An Ode to Suffering

One year ago from today, I was living in Las Vegas pursuing a Ph.D. while my wife was working her way up through the casino industry. She was beloved at work and was in line for a better position. We lived in a reasonable home with reliable transportation – we just took out a loan for our first “new” car (more likely gently used). Things were looking up, and the future was bright.

One year ago from next week, everything changed. I failed out of my Ph.D. program and began struggling to find work. We prayed about the situation, and felt very strongly that God wanted us to move back to Ohio. There is a casino here that Mandy could work at, and my retired parents were here to help with the kids. From there, everything fell into place for us. We were able to put together the funds to move, Mandy essentially had the job before interviewing. We miraculously found a place to live with the perfect combination of locations for cheap utilities, great schools, and proximity to family. I was able to find a job in the most amazing “circumstantial” way possible. My wife just happened to be at a party for my cousin who just happened to be marrying a man whose mother just happened to be the director of an agency who just happened to be looking for a male to do a job I was actually qualified for. Things were looking up, and the future was bright.

Seven months ago, everything was working out – now, I am not so sure.

Mandy did not feel comfortable at the casino and quit – which was financially devastating, but not everything is about money. Besides, she found another job that supplemented my income within a couple of weeks. However, that job also turned out to be a waste and they cut her hours until the point where she had to quit. It’s okay, we will survive. We made it this far. At least I have a job and we are around family.

My agency decided two months ago to completely restructure. They changed the name, logo, mission statement, personnel, and many of the policies and procedures that we have been operating on. The decline in employee morale across the board has been amazing. Very few people in my position are even mildly satisfied with these changes – in fact, the vast majority have become openly hostile and several have quit or are threatening to quit. It has been an unmitigated disaster.

Throughout the last year, we have also been struggling to find a church home and make interpersonal connections there. In Vegas, we had a great social network in a thriving church – but that church also changed many of their policies and we left even before moving across the country. In Ohio, we have visited several places and spent several months at one church where we failed to connect. It has been almost three months at our current church, and again we seem to be struggling.

Somewhere, there has been a disconnect. We went from thriving in church, in school, and at work to struggling everywhere. We are spiritually, socially, and financially in the worst place we have been in probably six or seven years. Bankruptcy is around the corner and we are just trying to meet our basic necessities at this point. We are going to have to give our second car back, all while Mandy needs monthly doctors appointments. I dread going to work every day to the point where I have begun to have panic attacks about once a month. Things do not seem to be looking up, and the future does not appear very bright.

The frustrating part of everything is that we are trying to stay motivated. I still read my Bible and pray to God every day. We go to church every week. We tithe even though it is difficult to do so. I keep asking for God to show me the path He wants me to walk, but I still feel like I am off of it. I feel like I was led to this job in this place, but now neither of them seem to be working out.

During a conversation with my wonderful wife, she pointed to the life of Job and the struggles that he went through. He was faithful without equal, and still suffered. Our losses cannot match his. He watched his children die. He lost his property and wealth. His wife’s advice was “curse God and die.” Job expressed frustration among his friends and vented his feelings. However, God revealed Himself to Job and restored everything Job had lost tenfold. Job’s patience in the midst of suffering brought glory to God, and he was rewarded in this life and the next for his faithfulness.

This is my hope now. I do not expect rewards here on earth, but I want to lay up treasures in heaven. I want to show the world that even when I am in poverty, I will remain faithful to my creator. Jesus Christ did not die on the cross so that I could be wealthy, but so that I could accept his free gift of salvation and spread the gospel. If I need to lose my home, my money, and my family to do so, then I suppose that is what will have to happen.

I understand that not all suffering is equal, and I am probably feeling stronger effects because I am presently in the storm. I acknowledge that there is always someone who has it worse than I do. In hindsight, what I am dealing with right now may be a blip on the radar in the full context of my life. I understand that I am blessed. I am blessed to have an amazing wife, children, and parents. I am blessed to have good friends. I am blessed to have food to eat, a roof over my head, and clothes on my back. I am blessed to be a child of the King. Like Job, I still need to vent.

All praise be to my Almighty God. Things are looking up, and the future is bright.

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