son, Jesus. For the time of your calling, use it for His glory!

Healing comes in many ways. It can be in the form of physical healing or the form of right perspective on the pain. No matter the healing, it will come. It’s good to remember that God’s ways are not ours. His ways serve a higher purpose than our human frame of mind can comprehend. Tap into the mind of Christ and see what’s beyond the visible and then your healing will come and your purpose fulfilled.

God is still Lord even when difficult times don’t make sense.

I can’t imagine that Elizabeth Elliot, wife of Jim Elliot, set out to lose her husband to a savage people while on mission in Ecuador. But she did. And she used this suffering to bring his murders to Jesus. 

Take Mother Teresa who chose the call to live with the poor so she could bring the poor to Jesus. 

Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, answered the call to speak a hard word from the Lord to a hard-hearted people. He suffered ridicule and rejection instead of encouragement. He spoke anyway. His calling was greater than his emotional pain.

The woman with the brain tumor did not anticipate the suffering she would encounter when she and her husband began their journey as husband and wife. I’m sure they had high hopes of a happy life. But it didn’t turn out that way. However, they chose to lead their life and their two little girls with eyes up rather than eyes down. They walked through the door of hope rather than closing it in on their pain. 

We may not understand the calling we’ve been given, but God does have a redemptive plan in it all. Trust that His right hand can handle the great and small of suffering in your life. He can use it. And you can walk in this calling for your life and make a difference!