Devotional Thought fo the Day:
14 Let us, then, hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we have a great High Priest who has gone into the very presence of God—Jesus, the Son of God. 15 Our High Priest is not one who cannot feel sympathy for our weaknesses. On the contrary, we have a High Priest who was tempted in every way that we are, but did not sin. 16 Let us have confidence, then, and approach God’s throne, where there is grace. There we will receive mercy and find grace to help us just when we need it. Hebrews 4:14-16 (TEV)
Do not limit your patience to such or such kind of injuries and afflictions, but extend it to all such as it shall please God to send you. Some are unwilling to suffer any tribulations, but such as are honourable; for example, to be wounded in battle, to be a prisoner of war, to be persecuted for religion, or to be impoverished by some lawsuit determined in their favour. Now, these people do not love the tribulation, but the honour which accompanies it; whereas, he that is truly patient, suffers tribulations indifferently, whether accompanied by ignominy or honour.
As I write this, in the background is Anne Hathaway’s version of “I dreamed a dream” from the movie version of Les Mis. I can’t help but think of the character, and the background found in the novel. ALothough in the beginning a victim of her own sin, others make her misery and despair far more oppressive.
Some, like Val Jean, do so without thought. Others, like the Innkeeper and his wife, or the supervisor in the shop, do so with evil and malice.
Either way, the suffering is real, the oppression stifling, the pain incapacitating.
As I read St. Francis De Sales words this morning, it, this idea of unnecessary suffering started dominating my thoughts. How do we deal with the suffering we don’t deserve, the pains that are caused by others, or whose biological cause cannot be blamed on anyone.
Things like my genetic heart issues, my dear friend’s ongoing battle with cancer, the unknown victims of terrorism and their families, those who suffer from PTSD, or some other mental illness and those who suffer with them.
This is different than the cyber-crusader who looks and desires and rejoices in his being “persecuted for rightness ( not righteousness) sake.” Those people love the honor they receive from being a victim, and they deserve the persecution and the problems.
But what about the innocent who suffer? Or those who suffering is so compounded by others neglect or deliberate harm?
As one, I’ve learned the hard way, through many sleepless nights, and times of tears that I cannot justify the suffering, I cannot find the “why” that I so desperately want to know. I can strike out in anger, I can slip into the deepest of depression, I can, and have at times, hoped the suffering would simply end.
Those thoughts don’t diminish the suffering, if anything, it gives the suffering more power over me, increasing the anxiety. Nor am I strong enough, on my own, to avoid those feelings.
I need to be patient, with these things I cannot explain, with the pain I can’t bear on my own. I need to have the patience De Sales calls for, I need the assurance of God’s empathy and benevolence of a God who invites me into HIS presence. I need to have the confidence to look to HIM, to understand how His innocent suffering had a purpose, and that somehow God will use mine for good.
It is not an easy task, coming to this conclusion, gaining this confidence. It is one I often fail to achieve, as this day or that is spent letting the darkness enclose me. Devotion is the answer, not devotions (remember – my strength had already failed), but devotion. Considering Christ’s devotion to me, and as I do, growing to adore Him.
There is the answer. Considering the depth of Christ’s devotion, there I find the hope that enable the patience I need, the strength to endure, the ability to take my mind off of my problems. Being encouraged by others, who endure, and hear my words and find the same strength to endure. That helps me realize the depth of Christ’s empathy. As odd as it sounds, I can embrace the suffering, knowing His suffering that He embraced. For He embraced it for a simple reason. He loved you andI.
Will I need the encouragement of others, pointing me back to the cross? Yes! Will I still struggle at times? After 45 years of dealing with this, the answers is, yes. But I know I will come out of the depths, sustained by Jesus, who volunteered to suffer so that I would know His empathy, HIs love, and ultimately, His peace.
This is my goal for today, to walk confidently into His presence, to accept His invitation to walk with Him.
And to pray you will boldly, confidently walk with our God as well.
Francis de Sales, Saint. An Introduction to the Devout Life. Dublin: M. H. Gill and Son, 1885. Print.
Devotional thought of the day:
Listening randomly to the music on my computer, the last couple of days a song has played, and stuck in my brain. The chorus includes these words,
“use our hands to build your church o Lord, use our hands to build Your church.”
A very good friend recorded the song, and like me, went to a Bible College where we were taught to lead and minister in a manner consistent with Christ’s model. We were called to serve, to sacrifice, not for our own glory, but simply to point people to Jesus. It was held out to us as the way to build God’s church, to do as ROmans 12:1-9 talks so beautifully concerning. Because of God’s incredible living kindness and mercy, present to Him your bodies, to be sacrificed spiritually – for this is the logical way to worship (parker’s paraphrase)
Last night, as Chris and I were side by side, facilitating the worship of our people, I was struggling. A dear friend in our congregation received news that she would have to undergo chemotherapy, not just a course of treatment, but a long haul, to keep at bay cancer. My childhood friend’s dad was in the hospital, possibly having a heart attack (his mom passed away recently) my dad had been taken to the ER. Another friend’s dad, extremely influential in helping me and so many other minister, responded positively despite what most would see as a major setback. As the evening progressed, I found out about others in crisis, and it began to become, well overwhelming.
It is hard to preach on Isaiah 40 when you are crushed. It is hard to preach on casting your cares on Christ, when you almost don’t have a chance for a breath as they come flooding in. Then again, you can’t really know how much God will strengthen you, how much His power is displayed in our weakness, until you really need to know it.
So how does Chris’ song, and all of the suffering work into on theme in this blog?
I was thinking about his song, and our lessons on servant ministry/leadership and about a phrase the influential pastor wrote. God can turn your scars into stars. When all of a sudden, the two morphed into one thought.
Use our scars to build YOUR church o Lord, use your scars to build Your church!
Use our scars to build YOUR church o Lord, use your scars to build Your church!
If we, in presenting our bodies to God to be living sacrifices, to serve and use our talents and abilities to accomplish His will ( 2 Pet 3:9) then He can as well use our anxieties, our illnesss, our setbacks, our crosses our scars.
It takes trust to lay those things down, far more trust than to volunteer to serve a dinner, or sing in the choir, or become a pastor or missionary, or even that incredible sacrifice – a children’s Sunday school teacher ( I am not joking with that btw- I think they are among the greatest of God’s servants) I hate my scars, I even hate more the scars and potential scars I see my people bearing. I would do anything to see them freed from such burdens, and it bothers me when I cannot.
But I see something else at work, for I am seeing God using those scars. I saw my friend, on the day she received such news, come to church and stay for the potluck, her strength an example of the very words from Isaiah. Her husband was one of the men who served that meal, working besides others and encouraging them. I see others, also dealing with issues and anxieties sharing in the same meal. I see a church of broken people, whom God has brought together and lifted up as His church….
And I realized, what I was praying for in my morphing a song and a thought and a phrase, it was already happening…. here.. in our midst. In a glorious-yet tragic-yet inspring-yet full of tears-yet beyond imagination way.
Lord – have mercy on us- bring healing to these lives… and help our unbelief…even as you give us strength, and cause us to rise up on wings as eagles..