“Lay down this principle as law-God does nothing arbitrary. If he takes away your health, for instance, it is because He has some reason for doing so; and this is true of everything you value; and if you have real faith in Him, you will not insist on knowing the reason. If you find, in the course of daily events, that your self-consecration was not perfect-that is, that your will revolts at His will-do not be discouraged, but fly to your Savior and stay in His presence till you obtain the spirit in which He cried in His hour of anguish, ‘Father, if Thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will by Thine be done’ (Luke 22:42). Every time you do this it will be easier to do it; every such consent to suffer will bring you nearer and nearer to Him; and in this nearness to Him you will find such peace such blessed, sweet peace as will make your life infinitely happy, not matter what may be its mere outside conditions. Just think, my dear Katy, of the honor and the joy of having your will one with the Divine will and so becoming changed into Christ’s image from glory to glory!” (Stepping Heavenward, by Mrs. E. Prentiss, pg 88)
If you know me, you know that I talk about the above referenced book way too much. I rarely read books more then once, and I have read this book at least six times so far. In the last couple of months, Mike will find me reading and he’s said on more then one occasion, “You’re reading that again?” Stepping Heavenward is a novel, however, it is one of the most practical theological books out there for women. By practical, I mean, PRAC-TI-CAL, real, honest and any woman (or man) will “get it.” It’s life. I love this book and I cannot say enough about it.
So now that I’m done with my little intro….let’s get to why I’m writing this….
Every two weeks, I meet up with several woman who are the most amazing, gracious, godly, excellent, Jesus loving mammas that you’ll ever meet. They are also real, honest and have had to deal with their own share of suffering and hardship. A couple of years ago, Chris (one of these lovely ladies) put something on our church’s old school member’s site looking for other mom’s with kids with special needs. Her son has CHARGE Syndrome and she was looking for support. So, started our little group. We started meeting once a month merely for support. I think that we were all drowning. We knew we were drowning, but didn’t have enough time to seek out and organize something to get the others who were drowning to help us float back up to the top. Over the past two years, we’ve all slowly floated to the top and we’ve put some life preservers on in order to help. Anyway, we began meeting together twice a month this past fall, to do the Bible study that goes along with the book Stepping Heavenward. The Bible Study is AMAZING!!!! So much good stuff, Jesus, Greek, Bible….just amazing. If you can do it, do it!
As we were talking on Monday night, we camped out on Dr. Cabot’s letter to Katy. Specifically what I quoted above. “God is not arbitrary.” He does not do something by chance or on a whim. Everything that we experience in our lives has been through His filter. He has allowed everything that touches us for some reason. We may not know it till we see Him, but He is sovereign and He has allowed it to be. I think that this is a difficult concept to understand if we struggle with His sovereignty.
God is good. He loves us. He sent His Son to die for us, and when we think that somehow we can be spared from suffering because we love Him we do not completely grasp why Jesus came to earth to suffer and die for us. He came to give us life and salvation, yes, but we will also suffer as He suffered. Because we’re Christians we’re not sheltered from this. We live in a world that is FULL of sin and we are sinners as well.
I don’t think that the question is, “Will we suffer?” The real question is, “How will we suffer?” Suffering is hard. Suffering is brutal. Dr. Cabot points out that we will not always respond well to our circumstances and in those time, running to Jesus is the only way to get on our feet. Sometimes our feet are too tired and we must simply be carried for a long time. Jesus asked for His cup to be removed from Him, but He was willing to go the distance for us.
There were a series of sermons at church on I&II Peter. Most of the series was about suffering. I was convicted a lot that I did not suffer well. I would get angry quickly. I was full of pride in my suffering. Thinking that somehow I had it worse then everyone else. I complained. A lot. I was bitter. I did not suffer well. However, I also think that suffering is learned.
“…every such consent to suffer will bring you nearer and neare to Him; and in this nearness to Him you will find such peace such blessed, sweet peace as will make your life infinitely happy, no matter what may be its mere outside conditions. Just think, my dear Katy, of the honor and the joy of having your will one with the Divine will and so becoming changed into Christ’s image from glory to glory!”
Isn’t that a wonderful thought!? If we are consentual in the suffering that Jesus in His amazing sovereignty and goodness and having simple faith in Him, that we will still feel joy. Joy because He saved us and through our suffering we’re becoming more like Him. We’re being “taught” to change into His image. It’s really an amazing thought.
Suffering is hard. It’s not something that someone wants to go through, whatever it may be. Death, financial hardship, marital strife, relationships, sickness, our child’s illness or diagnosis etc. But if through it we can stay focused on Jesus, remain faithful and receive it as something that has passed through the throne of God to us as a time to change us into His image and likeness and if we have joy and contentment in that then we have and are suffering well.