John Stumbo was an avid runner and outdoorsman before a mysterious illness left him bedridden for 77 days and unable to swallow for over a year. John was forced to resign as a pastor, but he now serves as president of the Christian and Missionary Alliance. In Today’s Conversation with Leith Anderson, John shares about the lessons he learned during his medical crisis.

In this podcast, you’ll be inspired as you hear John share:

  • How God used his illness to strengthen his faith and ministry;
  • What encouragement he offers to those who do not see healing in their future;
  • How the medical crisis impacted his marriage; and
  • How God miraculously healed him.

Read a Portion of the Transcript

Leith: Some would say that a theology of suffering is under-developed in the American church and among American Christians. I’m not even sure how I would imagine you would answer this, but if you had a theology of suffering before all this and then after all of this, how do they compare?

John: Well, I love the question, and I embarrassedly admit that as a pastor of 25 years at that point, I really didn’t have a theology of suffering. I was an American, middle-class, white guy that had things pretty easy and had come my way. I hope I had some empathy for people in crisis. We certainly did a lot of good things at the church for those in various life stages of crisis or pain, but I was more of an outsider looking in.

So yes, passages of Bible that I once used as inspired Scripture but never really sank into my soul suddenly began to find their way of nourishment and profound feeding for me. Isaiah 43 is kind of a classic where God says, “I’ve summoned you by name; you are mine. I’ve redeemed you.” And the very next verse says, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you. When you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; they will not set you ablaze.”

We just look at it and say, “Great! God’s going to be with us.” Well, look at it more closely. His summoning us by name, his redeeming us is not a guarantee that we’ll never have rivers and fires. We will have his protection in the midst of them. We’ll have his presence, but we do go through deep waters and very difficult places as his children. So, it’s not a pass from suffering. It’s a strength to pass through the suffering as a deepened person.

I was speaking at a men’s retreat in California a few years back, and I gave this story. A guy in a wheelchair about my age rolled up to me and only said one sentence then rolled on. He said, “John, don’t you feel bad for people who’ve never suffered?” And I thought, “Wow. I get it now.” I didn’t then but there’s a shapening and deepening that comes. That’s all part of this theology of suffering — understanding the presence of God in the midst of very difficult times. And yes, I had to wrestle through that.

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