Sometimes it seems that tragedy strikes when life is going well. I experienced this firsthand when traveling with Pastor John Dickerson, author of I Am Strong.
Before I boarded the plane for New Mexico, news broke about the terrorist attacks in San Bernardino, CA, which is about 15 miles from my house. My mind raced to remember if my family might be home or out shopping. Would there be more attacks? Praying for San Bernardino and my family, I boarded the plane while sending a quick text to my wife and was relieved to hear they were all safe.
Later that afternoon, as John and I drove from Albuquerque to Taos, we listened to more of the breaking news and talked about how pain and suffering often come out of nowhere. It was a timely conversation to say the least—especially since we were on our way to meet and interview Joy Veron.
In 1999, Joy was on vacation with her family in Pogosa Springs, CO. On the last day of the trip, her kids ran ahead and jumped into the family SUV. Then the vehicle began to roll in the direction of a nearby cliff. In the blink of an eye, Joy and her dad raced toward the vehicle.
Joy’s body acted as a speed bump, slowing the vehicle enough for her father to leap into the SUV and brake just before they went over the cliff. But Joy’s heroic act cost her the use of her legs, and for the moment, her eyes.
Thankfully, her eyesight came back, but despite numerous surgeries, she was told that she would never walk again.
Even after 16 years, Joy is still moved to tears when she talks about that day. The event is still real. It still affects her every day. But when asked if she had the opportunity to not go through the accident, she quickly replied, “No.”
Joy is not a glutton for punishment; she has learned and continues to learn that relying on God while suffering is far greater than living without God in the so-called best of times. As Psalm 84:10 joyfully proclaims, “Better is one day in Your courts than a thousand elsewhere.”
Christians who rejoice in their suffering are not masochistic. The pain is real and it hurts! But as Charles Spurgeon so aptly put it, they have “learned to kiss the wave that throws [them] against the Rock of Ages.”
For those who are followers of Jesus, there is sweetness in suffering because He draws near to us in our pain. There is closeness with God in suffering that we don’t often experience when things are going well.
We can also take comfort in trials knowing that God will use it for many purposes. Romans 8:28 reminds us that God is using everything we experience in life – triumphs and trials – for our good if we are truly lovers of God.
Towards the end of John’s interview with Joy, she explained how God had not only used her suffering to draw her closer to Him, but to encourage others who were going through hard times. It reminded me of Paul’s words to the Corinthians: “God comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:4).
It was a pleasure to meet Joy on that cool, clear day in New Mexico. The sun was setting on the distant mesas while John and I drove back to the airport. As we reflected on the interview with Joy, we were encouraged that the promises of God for His people are always true. He will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).
Troy Lamberth is the executive producer of HAVEN Today. On the side, he teaches film at Providence Christian College, produces documentaries, and often teaches at his church. He enjoys discovering how Jesus is involved in all aspects of our lives—from faith to film to family—and how our relationship with him shapes the way we live. He and his wife Melissa have three young children.