Occasionally someone still asks about the things I have been through, and I still answer them without thinking--until they begin to shudder, and I take pity and stop. One experience in particular makes people shrink about half their size as their shoulders draw in and their chins drop to their chests with a groan. Even the everyday isn’t pleasant. Eye drops are some of the most painful medications in existence, and an evening headache is par for the course.
“Is it worth it?” some asked. In fact, one person tried to talk me out of any more surgeries.
Is it worth it? I began all these procedures before either of my grandsons was born. Without them, I would never have seen those sweet, tiny faces. Was it worth the pain and the terror I sometimes felt right before yet another sharp instrument or harsh chemical headed for my eyeballs? Do I even need to answer that? My doctor thinks I am strong. No—I was a grandmother in prospect, and a stubborn one at that.
Some people obviously do not think the Lord is worth any sort of pain at all. They give up when it gets difficult, and “difficult” can just mean they have problems with relationships, or they must give up activities they enjoy. They have yet to encounter physical pain; the emotional pain was all it took.
Keith and I have received threats in the mail, threats that the FBI took seriously enough to send an investigator to look into. We have endured gossip and slander that spread a couple hundred miles. We came within two days of being homeless because of, as Paul called them, “false brethren.” Was it worth it?
As we enter old age, looking to the end is no longer a distant view, and that makes it comforting to know that we have a reward waiting for us precisely because we endured those things. We have yet to face physical torture, and though I no longer consider that an impossibility in this country, I doubt it will reach that point before we are gone. To have put up with any sort of pain for the Lord, emotional or otherwise, is a blessing. Finally I understand how the disciples could “count it all joy” to give up or endure something for the Lord who gave up all for us, even if that something is trivial comparatively speaking.
Was it worth it? Yes, Heaven is worth it all, but gratitude should ultimately reach the point that merely being able to sacrifice for the Lord is worth even more. True spiritual maturity revels in seeing our Lord and Savior, not in seeing Paradise; in the ability to serve a God we can see before us, not in being pain- and worry-free forever; in being beside the Father who loves us, not in enjoying one giant eternal party.
Sometimes going through pain in life, pain that has nothing to do with your Christianity, opens your eyes to spiritual things. Was that physical pain worth it? Did it give you a longer life? A better quality of life? Did it give you more time with your loved ones? Usually that is enough to make it “worth it.” Now ask yourself, what can you make it through for the Lord? Will it be worth it? God has the ability to make it so, but only you can make the decision to endure.
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. 1 Peter 4:12-16