As examination of personal suffering
by Lisa Quintana
I had just received my Master’s degree (Dec. 2017) in Apologetics from the country’s top-rated university in this field, Biola. I have developed a wonderful network of fellow apologists, and an amazing opportunity to speak at the Women in Apologetics first-annual conference just a month after I graduated. The conference was a success, and I was eager to dive head-first into the apologetics ministry. I was ambitious and ready to move forward on writing, speaking, and teaching others why Christianity was true. Then everything stopped abruptly – I literally started seeing double.
In February, I had outpatient surgery on a lazy eye condition. I was supposed to see much better after this operation. To my great disappointment, that didn’t happen. Instead, after the stitches healed, my left eye was misaligned once again, and now, I was seeing double regularly. I couldn’t read a book (torture!), and driving was not safe. It was a devastating moment as I began to realize that I might have to release every expectation of doing anything for God, or much of anything at all. How could I work if I couldn’t even read a line of text? To make matters worse, there were no guarantees of my eye getting better. I had to lay all my great expectations down. Depression replaced my dreams.
I’d often go bed early just because there was nothing else I to do. Reading a book was out, watching TV where images floated on top of each other made me dizzy, and even cooking was challenging since I couldn’t read recipes! It was the dark night of my soul.
During that time, I cried out to God a lot. He answered my prayers but not in the way I wanted. Instead, God showed me my heart. And it wasn’t pretty. I was full of worldly ambition, had a competitive spirit, and “ministry envy” of others. YUK! I didn’t think that was in me, but it was. God used the double vision to actually help me “see” better! Isn’t that just like our God?
This went on for months, and because of it, I didn’t pursue anything ministry-wise. I just had to wait it out, which is not my strong suit. (My husband can attest to the fact I am not the most patient person he’s known.) I am moving forward now, little by little, stepping out cautiously, watching my heart and my motivations more strictly, asking that God would help me when I feel too ambitious or when I compare myself to others.
Patience is being thrust upon me in this season. Yet, God knows my heart and has been working on it through this trial… I just want to love well. I want to see others as He sees them, and not get caught up in the whole “success-oriented” trap. I need to see success as something that comes only from being obedient to God’s call, however small that call may be.
Today, things are much better. I have single vision for most of the day now, and only at the end of the day, when I am tired, does the double vision return. Late night reading doesn’t happen (unless I read with one eye shut). The strange thing is that I’m okay with my eyesight for one reason: to whom shall I go?
When Jesus looked at His disciples, He asked them a crucial question: “So, Jesus asked the Twelve, “Do you want to leave too?” Simon Peter replied, ‘Lord to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life.’” (John 6:67-68.)
Isn’t that the question we must all ask ourselves when facing adversity? Sure, we can get mad at God for things not going the way we’d planned, but to outright reject Him because we’re suffering will get us nowhere. Where would we go with our pain? Other people? They won’t have the answers. To the bottle or to drugs? That only numbs the wound temporarily and won’t bring healing. Other religions? As an apologist, I know those aren’t true and won’t solve the problem of suffering. No, we must stay if we have any hope of seeing something good come out of the suffering we endure.
There must be something about suffering that is required for life, otherwise God himself would not have endured it… yet, He did. Why? Why must pain and evil exist in our reality? What is it about pain that produces promise in the Christian worldview? Even the best theologians can’t answer that question entirely. But we do know that suffering is not in vain when we trust that God is good.
“Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb. 12:2.)
We must look to Jesus who is perfecting our faith, making us more like Him, and wait for the promise to be fulfilled; that promise of a heavenly existence. Heaven is what we are eager for—that “Utopian experience” all people innately desire. It’s the only place where there will be no more suffering, no more tears, and no more pain. (Rev. 21:4.) In the meantime, we are called to bring a little bit of Heaven to Earth by being the hands and feet of Jesus Christ. This is where hope is found, and God knows we live in times were hope is lacking. We must bring hope back into people’s lives with the truth of who they are—image bearers of God.
Life this side of heaven can be hard at times, but with faith, we can help others along the path to finding the source of love itself: a relationship with their Creator. This is what we’re made for—to love God and to love others. This should be our “single vision,” for after all, I can attest that seeing double can drive you blind. Keep a single vision on the prize. (Phil. 3:14.)