Joy while suffering?

My friend Shafkat Khan passed away in Nairobi, Kenya recently.  Here’s my eulogy which was read at his memorial service:

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There have been times when I read passages in the bible about suffering and they just didn’t make sense to me. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18)

Can one have joy in Jesus when life stinks?

I know the answer is “yes” intellectually but in reality – I’m wasn’t so sure. That is until i met Shafkat. Shafkat was the walking answer – no, make that, he was the rolling answer – to my questions about joy in suffering.

I met Shafkat years after his accident and faith in Christ. My wife, Josephine, is from Nairobi so we’ve been making trips to visit family and friends every few years since 1991. During one of those trips, Josephine and I met Shafkat and Sabia. In their home over food, at the Muutuki’s and at New City (Nairobi), our friendship continued from one visit to the next.

Shafkat was the kind of man whom one does not easily forget. It was obvious from seeing him that there had been struggles in his life, and yet, there was a joy in his speech that was almost beyond comprehension.

The reality of a man who had suffered & was yet filled with joy was stunning.

Conversations were marked with passion and laughter and energy. Shafkat had a mind that moved – moved in ways that displayed the love of Christ he knew personally and deeply wanted to share with others.

Can God use suffering for his glory? Yes. Can those who suffer experience joy right now – not just later in some “by and by”? Yes. Can those who suffer now be used by God to bring hope and peace to others? Yes. God brought Shafkat to me and to many others to let us know that the answers are “YES and YES and YES!!”

We thank God for the life of Shafkat Khan. Not just because he was a godly man in a wheelchair who was used by God. If that’s all we focus on, we make him out to be some sort of unusual example that’s not really relevant for the rest of us. No – we thank God for the life of Shafkat because he was a humble and yet energetic man who loved Jesus.

We thank God for the life of Shafkat Khan because his life pointed us to a God who redeems us AND then uses us in all of OUR shortcomings for His glory.

Paul also wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:17 that “this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison”. God prepared Shafkat over many years for the glory he is now experiencing.

May our lives honour Shafkat in such a way that we too, live with joy now as we are filled with hope in the days to come.

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Chris Hatch

Seeking to love God and neighbor