By David Suarez '21
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Romans 5:1-5 (ESV)
College has been a very difficult experience overall. For my first two years, I had been struggling to stay caught up with most of my classes due to my learning disabilities, and it was challenging to suffer through classes that had seemed so easy for so many others. During the fall semester of my third year, I developed narcolepsy and had to take a medical leave. I spent the next 7 months getting check-up after check-up, test after test, a surgery, and more medication. Finally, with only two weeks left before I returned to Brown, a doctor identified that I had narcolepsy/hypersomnia.
Even though some semblance of an answer eventually came, I felt completely broken during those seven months. I came home to more family tension than when I had left for college. I had taken my leave too early and would have to restart my junior year completely. Every time I tried to make an appointment with the doctors for the first three months of my leave, I was met with an incredible occurrence: every single doctor was sick or on vacation. Every time I tried to do my own research, I found nothing. Every attempt I made to try and remedy familial tension was met with no immediate improvement. I came to a point where I realized that I did not know how to truly and simply rely on God. I prayed for months and months that I would receive healing and that my family would be made whole. I prayed and cried out to God for something that felt like simplicity and peace. But often, I was only left with tears and confusion. But one day, upon reading the prayer Jesus spoke in the Garden of Gethsemane, I was shown what I was missing. With so many hours or prayer, not once had I truly asked that God’s will be done. So then, in this minor revelation, I came to God with a new prayer.
“God, I thank you for everything that you have blessed me with, and for being with me even during these trials. I know that you can and will make good changes come from it, so please allow it to not bring about my death, but rather the starting point of new and powerful growth. I pray for healing of my broken family, broken mind, and broken heart. But in the cracks that have formed, let you be the one to fill them. I lift up all of these to you, but no matter what, your will be done rather than my own.”
In finishing my prayer with these words, I began to feel true peace. I felt an incredible relief in beginning to recognize that God is sovereign over all things, and that my life could not be in better hands than those of the one that formed me. In my suffering, God’s true sovereignty became far more real to me. I had experienced the love of the Father who holds His sheep close to His own chest and carries them.
He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.
Isaiah 40:11 (ESV)
Months later, after a summer of fruitful work at a lab in downtown Providence, I began my junior year… again! I was far more prepared spiritually for what school and life would throw at me. I was excited for a more normal year of school, and a bit more stability after so many months of suffering and trials.
But that isn’t how life works. 2020 came around, and the Spring semester for everyone was broken by COVID-19 and some related market crashes. I had to return home again, adjust to online classes, and realize that all of my closest friends would be graduating without me since I had to take a year off (meaning I didn’t get to see them much before they all left). Though I was expecting to have some out-of-state work, I was yet again stuck at home in Ohio. Racial tension rising to another all-time high did not help to make my summer any more calm.
But even in all of this, God’s love showed through. By being sent home early, I had a chance to talk with my brothers and slowly mend the divisions that had formed amongst us. If I had followed through with my original plan (going directly from Rhode Island to a job in California), I never would have had the chance to sit down with them to talk and ask for peace and understanding. Being home was also a blessing to my mother. She had decided officially this summer to move to Florida, and she needed help preparing and fixing up our house in order for it to be ready for sale by early September. I was able to help my dad and mom with painting, landscaping, and tearing down and rebuilding our basement after a large water leak. Even when my original job plans did not work out, I was blessed with two different TA jobs that I was able to do instead! God’s incredible wisdom and love made one of the most chaotic years into an opportunity for great healing and blessing in my family. I am reminded and surprised by the joy I feel knowing that my original plans were destroyed; for the plans that my God has for me are far greater than those I have made for myself! What a perfect year for me to see the Father’s love with the clarity of 20/20 vision.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
This piece was written as part of Cornerstone's summer writing initiative on the topic of suffering and hope.