Finding the Courage to Seek God in Sorrow: When Suffering Points to Christ's Splendor

By Shawndra Lucas

God's Brave Women - Shawndra's Story


When it comes to being a Christian, I’ve done all the things. I’m a credentialed minister. I’ve worked in full-time vocational ministry for the past 15 years. My faith has taken me around the world to serve communities, preach the gospel, conduct research, and reach the lost.


My point here is not to toot my own horn. It’s just to set up my confession that for most of my Christian life, my horn—though well-polished—was not fully in-tune.


Though I was serving and preaching and jet-setting in Jesus’ name, I was carrying a disturbing secret with me. That is: though I loved God, I barely knew him.


 

"Though I was serving and preaching and jet-setting in Jesus’ name, I was carrying a disturbing secret with me. That is: though I loved God, I barely knew him."

 

This was just a nebulous feeling, a notion for many years until a friend shared this quote with me:


"It is said of God that no one can behold his face and live. I always thought this meant that no one could see his splendor and live. A friend said perhaps it meant that no one could see his sorrow and live. Or perhaps his sorrow is his splendor." -Nicholas Wolterstorff


When I heard these words, something clicked in my heart. This was it. I had not fully known God because God is not found so much in the sanctuary of church as he is in the sorrow of life.


My life in Christ was just that—a lot of life, but void of the death that the Bible describes as a non-negotiable element in the abundant life he promises us.


 

"I had not fully known God because God is not found so much in the sanctuary of church as he is in the sorrow of life. My life in Christ was just that—a lot of life, but void of the death that the Bible describes as a non-negotiable element in the abundant life he promises us."

 

There are dozens of verses in the New Testament about suffering, and I couldn’t relate to any of them. I would read 1 Corinthians 4 and cringe. I was not perplexed or crushed. I was not persecuted or abandoned. I was not struck down or destroyed. And the truth is, I didn’t want to be. I was hoping to bypass all the suffering and somehow still find my way to an intimate knowing of Christ.


The Apostle Paul’s words haunted me, “Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.” (2 Corinthians 4:10 NLT)


Ope! Not me. Cringe.


I had not suffered. I did not want to suffer. But I knew that if I was going to come to fully know Christ, my suffering was on its way. I lived with a sense of doom that a tragic crisis would hit my life at any moment. Sorrow was coming for me. And I was right.


In November 2020, I had a miscarriage, losing who would have been our third child. It was my inauguration into suffering, something I had never experienced before. And as I grieved and grappled with where God could possibly be in the midst of it all, He spoke to me: Here I am. I’m right here. Seek me now and you will find me like never before. You will know me like you never knew you could.


God was beckoning me to find the courage to seek him in the sorrow.


 

"God was beckoning me to find the courage to seek him in the sorrow."

 

But I was more inclined to cower than to be courageous. What if he was right? What if I did find him there in deep, transformative ways that I had never known? That would mean I would not only have to endure suffering, I would have to embrace it.


The Apostle Paul’s words rang out in my mind like a fire alarm.


“…If we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.” (Romans 8:17)


No, thank you! The thought of God’s Word proving true in my life was one part conviction, three parts fear. I wanted all of him, but was I willing to search for him in an ash heap?


 

"I wanted all of him, but was I willing to search for him in an ash heap?"

 

Less than a year later, my husband was diagnosed with advanced stage 2 colon cancer. My ash heap was suddenly an ash mountain, and I was certain that God had abandoned me. I didn’t eat or sleep for days. Fear was devouring me. Anxiety was defining me. The weight of my sorrow was too much for me to bear.


But it was those sleepless nights on an empty stomach that led me to the greatest revelation of my life. I began to understand that God’s purpose in my suffering was not to make me strong enough to bear the sorrow, but to compel me in my weakness to find him even there. In the dark. Waiting for me among the ashes.


If I could find the courage to do that, he would take care of the rest. And he has. My journey through the anguish of miscarriage has since become a testimony of hope for others. And my husband has since been declared cancer-free!


 

"God’s purpose in my suffering was not to make me strong enough to bear the sorrow, but to compel me in my weakness to find him even there. In the dark. Waiting for me among the ashes. If I could find the courage to do that, he would take care of the rest."

 

Meanwhile, I came to know God in deeper, more powerful ways than I ever had in a church sanctuary, or on a mission’s trip, or in the pages of a well-written devotional. I began to experience his love, his grace, his friendship, his power beyond measure. I came to know him as so many of the things I had believed him to be but never experienced so acutely—healer, provider, mender of broken hearts.


I found God in the sorrow, because He is God of the sorrow.


He is a Father who witnessed his only Son unjustly murdered in a brutal and bloody execution. If the measure of his splendor is in the depth of his sorrow, surely that’s what makes him more splendorous than we could ever imagine.


 

"I found God in the sorrow, because He is God of the sorrow. He is a Father who witnessed his only Son unjustly murdered in a brutal and bloody execution. If the measure of his splendor is in the depth of his sorrow, surely that’s what makes him more splendorous than we could ever imagine."

 

I could have never predicted that I would find God in such dark places. But when I did, it was like seeing him for the first time. The light of his presence was more brilliant there than anywhere else I had been. He was brighter and more complete than I had ever seen. And because I found the courage to seek him there, so am I.


Are you willing to seek him in the sorrow? I entreat you to try it. In the aching grief of loss, in the looming fear of death. Find the courage to seek God. And perhaps you will discover what I did—that in some upside-down way, our sorrow is our splendor too.


 

Brave Woman Manifesto


Make sure to check back next week as another courageous Sister shares her story.

And by the way...


You are Brave!


No matter what you are facing, God has made you in His image, which means He equips you with His courage, strength, and power. I would love to connect more and give you a FREE gift - the BRAVE WOMAN MANIFESTO: Five Things to Tell Yourself When Life Gets Hard. Click HERE to sign up for my monthly newsletter and you’ll receive the FREE Manifesto, as well as recent blog posts, updated resources and personal details delivered only to my empowered email tribe.


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About Shawndra


Shawndra Lucas is a campus missionary, writer, poet, and speaker based in Chicago, IL. She is passionate about using her gifts to build the Kingdom of God and seeing others released into their callings through discipleship and Spirit empowerment. Her and her husband have two boys and a third on the way!


Follow Shawndra on her blog shawndralucas.com, Instagram, and Facebook.