The past few weeks I’ve been pondering the notion of whether a man can know true dependence upon God if he is not first thoroughly broken. I’ve seen it in the lives of others around me. Those used mightily by God also experience periods of intense suffering, which leads to a depth of understanding and wisdom beyond their years. Their God is no longer merely a lovely idea; He is a real companion, the hand that pulls them out of the mud in when they are in the trenches of the battlefield.
When parents dedicate their children to God, they pray diligently that their offspring be used mightily by Him. But I wonder if parents understand that in most cases, perhaps all cases, in order to be used mightily by God, one must demonstrate the art of suffering well and a passion for the Lord that only comes through searing pain.
Do we realize that when we pray for God’s will to be done, that suffering is part and parcel of His sovereign will? Or do we retreat to our comfort zones, our rationalizations and our logic, trying to console ourselves in our own culturally-centered ideas that praying for our children or our friends means that their lives will be blissfully happy?
We must realize that in praying for the kingdom, we are praying for rain as well as sunshine. God does not employ the services of those who think they do not need Him. Instead, he uses criminals, pariahs, washed up losers and rejects and He raises them up to be an army that cannot be conquered.
Jesus said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9) But what does this really mean?
I think of Matt Chandler, the young and vibrant pastor at the Village Church, whose unfolding battle with a malignant brain tumor has stunned his congregation and saddened the hearts of many. But through this unimaginable tragedy, Christ’s power is made evident. The things which are important in life become crystal clear. Matt’s purpose in life is bringing glory to God. His reach has been expanded for the kingdom of Christ.
One of my friends is going through a chronic, excruciating medical condition. She is much too to suffer so intensely. But talking to her husband and sharing about my personal battle with chronic illness, I see the camaraderie in his eyes.
Until you have suffered, you cannot know. You cannot know the comfort of God in the midst of a no-win situation. You cannot imagine dangling by the last slim thread of hope that keeps you from falling into a pit of hopelessness and despair.
When everything is too much, God is still there. Those who cling to this truth, despite all evidence to the contrary, those who abandon their logic and their intellect, fall at the feet of Jesus and believe, these are the men and women who weather the storm. They taste God’s grace and His mercy, and they are never the same again. Their conviction is forged into something unbreakable.
“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” the adage goes. Suffering strengthens character, lifts the veil of the unimportant and makes why we are here so much clearer. Yet we naively pray to be used by God and expect uneventful, easy lives.
When we see our brothers and sisters in Christ suffer, we should rejoice and praise God. He is working His kingdom in them. When we weep with them, we weep tears of joy, for the necessary rain has come, and Christ will endure.