February 24, 2024

Christina Stoever
"Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations knowing that tribulation produces perseverance, and perseverance, character, and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us."
Romans 5:1-5

“If you aren’t suffering, you aren’t growing” — Elizabeth Elliott. I read this quote years ago and at first I really loved it. Then I began experiencing suffering. From my first memories, I have always loved Jesus. Deeply, passionately, and without regret. I remember giving my heart to Him. I remember the day, my church, and the walk down the aisle (yes, that used to be a thing).

I also remember being verbally attacked by friends and parents of my friends for telling others about Jesus and my new experience. This began my journey of suffering. I didn’t want to follow Jesus because it was easy, I wanted to follow Jesus because the peace I had found. I couldn’t explain it but I wanted everyone around me to know. Instead of using my sufferings to grow in perseverance and hope, I began to withdraw and shut down about my faith. Instead of trusting and believing that hope in the Lord does not disappoint, I began to believe that I need to be quiet about my faith.

My second year playing basketball in college I met an older woman who began meeting with me. She was passionate, joyful, and people were drawn to her. She began challenging me to be bold again. Share my sufferings with others. Realizing that I wasn’t alone in my shame and suffering, I found freedom in sharing again. See all the years I allowed others to quiet my voice, I allowed disbelief to creep in.

The world will try to knock you down. Allow others to scar your name. The world doesn’t want Jesus’ name to be shared. So as I go back to Romans 5:1-5, I believe the passage with all my heart. Shawn and I have taught our children these verses. And now when I read the quote from Elizabeth Elliot, it is true, “if you’re not suffering, you’re not growing.” But do not be lied to, suffering isn’t because of anything you have done. Suffering is because we live in a fallen world. But take heart, Jesus has come for you to abide in His presence when you are suffering. Allow His presence to be your true peace and part of your redemption story.