Suffering, Uncategorized

…but, for their salvation and HIS Glory?

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Is the suffering worth it, if they come to Christ?

That was the question…”Is your suffering worth it, if just one comes to Christ?”  He answered my question with a question.

My question, “Why does God allow people to suffer and die?  Why does he allow little girls to be molested and sexually abused?  Why does he allow boys and girls to be human-trafficked?  Why did he allow the last two years of her life to be filled with pain and suffering? Why did HE allow a young man to put a gun in my face and threaten to kill me?”

I supposed I was asking a rhetorical question…one of those, “Yes, I know God is sovereign…yes, I know He can do as He pleases…yes, I know about Job!”  But, my heart screams, “WHY?”

He answered with a non-rhetorical question…a question rightly deserving the right answer…a question that really asked what God asked Job, “Will you even put me in the wrong? Will you condemn me that you may be in the right?” (Job 40:8)  Dave asked, “Tammi — is the suffering worth it, if one comes to Christ?”

Like Job, I felt shame…who am I to question a holy God?  Yes, of course, Dave…of course, LORD, it is well worth it!  Just at the time of the hurting and the darkness and the unending pain…at the time of utter exhaustion and grief and devastation…I forgot myself.  Instead, I sought HIM…I begged of HIM…why, LORD, please help this child understand?

In complete surrender, I bow and confess my ignorance:

“I’m convinced: You can do anything and everything. Nothing and no one can upset your plans. You asked,’ Who is this muddying the water, ignorantly confusing the issue, second-guessing my purposes?’ I admit it. I was the one. I babbled on about things far beyond me, made small talk about wonders way over my head. You told me, ‘Listen, and let me do the talking. Let me ask the questions.’ You give the answers. I admit I once lived by rumors of you; now I have it all firsthand—from my own eyes and ears! I’m sorry—forgive me. (Job 42:2-6)

I don’t think God really minds my questions…HE certainly understands my heart…HE gave us Job’s account because HE understands that we would ask from time-to-time.  The lesson to be learned is that God does know, HE is not unaware of the suffering, and HE is acquainted with our sorrow.

Suffering has a purpose…it is for our good and HIS GLORY!  In Genesis 50:19-20 Joseph said it best, “But Joseph said to them, ‘Do not fear, for am I in the place of God?
As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.'”

The truth is that I am not Job or Joseph…I’m just Tam.  My heart hurts for so many things and I don’t have all of the answers to all of the whys…I don’t even really have some of them.  I only know that God must love me quite a lot to allow HIS Son, Jesus, to die on the Cross of Calvary for me.  He has entrusted me with the Mysteries of Himself and then, in that great love, has allowed me and others who know HIM to suffer a bit so that others can witness HIS grace and love measured through us in that suffering.

We are funnels of HIS love — we were created in His image to KNOW HIM and then to love others by allowing them to see us walk through the messes in life…somehow with grace…but all for HIS Glory.  So, the question is….

IS THE SUFFERING WORTH IT, IF THEY COME TO CHRIST?

ANSWER:  YES, LORD, YES!

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Uncategorized

Ministry of Thorns

“So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'” 2 Corinthians 12:7-9

Scripture does not tell us what Paul’s thorn in the flesh was and I believe that it is intentional because we all have thorns we must receive and bear.  So, what are we to do with them?  How do we take a disability, an illness, cancer, diabetes, grief, depression, eating disorders, suicidal thoughts, anger, bitterness, resentment, traumatic events, and so many other thorns and allow them to be used?  How can we trust Jesus’ sufficient grace?  I’m not certain of the answer to these questions in their entirety.

Jesus promised that His grace is sufficient for us and that in our weakness, He would be strong, but how do we accept the thorn and trust that sufficiency?

I know so many who are suffering with some of the thorns I listed above.  I am thinking specifically of my friend, Katrina, whose thorn is acute myeloid leukemia.  She has been through one course of chemotherapy, and all that comes with such treatment.  She has been surrounded in prayer.  She has trusted and relied fully on God for His healing.  Yet, today she told us that her bone marrow biopsy came back positive and she has to undergo yet another round of chemotherapy.

Katrina’s love for our Savior proclaimed, “I will trust Him!”  She is accepting that His grace is sufficient for her.  In that trusting and in that accepting and in that declaration, she has accepted Jesus ministry of thorns for herself.  God, in His perfect will and wisdom, has entrusted this thorn to Katrina.  I know that in this, she will give Him the glory.

I have read, many times, Hannah Hurnard’s book, Hinds’ Feet on High Places.  In it, the main character, Much-Afraid, is also given a thorn that had to pierce her heart:

“She bent forward to look, then gave a startled little cry and drew back. There was indeed a seed lying in the palm of his hand, but it was shaped exactly like a long, sharply-pointed thorn… ‘The seed looks very sharp,’ she said shrinkingly. ’Won’t it hurt if you put it into my heart?’

He answered gently, ‘It is so sharp that it slips in very quickly. But, Much-Afraid, I have already warned you that Love and Pain go together, for a time at least. If you would know Love, you must know pain too.’

Much-Afraid looked at the thorn and shrank from it. Then she looked at the Shepherd’s face and repeated his words to herself. ’When the seed of Love in your heart is ready to bloom, you will be loved in return,’ and a strange new courage entered her. She suddenly stepped forward, bared her heart, and said, ‘Please plant the seed here in my heart.’

His face lit up with a glad smile and he said with a note of joy in his voice, ‘Now you will be able to go with me to the High Places and be a citizen in the Kingdom of my Father.’

Then he pressed the thorn into her heart. It was true, just as he had said, it did cause a piercing pain, but it slipped in quickly and then, suddenly, a sweetness she had never felt or imagined before tingled through her. It was bittersweet, but the sweetness was the stronger. She thought of the Shepherd’s words, ‘It is so happy to love,’ and her pale, sallow cheeks suddenly glowed pink and her eyes shown. For a moment Much-Afraid did not look afraid at all.”

I have learned from this and God’s Word that thorns, although painful, must be.  They aren’t placed to cripple us, but to grow in us Himself.  If we allow them, we will have placed in us His love and our lives can be used for His glory.  It is not always easy to bear a thorn, but when we do….when we trust…when we “don’t quit,” as Katrina would say, we bear in our lives, hearts, in our very souls a ministry of thorns.

The ministry of thorns is temporal and earthly, but it is truly a Kingdom Work and this work can only be performed by us who bear the thorns and trust His grace.  Do not be discouraged, if the dailiness threatens to conquer — be strong — and walk in your ministry of thorns for His grace is truly sufficient.