When I first met Aurelia, an instant bond was created. She is wise, loves people and loves to laugh. Most of all she loves her Savior. He has made her beautiful through suffering. Aurelia is a biblical counselor and I am SO thankful she was able to answer these questions about what the Lord has taught her through chronic pain.
Worthy Hope: Can you share a little about you? What are some of your trials in motherhood especially regarding your health?
Aurelia Smith: Although an autoimmune condition surfaced in my childhood, it did not keep me from leading a normal, active life. I have served in our nation’s military and am a graduate of one of our military institutions. However, when I started to carry and bear children, my body took a turn for the worse and my life has never been the same physically.
Because of this, many of my physical trials are directly related to motherhood! There have been multiple times when I thought the Lord was going to take me home or I have been unable to care for myself or my children. I have two beautiful sons and over the years I have come to realize just how miraculous their births were. They also have some health struggles that impact their daily lives as well, but they are manageable (allergies & asthma).
Another incident that God used in the area of hardships was when I thought my oldest son was going to die. His umbilical hernia was strangulated and required emergency surgery. He almost did not recover from this surgery and we almost lost him. This all occurred during my very difficult second pregnancy.
WH: Did you have a theological framework when you first started experiencing these trials? What was it?
AS: God in his grace began to prepare me in amazing ways before my health took a turn for the worst and my child suffered this near-death experience. I was pursuing my masters degree in biblical counseling at the time. I was also doing projects and papers that dealt with the practical application of the sovereignty of God. In God’s perfect design, I had already consumed helpful resources like, “Trusting God,” by Jerry Bridges. This book specifically talks about how important it is to understand and know that God is loving, wise and all powerful before suffering occurs so that we can honor him in the midst of it.
WH: How has the Lord grown your perspective on Him, you and your circumstances through this situation?
AS: In order to answer this question completely I would need pages!!! However, here is a short summary statement in answer your question. God has helped me to savor, thrill and delight in his Son alone. He continues to show me how good he is, and that regardless of the circumstance, I can honor and please him. Health or no health. Pain or no pain. By his enabling power, he is helping me to fix my eyes on the eternal rather than the temporal, and that has made all the difference!!
WH: How has he sharpened your theology of suffering?
AS: Here are some bullet statements:
-All suffering, my personal experiences included, is directly related to The Fall and all the terrible after-effects of The Curse
-Suffering is not a surprise to God & is one of the primary means by which he conforms me to the image of his Son
-Suffering should not be a surprise to us! It is promised!
-I am to view all suffering and hardship as discipline from the hand of a loving Father. Not because I’ve done something wrong per se, but because he is working a harvest of righteousness and peace that can come no other way (Heb 12)
-Suffering is a gift. Suffering is a stewardship. Suffering is given for the edification of not just the individual, but for the entire community of faith
WH: What are some ways you see the Lord advancing His kingdom through your suffering?
AS: Opportunities to share the gospel with those who might have not had ears to hear had I not experienced these forms of suffering. Opportunities to comfort, encourage and cheer my sisters on in the race that God uniquely ordered for them to run. Churches who have grown because of the tangible ways they sought to serve my family and I in practical ways (loving in action and in truth). Growth in compassion because of experiences in suffering. Sharing about his sufficient power and grace to see his people through any and all circumstances until he safely brings us home. Opportunities to speak frankly to my young children about suffering, God’s sovereignty and death so that they are biblically prepared for whatever comes.
WH: What were/are some of the temptations that you faced? What truth (s) reorient your heart when you were tempted?
AS: The temptations attached to chronic pain and medical issues probably have some similarities from person to person. But for me, anger is one of the largest temptations that I face. My temptation towards unrighteous anger is a result of being upset with my family members for not understanding how hard each day can be. Being a wife and mother in the midst of daily pain, exhaustion and baffling symptoms is one tall order. Doing so with joy is a taller order still. When I am tempted to unrighteous anger at not being understood or identified with, I turn to Jesus who perfectly understands what it is like to be in this body and who calls me to faithfulness nonetheless. Absolutely no one can understand what my daily existence is outside of my faithful Savior.
I would say the second big temptation for me is pride. Prolonged physical, life-altering trials make it obvious that we need others! What I used to be able to accomplish is no longer a reality. Learning how to ask for help, and receive it with grace has been a large part of my growth.
WH: What role has community played in your suffering?
AS: Community is an intimate part of this more than decade long journey for me. The churches of which we have been members have been the faithful hands and feet of Jesus in our lives. From caring for my children when I could not, stepping in when my husband was deployed, shopping for our groceries when I could not, and weeping when I wept, we have experienced the great joy and support to be found in the body of Christ. There is so much more to be said here but this is a start!