For many Christians in Western cultures, the idea that beauty can come from suffering is counterintuitive. There’s little room for pain and discomfort in a society that idolizes a life of safety and luxury.
But what if, instead of viewing suffering as a punishment, we chose to embrace it as a privilege that both sanctifies us and allows us to know and experience God at a deeper, more intimate level?
“In this life, we all want to get on board with the new life, blessings, and abundance of knowing Christ, but we’re certainly not willing to go through crucifixion and sacrifice to find communion with Jesus,” speaker and author Jay Wolf told The Christian Post. “When we are so averse to discomfort, we miss out on something so vital to understanding who Jesus is. We’re missing out on communion with Him and with humanity. We’re missing out on a deep level of compassion if we’ve never experienced hardship.”
For Jay and his wife, Katherine, the belief that suffering is not the end of the story has sustained them through unthinkable tragedy.
On April 21, 2008, Katherine, who was just 26 years old and a mother of 6-month-old James, unexpectedly experienced a brain bleed from a massive brain stem stroke that nearly killed her. After 16 hours of micro-brain surgery, Katherine miraculously lived but was left unable to walk, talk, or swallow. The former beauty queen and model was left with severe double vision, right ear deafness, and right-side facial paralysis.
“I had to learn how to find God in the midst of it,” Katherine said. “I learned that God’s goodness was not attached to my earthly circumstances, and God being good was not based on anything going on in the physical world. The cross put everything in perspective.”
Today, the couple is behind Hope Heals, a nonprofit that serves to offer rest, resources and relationships to broken bodies, brains and hearts. They’re also internationally-recognized communicators and advocates for those with disabilities. Recently, Sony Pictures optioned the rights to make “Hope Heals” a movie.
“Suffering well begins with not being so scared of the hard stories and really wrestling with the sad and bittersweet nature of life and not being afraid to talk about that and again find God in the midst of it,” Jay said. “We don’t need to be afraid of suffering because as believers, we can be confident that struggles will give us depth and a richness to our experiences with God and with one another.”
“What happens to you is less important than how you re-narrate it, how you think about, how you find God in the midst of it. Are you a victim, or are you an overcomer?”
Jay and Katherine shared their powerful story in the bestselling book Hope Heals: A True Story of Overwhelming Loss and an Overcoming Love. In February, they released a second book titled Suffer Strong: How to Survive Anything by Redefining Everything, which Katherine described as a “how guide” when it comes to suffering well.
“We wanted to dispel the myth that joy can only be found in a pain-free life,” she said. “We summarize lessons we’ve learned and what we believe God has for us all amid suffering, things that have been really powerful and helpful for us.”
In the book, the couple details how to find hope not just amid life’s great disappointments, but in the “little deaths and little losses” as well.
“If I can be faithful and release some of that control in the smaller disappointments and struggles, it’s going to prepare my heart for when the bigger disappointments come,” Jay explained. “I won’t be absolutely undone when life doesn’t turn out how I thought it was going to.”
In 2015, the Wolfs miraculously welcomed their second child, John Nestor Wolf, named after Katherine’s three-time-life-saving neurosurgeon, Dr. Nestor Gonzalez.
“Being a mother is my greatest joy,” she said.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Leah MarieAnn Klett