Few people ask to suffer, but all of us do at some point.
So it’s important to learn how to turn that pain into growth.
After surviving a near-fatal stroke at the age of 26, Katherine Wolf knows just what advice to give right now.
At 26 years old, Katherine was a young wife and new mother, with her whole life ahead of her. The last thing she expected to endure was a massive brain stem stroke.
Directly after her stroke, Katherine was rushed to the hospital, where brain surgeons operated for 16 hours. The young mother miraculously survived, but she would never be the same.
Katherine was left unable to walk, talk, or swallow, and the right side of her face was permanently paralyzed. Her life—and her family’s life—had been turned upside down in a matter of days.
“I had to learn how to find God in the midst of it,” Katherine said, reflecting on her process of recovery.
Katherine and her husband, Jay Wolf, were already committed Christians, but this time of suffering brought them to a new understanding of God and His faithfulness.
Although we’re often tempted to view God’s goodness as simply protection from evil and pain, this isn’t a Biblical outlook, according to the Wolfs.
“I learned that God’s goodness was not attached to my earthly circumstances, and God being good was not based on anything going on in the physical world,” Katherine reflected.
“The cross put everything in perspective,” she added, thinking about God’s presence throughout the process of her recovery.
Jay agreed, noting that suffering is a chance to walk in Christ’s footsteps and experience His presence on a deeper level.
“In this life, we all want to get on board with the new life, blessings, and abundance of knowing Christ, but we’re certainly not willing to go through crucifixion and sacrifice to find communion with Jesus.”
“When we are so averse to discomfort, we miss out on something so vital to understanding who Jesus is. We’re missing out on communion with Him and with humanity.”
“We’re missing out on a deep level of compassion if we’ve never experienced hardship,” Jay finished.
Katherine and Jay have found that more and more people are interested in their story since the coronavirus pandemic started.
“A lot of people are struggling right now,” said Jay. “They’re dumbfounded that something like this [pandemic] can happen.”
But the current pandemic is a rare opportunity to suffer—and to suffer well, as Jay and Katherine would say.
“I think it’s beautiful that we get to grieve together,” continued Jay. “Part of suffering well is being vulnerable enough to share in the struggle.”
Rather than pulling apart when we feel isolated, hurt, or lonely, we need to be encouraging each other and bearing each other’s burdens, the couple urged.
“What if this is a profound gift in our lives? And how do we find that?”
“Seasons change; life won’t always be this way, but it will be a new day for humans to do life around the world together again.”
“When that day comes, we want to be changed by this time in a way that creates a new kind of compassion and gives us a new connectivity to God and to each other in the world.”
To help facilitate this growth of compassion and connectivity, Katherine and Jay started their own ministry, Hope Heals, which “serves to offer rest, resources, and relationship to broken bodies, brains, and hearts.”
Through this organization, the couple hosts the Hope Heals Camp, “a community for families with disabilities.” Katherine and Jay are uniquely equipped to understand the needs of those with disabilities and connect them with the church.
Though they’re not able to hold camp this year due to the pandemic, the Wolfs hope that their story and their ministry can serve to inspire and encourage others amid this time of suffering and uncertainty.
“We [want] to dispel the myth that joy can only be found in a pain-free life,” Katherine said, adding that the hope found in Christ holds true through large and small disappointments and losses.
“God’s power is perfected not in our own competency but in our weakness,” added Jay. “This is a time of clarity…[where] we can see Him at work in ways we never would have otherwise.”
Pray that God will show Himself mightily through this time of suffering, and don’t forget to look for the ways He’s working in your life right now.
These are hard and strange times, but He is still with us.