Mystery of Suffering/Glory
Up until 21 months ago, I have never thought about suffering and glory like I do now.
Elisabeth Elliot said, "One step at a time, over the years, as I sought to plumb the mystery of suffering (which cannot be plumbed), I began to see that there is a sense in which everything is a gift. Even my widowhood."
Instead of steps I think of it like a teeter totter. Remember ever "riding" one of those death traps?! The excitement when you are up high mixed with the thrill of being at someone's will, feet dangling...feeling free. When you are the one on the ground, the feeling of control and relief-even responsibility- for the person on the other end.
In much of the grief journey, I've felt I'm on the teeter totter--wondering if I'll ever get off. Wondering if and when to push off or let my feet dangle. I'm just beginning to brush the surface of this gift of suffering.
Romans 8 has been preached from at my church most recently. Romans 8:17-18 "And if children, then heirs-heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed in us."
I'm simply going to share many notes I took from a most recent sermon of things that God has actually been teaching/reminding me these last 11 months very purposefully. All quotes are from Ray Ortlund, Pastor of Immanuel Church, Nashville.
"We all suffer..whether it's something you have and don't want or something you don't have and want. " I and my kids are not alone in our suffering.
"We have to accept the sorrow that comes into our lives and we can at the same time be excited about our future!" "We as humans long to become glorious and this life cannot satisfy the glory for which we long."
And what a future we have, as I Peter 1:3-9 shows us: " Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls."
“Now suppose both death and hell were utterly defeated. Suppose the fight was fixed. Suppose God took you on a crystal ball trip into your future and you saw with indubitable certainty that despite everything — your sin, your smallness, your stupidity — you could have free for the asking your whole crazy heart’s deepest desire: heaven, eternal joy. Would you not return fearless and singing? What can earth do to you, if you are guaranteed heaven? To fear the worst earthly loss would be like a millionaire fearing the loss of a penny — less, a scratch on a penny.”
Peter Kreeft, Heaven (San Francisco, 1989), page 183.
This quote by Mr Kreeft reminds me of Matt's fearless facing what life gave him. He knew that though a doctor sat across from him and looked him in the eye and said, "you're doing to die--and soon" he was guaranteed heaven. He set his hope and faith in Jesus Christ! What can earth do to us? God has strengthened this hope in my own life too.
This teeter totter of glory and brokenness is sometimes too much to ride. Most days I am both grateful and realistic. "We must stop laughing our brokenness off. Jesus said, 'Blessed are those who mourn..' who actually SEE what's going on and FEEL it."
"His promises change how we suffer! And how we perceive everything!" I want my kids to know "that this massive ordeal that we are part of is producing new life!" (Romans 8:22) "Suffering feels like it is screaming in our minds-it's nothing but LOSS, LOSS and LOSS!! But God is saying this universe of anguish is one vast emergency room. We walk in and hear groaning all over as decay and death claim everything. But God is bringing life out of all of this death!"
"Our story is not ending on earth--but in a whole new world of redeemed humanity with God in our midst. He will wipe every tear from our eyes. Death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning or crying, nor pain-anymore-for the former things will pass away. That's how big our salvation in Christ really is! Jesus is big enough for every way we suffer! Suffering is really us experiencing the pangs of new life. Cling to Christ for dear life!" Your life is worth living!
Matt's earthly life ended 1 year ago in 15 days. Just typing that...takes my breath away. One year ago in this month, I was meeting with a nurse from hospice care in our home. I was crying through her explanations of medications to add to Matt's daily routine to make him comfortable. I was getting pamphlets on "Gone From My Sight-The Dying Experience ". I was ordering a walker and hospital bed for Matt.
I was staring at him sleeping in a chair with one of our kids sitting next to him, holding his hand, staring at their daddy with confusion and fear in their eyes. I was meeting with a hospice chaplain and social worker about how to help my kids during this painful time. I was trying to decipher in my head and heart when to call his parents or siblings about his health. I was taking him to radiology appointments and thinking about his friend coming for a visit. Matt took Daniel to archery for the last time.
People on the other side of the world were asking God for healing for Matt.
I was bringing food and drink to Matt in bed. Matt was spoiling me with a gas stove. Joshua was riding a new lawn mower and playing with a
big RC car. I was reading reports of the cancer spreading to parts of Matt's body that made me so scared. Mira won 2nd place in a science fair. I was cancelling a trip that Matt and I had planned to get away together on because the Dr told us to. A trip we never got to take. People were bringing us food. We were celebrating a birthday.I was taking a daughter to college orientation.
Family came to visit. Matt was still reading the Word to us. Cupcakes from a far away friend cheered the kids and I on a tough day. Matt enjoyed his favorite pizza made by his loving brother and sent from his mom. A friend came to sing songs of encouragement to Matt and I. (and feed kolaches to the kids) Cousins came to visit and swim in the hotel pool. God's Word spoke deeply to my hurting soul. His Word helped my vision stay clear so that my hope was not buried.
"If your life is hard...you are ideally positioned for personal reality with the living God moment by moment." Whether the teeter totter is up or down you sit still in the seat God has you in and experience Him fully. By His grace, He will hold you fast! He will NOT let us fall from the seat.