Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Thankful for Affliction

So Josh and I are sitting in the waiting room waiting to get our last ultrasound of Anna done. I am already feeling all the butterflies and continually striving to set my mind on truth and not let it run wild. It is not the most warm and inviting waiting room. I am just wanting to get called back and get it over with. Josh and I are talking a little bit back and forth but we both notice the TV to the side of us. It was on the National Geographic Channel. Well, I am not sure who thought that would be a good channel for a waiting room but they were seriously wrong. All of the sudden they start a documentary of a military family living in an Asian country (perhaps Tiawan?). This family was living in a big city in this country. Well, they had been hearing reports of a murderer and rapist on the loose. This man was one of the most wanted men in the country. The daughters hear about him in school and the parents know of him, but they never really think that they will come in contact with him (who would?). Well, one lovely afternoon this murderer/rapist breaks into this family's home and holds them hostage. I know what you are thinking...."You heard all of this in the waiting room!?" Yup, in the waiting room. Lovely. Josh and I keep looking at each other saying, "I can't believe we are listening to this here!" I am assuming that the family makes it out of the situation ok because they are telling the story in the documentary---so that was comforting. But, one thing the Dad said really struck me. He was a military man---trained to kill, trained to defend. But, here, in this situation when his family's lives are at stake, he says that this is the first time in his whole life when he felt completely out of control of a situation. All his life before he had felt in control, but now he wasn't.

I didn't get to hear how the story ended (I really only heard the beginning). But what that Dad said really stuck out in my mind as I headed back for my ultrasound. That dad was facing the most horrible situation he could imagine. And he could do nothing. He was at the mercy of the murderer. Well, I wasn't really at the mercy of anyone (thankfully!) but I was and am in a situation that is completely out of my control. I cannot control what Anna's future (or my family's future) looks like. But there is a difference between this man and myself. He was not in any way ok with being out of control. But, I am. I don't find any comfort in me being in control. Actually, that terrifies me. I am completely positive that I would royally screw up EVERYTHING. I am more than content for God to be in absolute control. Or that is what I say in my head. But, what about when things DON'T go as we want them to? You loose your job. You are single and want to be married. You are married and your marriage is struggling. You have children and they are driving you crazy or you don't have children and desperately want them. Someone you know someone is sick. Someone you love is dying. You name it and the blank can be filled. It is most likely what you worry over. What causes you anxiety. What causes you to feel like you HAVE to do or say something. Those are the times that we are saying that God isn't doing a good enough job. We have to do something ourselves...even if it is just to worry. We are saying with our thoughts and actions that we can't trust God in this. We need to be in control for everything to turn out ok. But, as we know, all that is sin. To think even for a millisecond that we don't trust God and that we need to be in control must cut our Lord so deeply. But we do it all the time.

I remember as a child (an older child) thinking, "Why can't my life just be easy? Why would hard things have to happen? I just want to grow up, get married, have children and a nice, cute little home. Is that all bad?" I think that is such an American way of thinking because we are immersed with the teaching that life should be easy and we should have everything we want. But, that is not what the Bible teaches. Jesus' life wasn't easy and he didn't go after everything this world has to offer. His life was the opposite. Slowly, over time, I have grown to understand that even when things don't go as I would like them to it is so much better for God to be in control. Susannah Spurgeon says this:
Ah! our eyes are so dimmed by earth's fogs and shadows that we cannot see clearly enough to distinguish good from evil and if left to ourselves might embrace a curse rather than a blessing. Poor blind mortals that we are, it is well for us that our Master should choose our trials for us even though to our imperfect vision he seems sometimes to have appointed a hard thing. Ill that God blesses turns to good, while unblest good is ill, and all is right that seems most wrong, if it be his sweet will.

And, Susannah's very wise husband, Charles Spurgeon says this:
A wiser mind than our own arranges our destiny. The ordaining of all things is with God, and we are glad to have is so; we choose that God should choose for us. If we might have our own way we would wish to let all things go in God's way. Being conscious of our own folly, we would not desire to rule our own destinies. We feel safer and more at ease when the Lord steers our vessel than we could possibly be if we could direct it according to our own judgment. Joyfully we leave the painful present and the unknown future with our Father, our Saviour, our Comforter...It is my freest choice to let him choose. As a free agent, I elect that he should have absolute sway.

Amen! I could not say it better even if I wanted to! And this is what God has been working in my heart. As I have said before in a previous post, I wouldn't choose Anna's future for her even if given the choice...even if I could choose for her to be perfectly healthy. Why? Because, I KNOW that God's way is better than my own. His thoughts are higher than my own. I firmly believe that if given complete control I would mess up all His beautiful redemptive plans and miss out on incredible blessings.

You see, I have been learning lately that God views sufferings and hardships MUCH differently than I do. MUCH differently than our sinful nature wants us to see them. We see them as painful (which they are), an inconvenience, a tragedy (and some are), something to be pitied (oh! how I have hated pity recently!). We see it as something to be gotten out of at any cost. But that is NOT how our Lord views suffering. I don't think we should ever pretend to understand the mind of God---we can't because we are mortal. But, the fact remains that God uses and designs our sufferings and hardships for our GOOD. Even the smallest hardship we face throughout our day is no accident. We run out of gas or burn dinner---I believe God designs even those things to do us good. If we yield ourselves to His purposes and His good Word, He will use these things to root out all of the sin that is the root of our unhappiness and develop in us more of Himself who is the root of all our joy.

One thing has become very clear to me in the past few weeks. God CHOSE suffering to be the means of my redemption. He CHOSE suffering to be the way to bring me to Himself. And the suffering that He experienced was like none that I could ever face. His own Son suffered the Father's full wrath---He suffered the Father turning His face away and He was left utterly alone. And because of that, I never will be. I will never be alone. I am welcomed as a child and will always have access to the Father because of His Son's sufferings. If God allowed His own Son to suffer to achieve for Him much glory and victory and to reap a harvest of saints, why should I be surprised if He designs suffering to be allowed into my life. Should I not think of it as the loving means of a Heavenly Father to draw me more and more to himself---to conform me more in to His image---to bring me eternal and lasting joy that goes far beyond what this world has to offer? Yes, I should be viewing suffering differently. My prayer is that my heart would look like a child to my loving Heavenly Father and say will full faith, "I trust you. Do with my life as you will." I will agree with David in Psalm 119:
(vs. 67-69) Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word. You are good and do good; teach me your statutes. (vs. 71-72) It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes. The law if your mouth is better than thousands of gold and silver pieces. (vs. 75) I know, O LORD, that your rules are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.

Yes, I will trust God through my sufferings and hardships. I will be thankful for affliction. If it is the means that breaks this hardened heart and awakens me to the joys of my Savior, then yes. I will be thankful for affliction.

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