| More

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Ouch and Thank You, Lord

This year has been a particularly trying and lonely year. Just when I thought I was finally starting to heal, we recently experienced another devastating blow. I feel knocked out. Lately, I have been indulging myself in self-pity and other sins like despair, bitterness, and apathy in response to trials. I have been listening to the lies of the enemy—“What is the point?,” “Your life is a fruitless waste,” “You have no future,” “No one loves you,” “There is no purpose to these trials,” “God doesn’t care about your trivial life”. Listening to these lies has led me to avoid my Bible and to avoid talking with my precious Lord. Thankfully (and amazingly—His grace and mercy still causes me to marvel), God still pursues me! I “stumbled” on this women’s teaching audio from Sovereign Grace in Fairfax: This was part of a three part teaching series entitled, “Hope is a Verb”. The session I listened to was by Lisa Gallo & Emma Sakaguchi. Lisa talked about having her 10-year-old daughter diagnosed with cancer. Emma talked about having her newborn diagnosed with Down Syndrome and a life threatening heart condition requiring surgery. In addition to facing these trials, these also ladies faced other trials at this time as well, including the death of a loved one, personal health problems, etc. These ladies spoke of God’s kindness, grace, and His glory in the midst of their deep, life-shattering, fear inducing pain. Talk about convicting! Here are some highlights:

Isaiah 41:8-10 “But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend; 9 you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners,saying to you, “You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off”;10 fear not, for I am with you;be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

From Lisa:

“We had a very long road ahead of us. This was not a cold that would go away in a day or two. We would walk a road—a road that I became very aware of was not meant to be walked alone. And we were not alone. Although there were times that my heart ran ahead and fear loomed like a dark cloud, I became increasingly grateful for the amazing grace that came to us—through scripture, our older children, friends, family and our care group”

“You learn a lot of what you believe when it is tested like this. I learned that God was ready to pour out His grace for each new day. But when I ran ahead in my mind, fear quickly came. All the ‘what ifs’ haunted me at times, but when I would realize that I didn’t have grace for those thoughts, just for this day, peace would come. Lou would remind me that there was no grace for fearful thoughts of the future and I found myself no longer just having one time with God in the morning but needing to have my Bible, or my little Spurgeon book ‘Besides Still Waters’--which is a devotional book—by my side at all times.”

She describes a time when her daughter was so nauseated from her treatment and needed to ingest a thick liquid medicine. Her daughter did not want to take it. Lisa cried out to God for help in prayer. The Lord led her to her Spurgeon devotional and this quote: “Not a drop of bitter falls into our cup unless the Heavenly Father’s wisdom places it there. We dwell where everything is ordered by God. Adversity is healing medicine and not a deadly poison.” Lisa read this quote to her daughter and her daughter took the medicine.

“Each day presented a new decision to believe what I knew to be absolutely true in the form of God’s Word or to hang onto the words of man or what I was seeing in our circumstances.”

I remember one day realizing that I did not like suffering. I realized that I was really a wimp and that I didn’t like it and I did not want it. I had sung about sharing in Christ’s sufferings but the truth was I didn’t want it.”

“An article by John Piper had a quote that struck me so deeply. It said: ‘If we would see God honored in each others’ lives as the supreme value, the highest treasure, and deepest satisfaction of our lives, then we would strive with all of our might to live and to show the meaning of suffering and to help others see the wisdom of the power and goodness of God behind it ordaining, above it governing, beneath it sustaining, and before it preparing.’”

“I began to see it as God way of using suffering for our good to conform us more and more to the image of His Son. I saw that suffering could deepen our faith and break our hearts so that we can better minister to those who are broken in spirit.”

“No matter what the future holds, it is a faithful Shepherd who holds it. The Lord is my Shepherd.”

Romans 8:18 “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

From Emma:

“I learned that God’s grace was available to me through other people, and most importantly through Scripture.”

“The Lord’s mercies are far greater than my trials.”

“Out of all of the help that we received from other people, the most helpful help that I received was from my husband [name]. He carefully led my soul by making sure that I was reading God’s word and asking me questions to make the connection between God’s sovereignty and the trials that we were facing. This kept me going back to my Bible and proved to be the greatest anchor I needed—God’s Word was an anchor for my soul.”

Isaiah 26:3 “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”

“The suffering that I endure is part of God’s active plan to show Himself sovereign.”

“Last year when I considered the circumstances it was easy for me to think that what I was going through was not good. It was a challenge to connect God’s goodness with the trials I was facing. I think this happened because I was defining God’s goodness by what served me—how I like things to happen, when I think things should happen, and what makes me happy. I realized that my definition of goodness was often self-serving and I took God and His sovereignty out of the picture. He has promised that for those who love God, all things work together for good. But we are not promised that we will always see the good in this life or be given the good according to what our definition of good is.”

“…He defines what is good for me and my trials are part of what He sees as good in my life—to make me more like Christ. This perspective helped me to resist the temptation to complain when things didn’t go the way that I wanted but instead to trust that God was working all things for my good.”

“Suffering is how God helped me see how big is His grace for me.”

Emma said that the contrasting views of our definition of goodness and God’s definition of goodness reveal something to us. It reveals what we treasure—often what we treasure is an easy life. It also reveals what God treasures. Ultimately everything is for His glory. He treasures that we are more Christ-like. The ultimate hope in this is that we get to spend eternity with God (in peace and joy), and what can be better than that? (my paraphrase of what she said)

Here is a quote from an article by David Powlison contained in the book, “Suffering and the Sovereignty of God”. It is about transitioning from the “Why me?” questions to God in suffering to the “Why not me?”:

“Finally, you are prepared to pose—and to mean—almost unimaginable questions: Why not me? Why not this? Why not now? If in some way, my faith might serve as a three-watt night-light in a very dark world, why not me? If my suffering shows forth the Savior of the world, why not me? If I have the privilege of filling up the sufferings of Christ? If he sanctifies to me my deepest distress? If I fear no evil? If he bears me in his arms? If my weakness demonstrates the power of God to save us from all that is wrong? If my honest struggle shows other strugglers how to land on their feet? If my life becomes a source of hope for others? Why not me?”

Lyrics from a hymn by William Cowper:

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

The Q and A from this audio teaching was also extremly helpful and worth listening to. (The ladies are honest about their temptations and sins. They talk about how in some ways, they have had a harder time dealing righteously with lesser trials in life than they have in these huge trials of life.)

In addition to the encouraging words from this audio teaching, God has also led me to start reading a book I bought awhile ago, “When People are Big and God is Small,” by Ed Welch. I think this will help me as I struggle with: 1) being vulnerable and real (a necessary part of walking in the light, experiencing true Christian fellowship, walking in humility, and allowing God’s light to shine through the clay pot of my life) and 2) pursuing others in sacrificial love at cost to myself as Christ did for me, while 3) absorbing the suffering that this combination brings in the form of rejection, abandonment, betrayal, loneliness etc. in a Biblical way. There is a way to suffer well, which does not mean tritely ignoring our pain, but does involving seeing God's glory in increasing measure and revealing it to others through love and grace that is enabled by the Holy Spirit. I see that the majority of my struggles in this area have to do with people being bigger than they should be and God being smaller than He should be in my life. I’m sure I’ll blog more on this topic as I journey through Welch's book.

Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for taking these sins I have confessed. I have sinned against you, my precious Lord. Thank you for your lovingkindness in forgiving me and pursuing me even while I was in my stubborn rebellion from you! Thank you, Jesus, for dying for all of my sins, past, present, and future. Please do a work in my heart and fill me afresh with your Spirit. Fill me with love for you and love for those around me. May this love be your love (genuine, Spirit-produced, Christ-following, Christ-exalting, sacrificial, scandalous, pursuing) and not just worldly love (selfish). Please continue to teach me your truth. Please get all the glory in my life. Please work for your glory in all of my circumstances--to conform me and others into your image, to show me and others your goodness and grace, and to enable me and others to believe in you and enjoy you. I pray that you would be with anyone who reads this blog, giving them whatever they need from you right now too--truth, rebuke, comfort, peace, hope, and joy. Thank you for Emma and Lisa and for their church that has provided this audio teaching for us. Please encourage them right now as they continue to walk through their trials. I pray all this in Jesus Mighty Name, Amen

No comments: