Sunday, our pastor started a series of sermons on suffering. We’ll be studying the book of Job. When he first announced this I almost wept with pure joy! Job is probably my absolute favorite book of the Bible. Yeah, not really. To be honest, I was a little annoyed. God understands that I have selective hearing. So sometimes, when He wants to communicate a truth to me, He says the same thing different ways through different people. Sooner or later, I usually get the message.
See, a couple of weeks ago, I had a “come to Jesus meeting” on the book row of a puddle jumper flying from D.C. to Boston. I was reading a book that was highly recommended by several friends when I was hit right smack in the chest with this paragraph. (It’s actually a quote from another book by John Piper.) Here’s what he said:
The critical question for our generation–and for every generation–is this: If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ was not there?
When I read that, I felt like someone had kicked me in the gut. Even typing it now, makes me feel a little queasy. Because honestly, I just might be satisfied with that heaven. And my own admission of that makes me sick. I think I may have just been hit between the eyes with the reason my relationship with God has been less than overwhelming lately. I don’t love Him for Who He is; I love Him for what He does for me.
And then to have to read all the verses about inevitable suffering? I don’t want to suffer. I can relate to Charles Schulz’s Lucy when she says to Charlie Brown:
Why can’t my life be all “ups”? If I want all “ups,” why can’t I have them? Why can’t I just move from one “up” to another “up”? Why can’t I just go from an “Up” to an “upper-up”? I don’t want any “downs”! I just want “ups” and “ups” and “ups”!
I have some friends who are walking through some very dark valleys right now. I have a fairly new friend whose preschooler is undergoing chemotherapy at St. Jude’s. I have a family member who just found out his cancer is back. I have a family member whose marriage will fail without a miracle from God. I have friends who have to daily deal with the challenges of their children’s diagnoses. Those are just the first four that came to mind without me even having to think.
I intercede for them, I listen to them, I’m there for them to lean on, and yet in the quiet of my heart, their struggles scare me.
I’m reminded of something I learned from a Beth Moore study. She was talking about the times when people say things like, “I don’t know he or she deals with ___________ . I could never survive _________.” I can’t remember her exact words, but she explained that when we are called to walk in difficult circumstances God gives us the tools we need to handle it at the exact time we need it. We don’t think we could deal with other’s people struggles, and in a sense, we’re right. Those aren’t our struggles. But when (and from what I’ve read it’s not a matter of if, but when) we’re called to walk through the valleys He has allowed in our lives for whatever reason, we will have what we need.
Maybe that’s why my friend whose son is at St. Jude’s can write this:
Joining the ranks (she was talking about praying in the past for parents whose children have cancer) was never my choice, but looking back, I have strength even now from seeing the perserverance in their battles. ~Actually putting on the armor and enduring when it comes to our children hardly requires consideration, but shouldn’t we apply this Supernatural empowering, this Divine enabling, to every area of our lives? God has reminded me many times lately to refrain from allowing the insignificants to interrupt my peace and my joy. Why quench the flame with a drop of rain when its warmth is so essential? I pray, of course, for complete victory over this current battle. Beyond that, I pray for remembering my time in the wilderness, lest I have all that I need and forget the Lord’s provision and faithfulness. ~~
Wow. How amazing it is to watch this beautiful warrior princess doing battle! And listen to what her knight in shining armor (aka husband) says:
This is truly an amazing journey for us. I would never wish cancer or disease on anyone, especially my friends. However, I wish you could fully experience the incredible blessing it has been for us to let go of the temporary trappings of this world long enough to experience what John 10:10 is all about.
Is he saying that what he and his family are walking through right now is the life Jesus described in John 10:10?! Yeah. He is.
And then there’s good old Job. What was it he said right after he had bad news interrupted by bad news interrupted by bad news interrupted by bad news?
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised. (Job 1:22b)
And then a little later:
Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble? (Job 2:10b)
I’ve read the life stories of even more of my faith heroes (ones I haven’t yet met) and all of them have this amazing clarity of thought and depth to their character which could only be a result of having to depend on God for strength to get through the next minute.
After knowing Him for 33 years, I’m realizing that in a lot of ways I’m still very immature in our relationship. Ah, but even though I may not be seeking Him, I’m so thankful that right this very minute, He is pursuing me. He’s not playing hard-to-get. He’s not holding a grudge. He just continues to woo me and loves me like I’ve never been loved. He knows the way to my heart, because He made it. I think I’m falling in love….Again.
I don’t think blogs are supposed to be this long, but I’m pretty new at this. Apparently I’ll be camping here for awhile, so as new thoughts come up, maybe I can refine my ideas on this subject.