Monday, October 20, 2014

Ten Minutes or Less

Recently, I was asked to give my testimony to a group of ladies at my church. The person who asked me to do this said that I would have about ten minutes to share what the Lord has been teaching me through my physical suffering. These last five years have been such a journey, and it seems I have traveled so far, that I don’t know how I will really share all the depth of my experience with Christ in just ten minutes. I will have to do a big-picture overview that somehow expresses all of the ways the Lord has worked in my heart. I will have to hit the highlights.

So, what are the highlights? What are the main and plain things that the Lord has taught me in these last five years of suffering and struggling to trust Him? I find myself always coming back to the phrase that first opened my eyes to the total, absolute sovereignty of God and what the implications of that sovereignty are for me. I’m indebted my friend and mentor, Julie Ganschow for teaching me this phrase. 

“God is the sovereign God of the universe and He does what He wants with what is his and what He does is always good; no, it is very good."

What does this mean? It means that my God is the God of the universe, and He is sovereign over all of His creation. There is nothing that can happen to me outside of His sovereign will. He is never surprised by anything, and He is never unaware of my pain. In His wisdom, He knows what is best for all that He has made, including me. Psalm 115:3 says, “Our God is in heaven, and He does whatever He pleases.” What is pleasing to God is whatever will bring glory to His Name. I was created for His glory (Isaiah 43:7), so I know that He will enable me to respond rightly to the pain or dysfunction that He has ordained for me. If I truly love and desire to serve Him, He will give me the strength to respond to my pain with humility.

What does that look like? It doesn't mean that I joyfully proclaim how much I love my pain. Indeed, that would be completely fake. No, what it means is that I continue to praise the Lord for who He is, trusting that He will sustain me in the pain, and that He will enable me to continue to do all that He calls me to do, even in the midst of suffering. While I may not be able to do all that I want to do, I can be certain that He will enable me to do all that He calls me to do (Phil 4:13).

Since God is the sovereign creator and sustainer of the universe, He has all rights to do whatever He pleases with what belongs to Him. I am not my own. I was redeemed by the blood of Christ, and I belong to Him now. Who am I to say what kind of body is best for what He has called me to do? This is where my faith meets its test: Do I really desire God’s glory more than I desire my own comfort? If I do, then I must be willing to accept and embrace whatever limitations He has ordained for my life. God does what He pleases with what is His. God was pleased to bruise His own son (Isaiah 53:10), and look at the glory He is receiving now! Surely He can sustain me through this light and momentary trouble I am experiencing now, and give me strength to bring Him glory in it.

Everything God does is good. All things work together for good to those who love Him, to those who are the called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). But whose good are we talking about here, when we say all things are working together for good? Are we talking about God’s good, because He is glorified? Or are we talking about my good because I am the called? The answer to both questions is, “yes.” Here is the key to contentment in pain: God’s glory is my good. Anything that glorifies God is good for me. If my pain brings more glory to God, then that is for my good. When God is glorified, the whole body of Christ benefits. Friends, this is the key to contentment in suffering. It is not my body that matters, but His. Though I have pain, when I respond to it biblically, God is glorified and those who love Him benefit. My contentment in suffering, which comes from my hope in Christ, encourages other believers, and might make a suffering unbeliever want to know the source of my contentment.

God is God, and He does what He pleases with what is His. I am so glad I am His, and so thankful for the privilege and opportunity to glorify Him in my trouble.

“But thanks be to God who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and who makes known through us the fragrance that consists of the knowledge of him in every place.” 2 Corinthians 2:14