The last several weeks have provided a lot of “think time” for me. Time that was not on my to do list… Time I didn’t think I could afford. I had plenty of plans and deadlines for this summer, but sometimes He blows our plans apart so that we will accept His much greater ones. I’m grateful He does.
And so instead of fighting Him, I’m choosing to make the most of the time He is giving me. I see already that He’s had a purpose in my unlimited “think time.” I’m learning lessons… far greater than anything I thought to learn in school this summer.
The lesson that is engraving itself on my mind and heart first came through our evening family story time. Let me share...
*He was an ordinary guy, only nineteen. He had felt God’s call to go and give his life to reach a certain Indian tribe for Him. So he left all he knew, home and friends, and purchased a one way ticket to South America. After years of seeking to get to them, he was brutally injured by an arrow shot into his leg by the Indians he came to love. But he did not give up. The work God did in him to reach the Indians was miraculous. Despite enduring terrible injuries and potentially fatal illnesses, he was faithful. And because of his efforts, God brought the whole tribe to a knowledge and acceptance of Jesus. The cross was exalted. Captives were freed.
In time, our young friend became engaged to a sweet girl who also loved the Indians and the the Savior. They eagerly looked forward to their future of service together. But the devil can never stand the exaltation of the cross. Their wedding day never came. She died in a heartbreaking car accident. Her fiancée received the telegram sent by her mother weeks later.
As if that wasn’t enough, the Indians were being threatened with the loss of their land or death, by the colonists. And it was our missionary's best friend and adopted brother, the first Indian to accept Jesus and the spiritual leader of the tribe, who was first to suffer. He was cruelly murdered.
In the midst of his heartbreak and dismay, our missionary friend went to visit one of the Columbian officials to report the death of his Indian brother. It was their conversation that has been burning itself onto my mind the last few days…
The Columbian official reminded our friend that the struggles and death they were going through were not in spite of Jesus but for Jesus.. They were because of the honor and exaltation of the cross. The devil was angered at the work done.
It was for this cross that they suffered.
The lesson imprinted itself powerfully on my mind. So often we find our willingness to suffer, in the knowledge that the pain is for our good. But is that the only reason for our suffering? Might there not be a greater reason, a reason that is far above our little lives?
Might it be that our suffering is for the exalting of the cross?
The devil is angry when we give our lives to be a testimony to the power of the cross, angry when he sees captives set free.
Could it be that we are called to suffer because the cross is being lifted high?
And might it be, that through our suffering, our Jesus wants to raise the cross higher still, by it’s visible power in giving us strength to bear our pain with trust and joy?
Could it be that our suffering is God's tool to break our self-reliance, so that He can then use us to lift the cross higher still?
I’ve noticed something lately. Many of us who are giving our lives fully to God’s work are facing trials. Sometimes its health challenges, or loneliness, days when it feels like the sun forgot how to shine.
But could it be that its for this cross?
The thought makes my heart leap. If this is the reason for our pain… Oh Jesus, send us more, that through it the cross can be lifted just another inch higher.
And when we suffer, more and more of the cross becomes our own. Jesus becomes dearer.
Paul counted his gain as loss, and his loss as gain. Think about that.
And so I’ve started praying a scary prayer-- scary because I mean it.
My plea is that I would be allowed to suffer more if the cross can be lifted higher by it.
That every gift I treasure most will be taken from me, so that I can gain more of my Jesus and His cross.
And that He will break me, so that I can be a more powerful vessel in His hands to uplift the cross.
Isn’t it worth loosing everything to gain everything? Even if we loose life itself?
I don’t know what will be the result of this prayer. It still makes my heart skip a beat when I pray it. But I'm convinced... Anything suffered or given up for this cross is not in vain.
I long to say with Paul,
…I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and so count them but dung, that I may win Christ.
Don’t run from your trials, from your losses. Be encouraged that even pain, health challenges, confusion about your future, and lonliness are not your enemies, but tools in the hand of the Master. Count them as gain.
Through them you may lift the cross an inch higher. And you may make an inch more of it your own.
Oh Jesus, we’ll willingly bear anything….
…for this cross.
Wait a minute. Christians aren’t supposed to be worried about their lives being fair. Or are they?
Often when we think about something being unfair, we think about an advantage someone has over us. But how often do we see unfairness as an advantage we have over others?
I picked up my brother’s school book this afternoon and was flipping through it’s pages when I came across a question that went something like this…
List several advantages that you have over others that are unfair.
I thought I had misread it. I read it again. No, I had read right.
And as the meaning of the question hit me, I was ashamed. Of course. We have so many advantages.
Is it fair that many of us have a loving Christian family while some have no family at all?
Is it fair that we live in a comfortable home when there are some who live under a bridge, or worse?
Is it fair that we have food and clothing, while other fellow humans are starving and naked?
Is it fair that we walk in light and a knowledge of the Savior, while our brothers and sisters die in the darkness?
Is it fair?
And yet we ever dare to complain? Jesus help us! Sometimes we get so caught up in our own problems that we forget how many advantages we have.
It’s isn’t fair. Thus we are debtors. Debtors to those who have so much less than us. Debtors to those who don’t know the Savoir. And sometimes even those who have heard of the Savior don’t really know Him. It might be our next door neighbor. It might be our childhood friends. Are we paying back our debt to them?
A familiar voice whispers another question to my heart.
Was it fair that I, the sinless One, died for you, a sinner? Was it fair that the blood of the King of Kings was spilt to wash away the sins of a world that is as a speck in the universe? Was it fair that I left the glories of my Father’s house to come to your undeserving little world to save you?
No Jesus. It wasn’t fair. I am a debtor to You and the precious people who don’t know You.
I owe You my life. I owe them my life.
I give it. Use it for your glory.
I give Thee back the life I owe.
That in Thine ocean depth it’s flow,
May richer fuller be.
It’s the best way to pay back our debt. The only way.
A month has passed since my last post... and what a month it's been! Despite the fact that it's not been an easy month, I thank God for it. We don't grow half so much on the easy days as we do on the tough ones.
I'm remembering how two years ago today, my Jesus proved Himself to me, and prompted some friends to sing "Blessings" at an FC on just the day I needed it. It totally changed my outlook on trials, and ever since that day, I've prayed for trials... and longed for them.
And now two years later, I'm so very grateful for the way trials have changed me... the way they are changing me right now.
This last month has been filled with moments of intensely realizing my own weakness, and having to rely wholly on His strength. I've been brought to the end of my rope more times than I can count, but He's always been there to help me grasp onto Him instead. I've fallen on my knees in desperate need of the help and strength He can give. And there's something fundamentally different and powerful about being on our knees because we feel obligated to, compared to being there because we feel totally incapable of doing anything without going there first.
Sometimes He allows us to feel we have no strength to stand so that we will instead "live" on our knees.
And I've found myself pleading, even in the darkest moments, for Him to keep allowing trials, because I love the way they turn my heart to Him. I was lying on my bed this afternoon, and honestly felt a wave of joy sweep over me that He is taking the time to refine me. He's answering my prayers for trials.
He reminded me last week that trust is learned in the darkness... not in the light of day when everything makes sense, but in the night, when we can't see or understand.
And He reminded me this afternoon as I stood outside in the pouring rain soaking in every drop, that my blessings may come through raindrops.
Jesus, I've promised you that I will embrace the cross. Don't let me give up just because it takes me far out of my comfort zone. Don't let me ever be so distracted with the weight of the cross that I forget it's purpose-- it's beauty. Don't let me ever shrink from raindrops because they come from dark clouds-- for it's in those clouds that the rainbow is seen.
"I will cling to the old rugged cross, and exchange it some day for a crown."
Jesus, I'll embrace darkness, weakness, and raindrops willingly, if through them I can learn to trust you more fully. Help me remember...
Weakness pulls us to our knees.
Trust is learned in the dark.
Blessings come through raindrops.
20. Lover of Jesus. Daughter. Sister. Friend. Servant. Fan of the kitchen. Graduate of Masters of Biblical Counseling.
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