Friday, October 10, 2008

The Thorn

Life has been crazy and difficult the past few months. Though I believe the Christian life is more often than not a life of suffering, I've still found myself wondering why God has ordained for me so many difficulties all at once. George often reminds me this is an opportunity for my faith to increase. He's also quick to add, "God's faithfulness to you in the past is both a model and a promise of His faithfulness to you in the future, though He's too creative to do the same thing the same way twice."

John Piper put together the 5 R's of suffering, which I found highly encouraging:

1) Repentance

Suffering is a call for us and others to turn from treasuring anything on earth above God.

Luke 13:4-5 - Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.

2) Reliance

Suffering is a call to trust God not the life-sustaining props of the world.

2 Corinthians 1:8-9 - For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.

3) Righteousness

Suffering is the discipline of our loving heavenly Father so that we come to share his holiness.

Hebrews 12:6, 10-11 - The Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.... He disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

4) Reward

Suffering is working for us a great reward in heaven that will make up for every loss here a thousand-fold.

2 Corinthians 4:17 - This light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.

Matthew 5:11-12 - Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.

5) Reminder

Suffering reminds us that God sent his Son into the world to suffer so that our suffering would not be God’s condemnation but his purification.

Philippians 3:10 - ...that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings.

Mark 10:45 - The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

Martha Snell Nicholson is a Christian poet who knew a great deal about suffering. Nicholson suffered from 4 incurable diseases and was bed ridden for over 3 decades. I've been thinking about her poem, The Thorn, for a few weeks now. If you are experiencing some sort of suffering, I hope it comforts you as it did me.

The Thorn

I stood a mendicant of God before His royal throne

And begged him for one priceless gift, which I could call my own.

I took the gift from out His hand, but as I would depart

I cried, "But Lord this is a thorn and it has pierced my heart.

This is a strange, a hurtful gift, which Thou hast given me."

He said, "My child, I give good gifts and gave My best to thee."

I took it home and though at first the cruel thorn hurt sore,

As long years passed I learned at last to love it more and more.

I learned He never gives a thorn without this added grace,

He takes the thorn to pin aside the veil which hides His face.

1 comment:

Michelle said...

Hey, I know things have been tough for you lately--I am keeping you and your family in my prayers. I hope you have an uplifting and restful week.