The Night Season
By Jennifer Gibson
"O my God, I cry in the day time, but thou hearest not;
and in the night season, and am not silent."
I really look forward to our Bible conferences every year. They are always such a great time of fun and learning. But eight months ago as we discussed possible conference topics I had no way of knowing how desperately I would need this information and how little fun this conference season would be for me.
Eight months ago I had a good job which made it possible to pay my bills. I had great friends and a great family close by. Being single meant I had a lot of freedom and, of course, there's my salvation! Things were really good. It wasn't that I had never suffered; it was just that most of my suffering seemed to be in the past. All the pain associated with that suffering was a distant memory. Besides, I was sure that since then I had stored up enough doctrine to know what I was doing when it came to suffering. I could deal with whatever came next. I was tough, smart and easy going, nothing was going to rock my well-stocked boat of common sense and sound doctrine. Whatever life had coming, I could handle it. Then it came.
It wasn't something threatening or sinister. It wasn't cancer or a death in my family, loss of my hearing or loss of my home - it was love. For the first time I fell in love, but he didn't love me back and the pain has been surprisingly overwhelming. As I entered into this relationship I prepared myself for the trials I knew would be involved. I was ready to fight for a strong marriage and sacrifice and serve to be a good partner. I had read Ephesians 5 a hundred times. I was willing to sign up for the type of suffering that came with a relationship. But total rejection was a suffering I hadn't signed up for, hadn't seen coming and didn't understand. My hair began to fall out, I cried for hours every night and I was sick to my stomach every morning. The worst part was knowing that heartbreak had happened to everyone at some point. What I was feeling wasn't unique; the debilitating pain wasn't uncommon - I never noticed before how many songs there are about heartbreak. If this was just common run-of-the-mill suffering, I was in big trouble because it felt as if I was choking to death on my pain.
All the doctrine I had stored up seemed to slip away. Emotions took over and I didn't recognize myself anymore. As it turned out I wasn't strong, capable or able to endure any of this. I was so depressed and there was a deep sadness in me that never seemed to go away. It felt like I kept waking up in the middle of the night disoriented and frantic, not knowing where I was, only to realize I was simply heartbroken. That tough, smart, easy going woman was gone. I was lost, I was scared and I felt desperately alone.
For the first few months I tried to hold up under my own steam. I was casual about being dumped - it happens, oh well. But inside I was trying anxiously to make sense of it all. What had I done wrong and what could I have done differently? I analyzed the situation from every angle. All the while the doctrine sat in the back of my mind. I didn't want to be conformed to the image of Christ at the expense of losing the man I loved. I hadn't signed up for this particular suffering, remember? I hadn't even asked for this relationship, I hadn't been looking for love. The odds were against ever meeting and falling in love with a wonderful, saved man, who understood right division and grace, believed the King James Version was the inerrant word of God willing to be a spiritual head. Meeting that man and losing him was humiliating, crushing and not fair.
But fair or not, it was happening and not to someone else, this time it was happening to me. I had looked on many times while friends had struggled to come to grips with various suffering. I had held the hands of others and quoted scripture to them trying to comfort them through their trial. Now it was my turn and I hated it. I hated falling apart in front of everyone; I hated that nothing was fun anymore; I hated how weak and useless I felt. Then it finally began to sink in, I was weak and I was useless. It wasn't my strength that was sufficient or my reasoning that was going to profit me in this, 2 Corinthians 12:9. This was a chance to apply all that stored up doctrine sitting in the back of my mind.
I had been educated in the word of God, by the Holy Spirit; I had the necessary information to deal with this. I had a choice - I could hang on to my ever changing emotions and circumstances, wallowing in self pity, or look at this situation as God looks at it, as an opportunity (as Alex put it at the Seattle conference) to manifest Christ, by putting aside what every fiber of my being wanted and submit my will to God's, that I may be conformed to the image of his Son and experience the fellowship of his suffering, approving the more excellent, Philippians 1:10. He had felt rejection; he had been heartbroken; he cried. I knew my response to this suffering, like Christ's response to his suffering, was to be based on the Word of God, not on my emotions. I'm going to choose to see the injustice, the pain, the anguish and humiliation as a privilege. I now know the gift of suffering as a partaker not a spectator, and I know the comfort and fellowship of God's word as it effectually works in me because I believe it is true (I Thessalonians 2:13).
"But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.
"Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,
"And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
"That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death" (Phil. 3:8-10).
Far more than those sad songs about heartbreak and pain, these passages have taken on new meaning
for me and I am understanding them on a deeper level because of my suffering. I understand my hope is not in my
circumstances here and, as Romans 5:3-5 says, the path to hope begins with tribulation. I brought a lot of this
suffering on myself; I hung on to a dream, not reality; I refused to let go; in self will I compromised my true
identity, which is in Christ, and the doctrine. I had to stop hanging on to my way, begin to walk through the suffering
unashamed and into the arms of. the God of all comfort. God's design is to endure suffering. He comes to fortify
us in all our tribulation - even the stuff we bring on ourselves (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
It doesn't matter what you are suffering, or why, or for how long - suffering stinks. Everyone suffers and there will always be someone better off and someone worse off. Instead of comparing suffering to suffering, Paul compares suffering to glory. How we respond and what that suffering produces in us is the issue as believers, that is what sets us apart from the rest of the world. Only we can truly understand and appreciate the purpose and glory of suffering. We can trust this suffering is temporary and that these weak, emotional vessels will be replaced with glorious bodies fashioned like unto Christ's and that our light affliction, whether it be disease, persecution for the gospel or lost love, is but for a moment and worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory ( Philippians 3:21, II Corinthians 4:17).
I still wake up sick some mornings and fall back into the habit of feeling certain things, Richard calls it emotional tyranny. So before I let the tears take over I stop and renew my mind with the Word.
I am far from over the pain of the breakup, but I have learned to set my affection on things above, not on things on earth (Colossians 3:2). I hope the information shared from the Word during our wonderful conferences this year will be a spiritual blessing that provides comfort and, yes, joy as we all groan and travail waiting for the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:22-23). As the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ (2 Corinthians 1:5).
I was hoping to feel like my old self again soon but I think I will let her go. She had a great job that let her pay her bills, great friends and a great family close by. She was single which meant she had a lot of freedom. She was tough, smart and easy going, but now I know first hand His strength is made perfect in my weakness and I have become a partaker in the sufferings of Christ and count all things but loss for that knowledge. I know there will be another trial, another tribulation, another night season and I won't be smart enough or tough enough. I will turn my eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.