Good Fruit from Bitter Soil – Through Redeeming Pain

 You know that I’ve never shied away from the idea that good fruit can be harvested from bitter soil. God has a pretty clear record of redeeming pain, of turning ashes into things of beauty. It’s simply how our God works. Yet, I’ll be the first to admit that I struggle in times when I’m incapacitated. I hate “wasting” time. I hate seasons of sickness… seasons of weakness… seasons of sub par–ness. It just frustrates me! I want to do, to achieve, to check all the boxes and hand the list back to God saying, “What next?” When I run into days… weeks… months of inadequacy my soul chafes. “What’s the point?’ “What a waste…”

I’m just now starting to come out of one of those seasons. I’m just breaking out of several months of sickness… happy sickness… pregnancy sickness (the happiest sickness of all!) It seems as though we will be getting a new addition to our family this November; and though I am thrilled about this, I have always struggled in my first trimesters. I know women who have the whole pregnancy glow down to a science; I’m afraid my experiences are less glow and more glum. I always feel like I’ve dropped into a dark, dark hole… a downward spiral of sickness, pain, fatigue and well, more sickness. This pregnancy so far has not been an exception.

I’ll be honest, one of the biggest struggles the past couple months was the question, “Why?” Oh, I know that my body is doing an incredibly important and detailed work; but as I lay limp on the couch from day to day only entering into family life out of necessity and only with great misery, I couldn’t help but wonder why. Was this really necessary? What good is all this suffering producing? I get the baby… a good that is both glorious and miraculous!! But I know God to be much more economical than that. I know there has to be a harvest more immediate. He had to be producing something… or intending to produce something more.

But what was it? Endurance? Patience? I suppose. I remember in previous pregnancies believing endurance to be the ultimate aim and thinking it was an opportunity to grow stronger… to rise above and all of that. But to be quite honest, as much as I tried, there wasn’t much rising above. There was barely keeping afloat. The past couple of months, the boxes have gone unchecked. The to-do has been left unheaded on a very cluttered countertop. In the numbness, the weakness, the sickness I continued to ask God, “What? What am I supposed to learn from this? What good… what are You trying to teach me? Why is this necessary?”

And you want to know one of the things that I have come to learn? These seasons of weakness or pain –these seasons where we are crippled, laid flat on our backs and made to come face to face with our own vulnerability and inadequacy–these seasons are given to us in order that we might know God’s true nature. You see, I have been forced to come to His table empty-handed. No achievements, no tasks complete. I have entered His presence with nothing, and yet He has welcomed me to dine. He has once more taken my bare, unproductive hands and has led me to a place where I could feast at His expense. He has forced me to realize His pleasure at my presence stems not from what I bring Him but in who I am.

Our seasons of weakness reveal His astounding goodness. Our seasons of sub par-ness showcase His grace. They shatter any delusion that we may secretly harbor that we’ve earned a place or have merited His attention. I bring nothing, yet I am met with a smile. Oh, He isn’t wasting our time. He isn’t carelessly allowing suffering. He is trying to strip away the delusion. We are of value not because we are productive but because He has deemed us priceless. He cherishes us not because we can and do, but because He will and does. His kindness, His grace, His mercy and compassion radiates in dark seasons of pain. Don’t let your weakness keep you from looking up.

Don’t let your failures keep your gaze on the ground. Look to His face, draw close–even with empty hands–and know His grace. Believer, take your place at the table; sit and dine. In the warmth of His love, relish His amazing grace.

“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you by His love; He will exult over you with loud singing.” Zephania 3:17