Tragedy to Treasure
Wendi S. Colton
This leper was an outcast, he was unclean,” said the speaker. “If I could give you a visual of a person with leprosy, I’d say it looks something like someone who has been burned.” The descriptive voice continued, “You see, fire eats away at the flesh much like the disease of Leprosy.”
Over 400 high school students were listening to this message at the Young Life Camp in Colorado. The speaker was sharing how Jesus had healed the leper. As he spoke of the burns, I could feel the heat of embarrassment rise from my chest, through the neck and into my face. “Had anyone noticed my burns?” I wondered. As I listened to the speaker I began to feel as if he was delivering my message. I was the one with 52% of my body covered in burns. I wanted to shout, “I am your visual aide!”
Some 20 years earlier, I was the same age as these students. I was a soon-to-be freshman in high school, attending a similar church camp. However, instead of returning home, I spent the next three and half months in a burn center with a broken back and a raw body; a body that had been eaten by a fiery crash. Since then I have tried to make sense out of why people suffer. It was at this Young Life camp where the speaker was describing the leper that God began to open my eyes to the sufferings of Christ.
I had just completed 40 Days of Purpose by Rick Warren and without a doubt, I knew God had a plan for my life, however I had no idea what that plan looked like. During this trip to Colorado, I spoke to my sister-in-law, who has a degree in Christian Family Counseling. (Seeking wise counsel in not only biblical but a great place to start shuffling through your emotions.) She led me to writing my experiences on paper, adding a bible verse, along with a comforting thought, for emotional healing. Eventually, a challenging thought was added to these short stories and a devotional book that I could share with my family was in the works.
“I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in the His death.”
I did as she had recommended not realizing God had a more detailed plan – to develop a ministry through my scars by sharing with people “how to turn the scars of life into the joy of Christ.” Everyone has scars, either on the outside or the inside. They all need to be brought to the light of Jesus for healing. The simple concept of “Stop, Drop and Roll” was taught to us all as a life-saving drill in grade school. But I learned that “Stop, Drop and Roll” can also be used with Christ and can bring you unspeakable joy!
While writing my experiences, I took a closer look at Christ’s suffering on the cross and realized – I can relate to His pain (Mark 15:12-20). I understood physical pain, rejection, loneliness and despair. I have shared in that suffering and it has given me an understanding of my Savior and His love for us. Without my experiences of suffering, I would not have the least bit of understanding or appreciation for the heart of the gospel message – the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
I like what Ruth Graham, Billy Graham’s daughter, says in her book, In Every Pew Sits a Broken Heart:
I must have overlooked the most obvious example of the paradox of the Christian life. Christ hanging on the cross. God allowed His Son – His one and only beloved Son – to suffer abuse, torture, rejection, and death. Suffering was God’s plan for Jesus. By Christ’s suffering, God made a way for me, a sinful person, to fellowship with Him, a holy God. My very relationship with God was made possible because Jesus took responsibility for my sins by suffering. Suffering was at the heart of the gospel message, ‘How did I miss it?’”
I overlooked the message as well. How could I have the gall to ask, “Why do I have to suffer with this?” Yet, it was the plan for His Son to suffer for my eternal well-being. I have some nerve to complain and questions God’s plan.
Today, I rejoice in the power of the resurrection and the sharing in His sufferings. I claim the promise of Jeremiah 29:11-13.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you eek me with all your heart.”
In suffering, you can recognize Jesus, the suffering is no longer a tragedy but a treasure. Stop: You are loved! Drop: Give thanks for the cross! Roll: With His plan for you!