Monday, March 26, 2012

Fruitful in Affliction

Dear Friends,

This past weekend my 17-year-old daughter, Anna, sat down at the piano before a room full of onlookers. Sitting there so gracefully, so beautiful no one would have ever guessed the huge medical challenges she was facing in her life - the chronic pain that had kept her from the piano over the last month. No one would imagine by looking at her what it took to even be there, the incredible courage, perseverance, and strength. For the next several minutes they would simply enjoy the beauty of the notes as her fingers gracefully glided across the keys releasing the loveliest piece of music. As her hand hit the first key, tears filled my eyes. I was witnessing one of the most valiant displays of what it means to be “fruitful in affliction.” Anna had chosen to not let this medical setback rob her of her joy, rob her of her gift, rob her of being productive. Instead, she epitomized what it means to be fruitful in affliction. 

Anna had put her piano lessons on hold for the last month because she was just in too much pain to continue. She has sadly missed weeks of school and is living with chronic pain every day again until it is resolved.  Things we thought were part of our past – doctor appointments, tests, daily contact with the school, pain meds, heating pads, etc. – have become part of our present again.  At times, it is extremely discouraging and a continual hurt to this mother’s heart to watch her suffer with so little relief. Having missed a good chunk of her middle school years due to this kidney condition, Anna was determined to start piano lessons last year as a sophomore in high school. Talk about courage! It’s something she loves and has an obvious gifting for.  After a long silence, to my sheer delight, I heard the piano again one evening only to discover that a week ago she had called her piano teacher and went back to her lessons.  There was music in the house again! Anna had planned months ago to participate in the Solo and Ensemble Festival where she would be judged for a selected piece.  To my surprise, with only a week to practice - in the middle of her pain - she decided to go through with it. As we walked out the door of her performance that morning, a woman said, “You must have been taking piano for a long time; that was beautiful!”  To top it off, the judge gave her the highest marks. 

Genesis 41:52 says, “For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.”   God had indeed made Anna fruitful on Saturday.  In the midst of great pain she beautifully displayed the power and grace of God.  Against overwhelming circumstances, she chose to be fruitful.  Often, the last thing we think about in affliction is being fruitful, don’t we?  I am relearning with this new affliction at our house to make Genesis 41:52 my prayer again, “Lord, make me fruitful in the midst of this tremendous disappointment, this overwhelming medical crisis, this suffering child, this land of my affliction.  Help me to be like Anna and choose fruitfulness.”

How easy it is to instead throw our pity parties and get bogged down in the darkness of our circumstances, but this focus only keeps us down in the darkness. I don’t know how long this new medical episode will go on, but I do know that one day I will stand before the Lord and give an account for what I did with my “land.” Did I use my “land” however painful and undesirable for His glory?  Or did I spend my time focusing on all the bad, failing to embrace all the fresh opportunities for growth, for trust, for prayer, for complete dependence on Him that this new “land” is giving me?  It’s so easy to be fruitful in the land of plenty, in the land where everything is going our way, but what about now in the land of our affliction, in the land of losses and hurts?  The real test of our faith comes when, even though everything in our life that we value is wiped away, we can still go on loving and serving Christ with a deep joy and passion.  The questions I find myself wrestling with at times are “Will I remain faithful to God when He now appears to be unfaithful to me?  Am I willing to be fruitful for Him even out of the depths of my brokenness and deep disappointment?”  I believe the answer is yes.

As is evidenced in Scripture, some of our greatest accomplishments for God are birthed in affliction.  That was certainly true for Anna this past weekend!  Could it be you and I are in exactly the very circumstances God wants us in right now so He can mightily use us – so He can make us even more fruitful?

With the God who imparts us with His strength, we can be fruitful even in the “land of affliction.”  And He will make our land into something beautiful – a land that will bring Him glory and be a blessing to others, a land that will give us a new song!   


Shelly Esser     
Just Between Us Magazine



  1. What a timely post for me! I'm recovering from my fourth jaw surgery, and am currently in my second round of being wired shut for 6 weeks. And I'm definitely tired of these trials, and hunger, etc. Praise God for his timing.

  2. Shelly, my heart goes out to you and your Anna. My own Anna is brave and cheerful despite her chronic discomfit ... how blessed we are in our daughters. Maureen.

  3. So well said Shelly!! I will keep Anna in my prayers. Connected with your mom and sister at Westbrook's women's retreat this past weekend. Laura looks so much like you :)

  4. Exactly what my husband spoke about on Sunday! A confirmation that no matter what we are going through...God is there and He will use it to grow us, mature us, help us grow in perserverance, and in our trust of God. Nothing goes to waste for those of us who are His children or not His children. Because when we do come to the Lord even those things that we did when we were far from Him He will use to His glory...We serve a truly AMAZING God!

  5. Thank you, Shelly! This story brought tears to my eyes. Your daughter is mature beyond her years. May we all be fruitful in our afflictions.

  6. Written with a Mother's deep love, and similar to our heavenly Father's love for us. The Bible tell us that often we go through these circumstances so that we can help others that may experience similar issues. Your precious letter illustrating Anna's strength and perseverance has ministered to me, on multiple levels. We rejoice with you in hearing Anna's music fill the house once again, and we rejoice that out of pain there can be beauty. Praying for Anna's victorious recovery, and for your heart to be filled with joy even through this current trial.