Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Thankful for Suffering

The boys are blissfully asleep and I finally have a few moments to share with you from my heart. God has really been doing something special in my heart recently and I am excited to share it with you.

First, I must begin with some background. Only a few people in my life know how incredibly difficult the past 6 months of my life have been. I have faced intense rejection and it has been very painful. There were some people in my world who did not like me. They had no reason why, and when questioned could give no specific reasons or point to anything I had said or done, they just didn't like me, and I would even go as far as to say they hated me. They had certain unrealistic expectations of me. They had an idea of what kind of person I should be because I am married to a pastor and felt I didn't live up to those expectations. Unfortunately, these people did not keep their opinions to themselves and in the process I was chewed up and spit out. And it hurt. Bad. There are still days that pain and bitterness try to rear their ugly heads in my heart.

At the time, I had a very hard time seeing how God could use any of this trial in my life for good. I knew His promise in Romans 8:28 "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." And I clung to this promise- in ALL things, even hard ones, even bad ones, God works for my good. But for the life of me, I honestly couldn't figure out how such a deeply painful rejection could ever be used for my good. I would cry out to God, "Lord, I love you and I know you have called me to be Jack's wife and you have called us to this place and to this ministry. So I know I am the person you are talking about in Romans, but where is the good from this pain? Help me see Your goodness in all of this because right now I just can't!" I knew He was good and He was God and I trusted that one day I would see the good. And that day has come.

Here is the good that God has brought to my life- I have felt just a piece of the rejection Jesus faced and I love Him more deeply because of it. The truth is, that I have always loved Jesus and been moved by the cross. But Jesus didn't just suffer the cross for me, He also suffered great rejection and hate. This Easter, more than ever before, I am so deeply moved by the accounts of His persecution. Here is just a piece of what moves me:

"Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. The governor again said to them, "Which of the two do you want me to release for you?" And they said, "Barabbas." Pilate said to them, "Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?" They all said, "Let him be crucified!" And he said, "Why, what evil has he done?" But they shouted all the more, "Let him be crucified!" So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, "I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves." And all the people answered, "His blood be on us and on our children!" Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.

Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, "Hail, King of the Jews!" And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him." Matthew 27:20-31 Emphasis Added
Jesus left Heaven, a place with no suffering, or hate, or pain, or rejection- a place where He was seated at the right hand of God and worshiped. He left Heaven to come to a place where he would be rejected by crowds of people who hated Him so much they cried out for His execution. He came to a place where He was scourged (a Roman judicial penalty, consisting of a severe beating with a multi-lashed whip containing imbedded pieces of bone and metal). He came to a place where he was brought before an entire battalion to be stripped naked, mocked, spit on, hit and then mocked somemore. He came to a place where even those who loved and followed Him, like Peter, denied even knowing Him. Why did He do this? Why did He suffer so? Because He loves me.

And this is why I am thankful for the rejection and pain that I have suffered recently. The rejection and pain I suffered were NOTHING compared to that which Jesus suffered, yet they were very painful for me. How much more pain must Jesus have felt? And the truth is that I am just a sinner, like all of us. There is nothing inately good in me, nothing in me that deserves to be loved and accepted. But JESUS was GOD! He was perfect, He was love, He deserved nothing but absolute worship and adoration. And yet He chose to suffer, not only rejection, but death, because of His great love for me. And knowing just a tiny bit of what this rejection must have felt like, I love Him all the more.

So, this Easter, I am thankful that God used something hard and bad for my good. He allowed me to see more of who He is, He allowed me to identify all the more with His Son, He allowed me to be broken so that He could build me back up with a deeper appreciation and love for Him. THANK YOU GOD FOR THAT TRIAL!!

Are you going through a trial right now? There is no promise in His word that life with be easy and that we won't face trials. In fact, Jesus promised just the opposite. But He said to take heart because He has overcome this world! And if we love Him and follow His calling in our lives, he will work ALL THINGS for our good! I can testify to that! So, as you face trials this Easter, take heart, He is still God, He is still good, He is still in control and He still desires your good! If He could conquer death, He can definitely conquer your pain! Be joyful for Our Redeemer Lives!

Here are the verses that follow His promise in Romans. May they be a salve to your heart as they are to mine!

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised— who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,

"For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered."

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Romans 8:31-39