Three years ago, when I turned 30 (for the first time), my heart skipped a billion beats in anticipation of the glorious days this era would bring.
This is when life begins.
It is the monumental moment when a 20-something mistake-maker finally grows into a mature and sophisticated version of herself, with less baby fat.
The first few moments were great! But in the following months, everything came crumbling down. My job. Relationship. Friendships.
And my health. A brisk walk was no longer burning off that pumpkin spice latte! I failed to factor an aging body into my fantasy of a ripe, slightly older age.
With my imagination zapped by this rather rude reality, another nightmare ravaged my picturesque vision of 30… Adult acne.
I’m talking about cystic craters too deep for even over-the-counter creams and pill-popping prescriptions to zap.
Disturbed by my appearance, I caked on clearasil and tried facials, doctors, and dermatologists. Helplessly, the barrage of blemishes continued to plague my life.
If you’re a man reading this, it may mean nothing. If you’re a woman, you probably feel my pain.
Society makes it worse with its infatuation of a selfie-centered culture. Sure, I can keep my camera at bay, but friends and family are a different story. Everyone wants a picture. Smile. Cheese. Snap. It’s done before you know it.
Two years went by and my face was still a mess. I opted to see skin ‘aesthetician’. She suggested a procedure that would extract cysts caught beneath the surface of skin. A fine needle injected several skin layers deep, heats to the temperature of lava. Painful? That’s an understatement.
The nurse gave this disclaimer when she finished the hour long session: What you’re about to see will heal in about a month or two.
Blood flow stopped when I saw the reflection.
Embarrassment. Humiliation. Sadness. Any little bit of self esteem I was holding onto, all flushed out the moment that mirror reflected hideous wounds on my face.
My mind conceded in defeat. How could I face job interviews looking like this? How could I be seen in public?
For fear a depression could lead to that dark place I had been just a year before, I bought a one-way ticket home to heal.
It was December. My folks were happy there was timeline on my stay. However, my heart grew heavy as every distant relative cringed at first sight of the scabs. The infamous family gathering Q & A’s ensued, reminding me that I still had no job, no house and no plan.
“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.” Proverbs 17:22
Under the exhausting, emotional pressure, my fake confidence finally collapsed in tears. Discreetly, I took my meltdown to the bathroom. Never have I seen a room with so many mirrors. Gigantic reflections all staring back at me and projecting the very image I now hated.
Standing face to face with the fear, I saw another reflection. A deep-rooted bitterness. Anger. Pride. Defeat.
This scarred tragedy on the surface was transparent to the emotional crisis going on underneath.
The outside concerns distracted my reflection of an inside condition.
As I peered past my skin and saw my soul, my mind understood the deep rooted pain buried beneath. This is when my focus shifted.
My knees met the ground with prayers for a sickness others couldn’t see. For restitution. For restoration. For peace.
Suffering can produce unspeakable intimacy with our Creator. Never more than in the furnace of my affliction have I experienced the profound presence of God.
My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Job 42:5
The fire refined jagged edges and impure desires. In my weakness of pain and suffering, God purified and polished a radiant bride of Christ.
…I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. Isaiah 48:10
My mistakes still blemish the beauty of His design, but suffering produced character and growth (James 1:2-4). God used these hardships to mature my faith and develop a resilient spirit.
He can redeem pain in our lives. We serve a God and Savior who knows suffering.
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:9
Through this suffering, the transformation of my mind has blossomed into a beautiful daughter, mirroring her Father’s image. Though I know suffering will still come in seasons, my heart is awakened and wrapped up in His love, basking in the glorious gift of His presence today.
You may be reading this in the midst of your own suffering. Perhaps a lot of things have come against you and it seems like the more you pray, the worse it gets. You might be doing the right thing, yet the wrong thing is happening. It would be easier to throw in the towel now.
Look closer. Stand steady. Rest in His Truth. You’ve come too far to stop.
Whenever life gets difficult and the lies bombard your mind, that’s the time to dig in your heels. Put on a new attitude because you are closer to real freedom and victory.
Doing the right thing in the midst of our pain and suffering when it feels so wrong, is what grows us in deeper places and stays with us longer than what’s on the surface.
Instead of being bitter and discouraged, look in the mirror and see through the surface. Keep standing, keep praying, keep hoping and stay in faith even as the intensity turns up!
Jesus, my Healer and Deliverer, You have seen the things I’ve been through. You know what I’ve had to endure. And I trust You. I see the places you have taken me from and I am encouraged by Your promises that this is not my destination. You are working behind the scenes.
I have full confidence my current suffering is refining and growing my intimacy with You, Heavenly Father, as perseverance leads me in the path to victory. I keep my faith and trust in You and expect to see Your mighty hand in Jesus’ name! Amen.