One year ago we collectively entered a season of suffering that we didn’t know would last. My friend KJ Ramsey’s book came out a few months into the pandemic, and she never could have imagined that the title and encouragement inside would be so apt to what we would all need. In This Too Shall Last: Finding Grace When Suffering Lingers, KJ courageously tells the story of her own lasting suffering of living with a severe autoimmune disease and the wonder of encountering Jesus in the midst of her pain. As an author and licensed professional counselor, KJ guides us to sit down and rest in a story where our whole selves are welcome. It’s a grace to welcome KJ to the farm’s front porch today…
The year I got sick, I was a resident assistant tasked with emotionally and spiritually supporting a group of nearly thirty college women.
I spent hours each day in the library writing papers, the day punctuated by meals and coffee dates with women from my dorm. After copious amounts of tea sipped between fervid research binges, I would walk across the dark, quiet campus to my hall, where I would stay up even later attending to the tears of peers getting over breakups or venting anger about their roommates.
Suffering has an inelegant way of reversing relationships, and where I was used to being the comforter, I suddenly found myself learning the harder role of recipient.
Out of nowhere, the majority of my life consisted of crying tears of my own within the confines of four cinderblock walls, too sick on most days to even get out of bed. The body that had effortlessly carried me through the winding, steep paths of my mountainous college campus could now barely hold itself up in bed.
The limbs that climbed limestone cliffs between classes now struggled to walk fourteen steps to the bathroom.
Our lives can change so fast.
At night I often couldn’t sleep because of pain, and after hours of no relief, I’d cry from the excruciation.
One suitemate in particular would often find me awake in the middle of the night, weeping on the floor of our shared study room.
Instead of turning the other way or quipping about how early she had to get up for an exam, Katie would join me on the floor, massaging my aching hands as I sobbed into her chest.
In the first half of my college experience, I had started to better learn the gospel story, where weakness is welcome and hurt is held. But I didn’t know it yet in my limbs and ache and shame. I had to learn that on the floor, where Katie came to find me, willingly holding my weak body in her embrace.
When I went to college, I signed up for an education of books and lectures. I didn’t realize the education I would need for the rest of my life was the nearness of Christ and His body to the indignity, brokenness, and shame in my own.
This is grace: God joined us on the floor of this earth.
God did not stay far from our pain. He did not judge it from a distance. He did not pity it from the other side of the universe. He became it.
Grace is solidarity instead of scrutiny. This is the power and presence that sustains us when suffering lingers.
God took on the human condition you and I so struggle to bear so we could be enfolded in His love. “Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:10)
Many of us are confused about the purpose of Christ’s coming and the heart of our hope, often without realizing it, and the confusion amplifies our pain when suffering lingers…or a pandemic lasts longer than we dreamed.
The very persistence of suffering and difficulty might not fit with the hope we thought we had or the Jesus we thought we were serving. We’ll keep looking in the wrong places for grace in our suffering if we don’t reexamine and rearticulate the substance of our hope and the message of our Lord.
Jesus said His Father’s purpose in sending Him to earth was for Him to bring the kingdom of God near to us. Our hope is not in being beamed up to heaven upon death with suddenly perfected bodies.
The gospel of escaping your circumstances is never the gospel of Jesus Christ. Our hope is informed and colored by John’s vision in Revelation 21: the New Jerusalem comes down from heaven. Hope in suffering is never for a disembodied day when we can finally escape the bodies, relationships, and circumstances that have caused us so much pain.
Hope is expressed not in certainty but in curiosity, hearts that acknowledge and accept Jesus is already King, lives that look for the restoration of His rule right here, people propelled by a willingness to see Jesus turn every inch of creation from cursed to cured. The relationships that were broken will be made right; our relationship to our bodies, each other, the earth, and God will be fully and finally restored.
The kingdom is already and not yet; living in its tension rather than panicking for release is the only way to be pulled into the trajectory of hope.
The deepest anguish of suffering involves coming up against the divide in ourselves between believing God is good and loving and feeling it is true. In Jesus Christ suffering becomes the place where God came to find us.
The chasm between the Father’s love and our heartbreaking circumstances has been crossed because “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Jesus, God-made-flesh, has stepped into the middle of the chasm, forever changing the expanse into a channel.
In suffering, the space between heaven and earth can become thin, paradoxically placing us closer to the King’s presence, power, and life.
Your pain and problems can become a portal.
Here, in a pandemic, with our fragility front and center and family and friends far, Jesus still comes down to meet you on the floor. But will you let yourself go there? Will you allow yourself to lament, even though it feels like lament has lasted too long?
I pray you refuse to put a pretty spiritual bow over your brokenness.
There is a God on the floor, who binds up your brokenness with the bandages of His own body and blood. He brings the healing down deeper than any platitude could reach.
May you see, your distress is an invitation to descend, all the way to the place Jesus has already gone, waiting to welcome your weakness and wrap you in His embrace.
Resurrection is first a practice of descending with Jesus to befriend the broken parts of our bodies, stories, and selves.
Redemption is that great gathering up of every discarded, dismissed, and discouraged part of you into the loving arms of the God who is not afraid of your pain.
Don’t be afraid to go low.
We rise from the bottom.
is a licensed professional counselor and recovering idealist who believes sorrow and joy coexist. She delights in the wonder how words welcome us into a wider story and loves playing with their power. In addition to her work with therapy clients, KJ writes at the intersection of theology, psychology, and spiritual formation and has been published in Christianity Today, RELEVANT, The Huffington Post, Fathom Magazine, and more. She is the author of This Too Shall Last: Finding Grace When Suffering Lingers.
This book is not a before and after story. Over a decade ago chronic illness plunged therapist and writer K.J. Ramsey straight into this paradox. Before her illness, faith made sense. But when pain came and never left, K.J. had to find a way across the widening canyon that seemed to separate God’s goodness from her excruciating circumstances.
She wanted to conquer suffering. Instead, she encountered the God who chose it. She wanted to make pain past-tense. Instead, God invited her into a bigger story. This Too Shall Last offers an antidote to our cultural idolatry of effort and ease. Through personal story and insights from neuroscience and theology, Ramsey invites us to let our tears become lenses of the wonder that before God ever rescues us, He stands in solidarity with us.