Today I got to spend the day with a woman who has been used greatly in my family. Decades ago she became one of my grandmother’s very best friends. When my grandmother passed away, she was there, standing in the gap. She and my own mother grew closer and I knew she was like a surrogate mom for my mother. A godmother. Since my mom passed away, she has been faithful in sending me cards and pictures and other tokens of her affections. Always reverencing their love for me (my mother and grandmother), reminding me of what I struggle so often to remember.
That I am loved.
Today she spoke about her battle with breast cancer. She has in fact battled this disease three times. She was honest in her speech, sharing that yes, emotionally she struggled with this 3rd diagnosis.
“Lord, again? Haven’t I already been through this? Haven’t I already passed the test?”
This resonated with me greatly, as I thought about my own journey in waiting, and relationships, and surrender.
“Lord, haven’t I already passed this test?” I’ve wondered so often.
But His answer to her may not be the answer you hear in the pulpit, or online, or at a popular mega church, because it’s not a popular message.
It’s a message of the cross.
“Yes daughter,” He says to her. “But I got you! I got you!”
I am discovering that one can experience and overcome various tests, trials and tribulations. Even in the same area. They can have those experiences and keep going through them. Again, and again, and even again.
We see this in the Bible. What does God say to Paul when he asks to have the thorn removed from him three times?
“Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor 12:8)
And even with Christ in the garden of Gethsemane, crying out to the Father to remove His cup.
“Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, ‘Sit here while I go and pray over there.’ And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. Then He said to them, ‘My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me. He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, ‘O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.’ (Matt 26:36-39).
I can’t imagine the depth of sorrow Christ felt to ask to be removed from this experience of physical suffering. I can only imagine it must have been so great because He also knew all the world would be saved through it, and yet it was so painful that He still did not want to experience it.
And in both cases (Paul and Christ’s) God basically said, “My will is for you to suffer.”
We do not like suffering. Our flesh hates it. Whether it is physical, emotional or mental. When we are hungry we want food. When we are tired we want sleep. When we have to use the restroom we find the nearest toilet. We do not like being uncomfortable. And suffering is, in my opinion, the worst kind of uncomfortable.
But suffering in the kingdom, is highly regarded. We cannot get away from that fact, and any gospel that is preached without the teaching of suffering is erroneous.
2 Timothy 2: “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him…
One of my struggles in this season is not the teaching of suffering. I think I understood that early on in my faith, that I would need to do hard things for Him. That I would need to lay down my life. But I didn’t know about long suffering. I didn’t know about the lengths and depths that He could call one to. I didn’t know that He could call you over and over (and even over) again to experience difficult circumstances. And I didn’t know He could give you power to sustain you through it.
I got to speak with some women today who are related to my grandmother’s friend. They too are in seasons of recovery from loss, grief and trauma. They too are overcoming things they never imagined they would go through. And I can see the changes. I can see there is more humility, there is more kindness. Our hearts are tender now…
Suffering changes you. But if you know Him, it can change you for the good. He can work it for the good…
When Paul cries out to have his thorn removed, we find out why God said ‘no’.
“And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure (2 Cor 12:7).
He was humbled through this thorn. He was sustained by His grace.
I realize the Father has been after something in me in this season. Something that I didn’t know was there. It was distrust.
I have known that the way I have related to the Father has always been intimate and passionate, zealous and possessive (on both sides). Yes, I have loved Him. But I have consistently struggled with trusting Him.
Looking back on my journey, I would trust Him to a certain extent. And with my singleness I would only trust Him up until a certain number of years (we have passed that number of years by the way). Of course, consciously I was not aware I was doing this. But He knew.
At the service today my friend Linda testified about her “thorn”. She testified that the Father would not remove it, but that He would keep her through it. She also testified that she would worship anyway.
Wow. To worship Him anyway. Even after the third time. That is the faith He is after. That is the call for His chosen.
I am grateful that even in my pain and grief and anger, He has never changed. His love and loyalty are steady and even though I don’t experience the high feelings of emotions I did all those years in my journey, I sense His love as strongly as I used to.
And for the first time, in such a long time, I trust Him.
I trust Him like I used to. I trust Him like I did as a babe. I trust Him like before the tests and trials. Before the losses and setbacks. Before the confusion over my identity. I trust Him. Because now I can see (as I have in the past but forgot) that He really is for me. That His choices really are in my best interest. Especially when it comes to relationships.
He protects me. Like a good father does His child.
I am His.
What I know now, that I didn’t know earlier in my faith, was that His way somehow feels/is harder and at the same time protects. I also did not know that His way does not negate (long) suffering. That though He is for me, pain is inevitable. And in life pain is inevitable. But at-least with Him it can be used for our good.
Because in order to reign with Him we must suffer.
That is the cross. That is being a disciple. That is being His.