A Father and Mother carrying their kids by a lake
Faith and Family

The Gift of Shared Suffering

Mar 17, 2021
Family posing by water/Photo by Gabriel Tovar on Unsplash

Eight years ago, not long after my husband and I became foster parents, I was hit by an illness that turned into disability. Our foster son was seven years old at the time and the running competitions, park adventures, and bike rides were exchanged for him witnessing the suffering of a mother who was unable to parent in the typical ways. We were ushered into a new way of being family.

Being disabled in my 30s and this kind of start to our family life wasn’t what any of us expected. The impact of disability has meant shifting roles and regularly navigating change for us all. We gave and continue to give space for grief but, thankfully, grief is not where we stay nor the final word.

Our son is still our son, now through adoption, and we have a term for the hard things related to adoption, disability, and other trials we face together: “good-hard.” It’s easy to be tempted to see the hard things we face, but what we’ve learned as a family — and what echoes so familiarly in this season of Lent during COVID — is that the hard seasons prepare us to fully enter into the good with fresh eyes and renewed hearts. Even more, it helps us in the everyday practice of not taking the good for granted.

This last week, we took our old RV and parked it on a beachy boardwalk. We were able to immerse ourselves fully into the joy of being with each other and nature. We played games, had talks while wrapped in blankets on the sand, and supported local businesses impacted by COVID. When I posted the pictures on Facebook, a common comment was how big my smile is when I am adventuring with my family. And honestly, it’s the “good-hard” that’s the reason.

Before our suffering, joy felt joyful in a Fat Tuesday kind of way, where you know the days of Lent will be numbered.

But the suffering that has come with adoption and disability don’t have an ending; they’re part of our shared, ongoing story. The “good-hard” is what allows us to celebrate the mundane and the simple as the pure gift that it is. And when the joy comes, we celebrate its humbling, communal, awed “wow.” Because our family knows the depths of hard, our eyes are uniquely attuned for the good in our midst, something none of us would change.

We are grateful that together we have learned to lean into the hard and find good even there. Our suffering has given us practice living an embodiment of Good News, and to choose to live as people who can hold space for others’ sufferings. Good news is the final word, and we have that as a promise to hold onto during the “good-hard."


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