By Dan Hyun
Right before the new year, my younger brother, Joe, was suddenly diagnosed with leukemia. Since then, he’s been undergoing a grueling course of treatment, including a recent transplant.
A few weeks after Joe’s diagnosis, my daughter, Tabitha, was found to have a failing liver. In February, we joyfully experienced an apparent miraculous healing in her body. Yet, in April, Tabby got sick again as we were heartbroken to learn that she also has leukemia.
The past few months have carried a lot of brokenness and tears as we walk through the beginning steps of a long path of treatment.
We’re scrambling to catch up as our extended family’s normal has suddenly been flipped on its head, especially with the effects of COVID-19 making everything in life that much more difficult.
No way to sugarcoat it: 2020 has felt like a long, nasty nightmare we’re hoping to wake from. The dark despair of trauma has been too familiar a companion.
Yet, as challenging as it’s been, I’ve tried to catch glimpses of beauty shining like light in the dark.
Here are a few truths that have taken on a deeper significance for me through these trials.
1. God is enough.
I’ve preached so many sermons on the subject of suffering. Our present pain, however, is leading me on a more intimate experience of the God who’s known in the desert.
As someone who thrives on high energy mountaintop experiences, I’m seeing how desert valleys also reveal the power of God, even if the manifestations of that look vastly different.
As Jeremiah 2:13 describes, this desert dwelling has painfully revealed broken cisterns I’ve constructed for my significance. Like the pain of discovering on a long hike that my water bottle is cracked and leaked out water, this season of desert suffering is revealing idols I functionally worship in the place of God.
The heartache of loss has stripped away my hope in things like security, prestige, and comfort. I’ve been having many conversations with God, looking into His face to ask, “Are you enough?”
The reply I’ve been hearing is as Randy Alcorn describes: “In our times of suffering, God doesn’t give answers as much as He gives Himself.”
As I’ve shared publicly about our family situation, it’s been encouraging to hear from so many who are ministered to by our story. In my flesh, I’d much rather preach an epic sermon about suffering well, but ironically, our response to pain may be the most effective “sermon” I’ve given in a while.
God is showing us and others that his presence is enough, even in the deserts of life.
2. God works through limitations.
As I’m trusting God is enough, I’m also viewing my limitations through different eyes as God is showing me the nature of power. For much of my ministry, I’d come to believe that God’s message is more significant when I’m able to make people go “wow.”
However, my family’s illnesses combined with the pandemic have imposed limitations on what I can do and where I can be for my family and ministry. Instead of “wow,” I feel like I’ve just had a lot of “meh” to offer.
Yet in that frustration the Spirit has been gently showing me how my limitations aren’t just something that God will work in spite of; the mysterious ways of God will actually use those things we consider liabilities like we read in 2 Corinthians 12:9.
I’ve been asking myself: How much do you really believe in the power of prayer? Even if I’m unable to physically be out on the streets of my city, do I trust that the tears spilled while on my knees praying for Baltimore are significant?
The Lord has been showing me it’s OK to do what I can and to trust He’s enough in what I can’t. My work as a pastor isn’t just about what I do; it’s who I am and who I know. It’s about presence even in the limitations many of us are experiencing in this current climate.
In the same way, some of God’s most powerful work in me during this season has been the quiet power of His presence. Even if it doesn’t feel like fireworks, I’m learning to trust the reassuring presence of His still small voice.
3. I need other people.
This season of suffering has shown me I need others as much as they might need me. I’m stubbornly self-reliant, and that may be holding back some of the ways God desires to work within me.
This season has broken my family, but this breaking has put us in a position where we desperately need what others can give us. From our local church and so many others from all over the country, we’ve received so much. Prayers. Generosity. Service. Kindness. Extravagant grace.
It may be my hero complex, but I crave being the one who’s helping others. These humbling times have put me in the position to instead be the one to receive help.
I’ve seen the church rise to be the church in beautiful ways. My relationship with some dear friends has been decidedly one-sided, but I’m seeing the gift of people who want to be with you—not because of what you have to offer, but just because of you.
I’m reminded the head of the church is Christ, not me. Our suffering has provided the good reminder that I’m also a member of the body who needs to receive the gifts others have to give.
Again, no sugarcoating. A season filled with so much hurt. Yet the mystery of God is revealing beauty in ashes. God doesn’t waste anything, including the suffering we walk through.
DAN HYUN (@villagedanhyun) is the husband to Judie, father of two precious girls, and lead pastor of The Village Church and Send City Missionary for Baltimore, Maryland.