You know it’s a great day when I’m cribbing from Mr. T for spiritual content:
Yes, I think I can say this as well.
2022 was a humbling year. I was brought low in a couple ways. Moreso than my health struggles, it was a year of redirection. The Lord showed me that the plans He has for my next few years will probably not mirror my own. I do think there are seeds He’s planted; they’ll just be sprouting in a different place. The realization was hard.
It was also a year revealing of my character. Thanks to friends courageous enough to speak, I gained probably more insight into my flesh and my darkness than I have before. And, happily, the knowledge is leading to change.
But I find it yanks at my pride to say that. After all…that aforementioned flesh doesn’t really care about change.
“He makes us walk when we want to run, sit still when we want to walk, for He has things to do in our souls that we are not interested in.” – Elisabeth Elliott
We can hear about all the things suffering is doing for us – molding us into the character of Christ, teaching us to receive comfort so we may pass it on, chastening us as children, or simply loosening our death grip on this world so we may reach for the next one – but if our flesh isn’t on board with His purposes, it’s of little use.
It’s a choice to receive these things. Billions suffer daily. They obviously aren’t all learning the right lessons from it.
It really seems rather audacious of God to not only allow us to struggle, but to insist we rejoice (though He also delivers and rescues us at other times, and will not withhold his justice and vengeance on those who have wronged). If a human said that, we’d call him insensitive, sadistic. Rejoice? I don’t want to rejoice. This sucks.
Of course, a human is not God, so the rules are different. But still, we don’t want to thank. We’d much rather chafe and grow resentful; we’d much rather resort to prayer believing that nothing bad ever comes by God’s hand and that enough beseeching can get us out of it; we’d much rather turn to our own devices and scheme and spin and outwork the bad circumstances.
It’s at this point that I have to ask – do I believe God’s appraisal of things, or not?
Do I believe that what He calls a treasure, really is treasure?
Do I believe that my sanctification really should be a priority?
Do I believe that suffering really is the one conduit to at least some of these good things?
Do I believe that is can and should be received with…openness and gratitude? As an old Promise Keepers song had it,
Let it be said of us
That the Lord was our passion
That with gladness we bore
Every cross we were given
I want to grieve. I want to seethe. I want a reprieve from the mandate to believe. It’d be much nicer to just go on with a simple, easy life and not have to accept any crosses.
But we don’t get that. It’s not part of the Jesus package.
So instead of grudging, “I have no choice anyway” acceptance, I will choose to bear with gladness what I am given, whether it be gravel or meat and potatoes.
Surely God does not begrudge us prayers of deliverance. Pray them.
And surely He does not allow suffering unfeelingly. As Dane Ortlund wrote in Gentle and Lowly, “He does not do so from His heart.”
But He does do them. And if the ultimate destination is being closer to Him, then I will accept His claim that such results really are the greatest treasure of all, and readjust my worldview accordingly.
And when I do, ah, how His love is felt. For when I fully grab the hem of His garment – the Word, unfiltered and full – then the barriers between us fall away. No more halfway comfort, our relationship distorted by my selective belief and my reluctant posture.
He gives and takes away. He is close and attentive through it all. God truly does care about my heart, yearning to see me peaceful and joyful through even the worst, yearning for my heart to be protected, yearning to see me ironclad against despair.
So I will be grateful for that which has made me closer to Him.
“My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead.” – Phillippians 3:10-11