At 18 years old, I had the world on a string.

I could sing and speak to large crowds. I’d earned public accolades for my writing. I had endless energy, a hard work ethic, and friends in high places.

And I loved Jesus. I wanted to use all my strengths and giftings to tell the world about him.

So never in a million years could I have imagined what lay before me: I would spend two decades in the deep waters of anxiety and depression, marry late, suffer years of chronic pain and illness, give birth to a child with health complications, walk through crushing private sorrows, and one day hear those life-altering words,

You have cancer.

Suffering on its own would have wrecked me. Dark days can poison the soul and rot the bones. But in the hands of a fiercely tender God, suffering began to free me, to enlarge my heart for greater dreams. With each new pain and sorrow, I was learning to love and trust him more.

Now, as I look over my shoulder at 27 years ago—back to that 18-year-old version of myself—I realize I was a lot like

an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. (C.S. Lewis)

My girlish dreams weren’t bad in and of themselves, but they were so full of me, and so opposed to hardship. They were muddy kid stuff compared to what God had dreamed up for me—a life of beautiful humility, unbreakable joy, daring love, and meaningful work.

And yet… there are still times I beat a path back to that slum, to sit in the mud—forgetful that “apart from God, I have no good thing” (Psalm 16:2).

So I write in order to remember.

This blog is where I look at the beauty of suffering in light of God’s goodness, and I point myself (and hopefully you too, dear reader) back to the Only One who can turn our deepest griefs into breathtaking blessings—in every season of our lives.


Colleen Elisabeth Chao

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Colleen is an editor and the author of the children’s book on suffering, Out of the Shadow World. She enjoys dark-dark chocolate, side-splitting laughter, and half-read books piled bedside. She makes her home in Southern California with her husband Eddie and their son.

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I don’t think that’s a very good question to ask a writer, ‘Why do you write?’ You write because there’s fire in your bones.
– Eugene Peterson

Whenever you are fed up with life, start writing: ink is the great cure for all human ills, as I have found out long ago.
– C.S. Lewis

I was but a pen in God’s hand, and what praise is due to a pen?
– Richard Baxter