It is a hard road to walk right now. It is. LeRoy is enduring much pain, we can’t see what is ahead for us, but we know one thing, our Redeemer is trustworthy.
When I was such a young thing that I thought “suffering and trials” existed in the category of flat tires, heavy school loads, and flea houses, God was merciful with me. He understood that my understanding was limited to my experience and context, at least that’s what I think He means when He says:
[box]“As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:13–14).[/box]
He knows we’re dust and He works with this bit of dust and bone to somehow bring Himself glory. In James chapter one, He gives us some instructions in how to do that. He tells us to “Count it all joy” when walking through various kinds of trials. No matter the size or type of trial. He wanted me to “count it joy” when I lived in that pitiful flea house, urged me to do that, used that house to teach me how to do that . . . and now, in this new season of trial, He again instructs us to “Count it all joy.”
I hope you listened to LeRoy share his side of the story as we’re walking through this life change (I posted that podcast on Thursday, but you can listen to it by clicking here), because he started by talking about finding “joy” while experiencing trial.
How do we find joy in trial?
I think it boils down to our perception and understanding of who God is. Do we believe He is our creator? Not just our creator, but everything that is, that ever has been, that ever will be—all of it—exists by His command? And that, He Himself exists not because of external factors, but because He alone is the only “I Am” of the universe, the one and only self-existent being who brought all that we see and know into being by His own choice.
Do we believe that, not only He is our creator, but He alone deserves our submission as our authority and ruler? He is our God and King, and therefore, He is our sovereign ruler and we yield to His command, purposes, and will. He is God—we are not.
Do you believe that God is God?
And do you believe that God is not only our creator, and our ruler, but He is good? If you truly believe that the one and only God, who has revealed Himself to us through the Scriptures by using His Spirit to “breathe” within men the very words they recorded for us—do you also believe that this God of Scripture is good?
Has He not proven Himself good?
When we recognize the work of the cross for what it truly is, there can be no doubt that God is good. Could a good God actually bring the crushing blows of affliction down on one He loves, one who has committed no sin worthy of this amount of wrath?
The answer is—yes. He most notably did that with His own Son. And He did that to bring redemption. He did that to rescue us and to glorify Himself.
The cross provides the only real context for understanding God’s goodness in suffering.
Do you remember what books the Lord clearly led me to study and the Scripture passage that is my focus for this year?
My study this year has been seeing the work of the cross through the book of Job.
John, Romans, and Job have been my “book” studies for 2017. I finished the book of John just before summer and now I’m finishing up Job before starting Romans. I love the fact that my precious Savior knew where I’d be right now, the journey that LeRoy and I would be walking, when way back in the fall of 2016 He laid it on my heart to study Job and soak in the Scripture passage that I’ve jotted down at the top of my journal page, each morning, for 250 days now.
Job provides us with a picture, in a sense, of bearing “undeserved” affliction as Christ did.
John takes us to the agony of the cross. Romans deepens our understanding of the need for the cross and what it accomplishes. Both books beautifully encase and display the gospel, but long before the New Testament accounts were written, Job is where we see a glimpse of that gospel story throughout Job’s grappling:
Job is a believer; the deepest pain he endures is that it seems to him he has fallen under the judgment of God. And he discovers, as do we, that the kindest and most well-meant religious or philosophical counsel can ultimately provide no comfort. Only the truth of the cross can do that, for only the cross reveals redemptive suffering, and only the cross prepares believers to walk in the way of the cross . . . (Job: The Wisdom of the Cross by Christopher Ash).
I’ll let you chew on that a bit.
Only the cross prepares believers for suffering.
We will never go to the cross to pay for the sins of the world, but we go to the cross daily as we lay down our lives for the sake of the gospel—in mostly small, but sometimes large, ways. Walking the “way of the cross” provides others a glimpse into the value of knowing God.
As we face suffering, and everyone in this fallen world does, and we walk through the path of affliction with a heart that remains devoted to God . . . it gives the lost world a glimpse into God’s value. They get the message that, no matter what happens to me—God is worthy of my worship—no matter what!
Job didn’t understand or see the story God was writing in his life, and yet what an amazing story it became! You and I don’t see the scope and expanse of our stories, either. God never ceases to amaze me. He is faithful, He is good, He is omnipotent, but He does not always work in ways that are easy to understand. He is incredible in His ability to take the worst points of suffering and bring redemption and even a greater knowing of His heart.
How do we find joy in suffering?
It is hard right now, this is not what I was expecting for this season of our lives. But even in the pain, in the foreign territory, and the sleepless nights, there is a deep, unwavering awareness of God’s presence and that is our source for joy. How can we experience joy in the darkest of days?
By knowing who God is, and trusting His redemptive work. By remembering that He is God, and I am not. By acknowledging that He is our creator, authority, and kind ruler, and all that He chooses to do is good and right.
As I’ve said many times before, and still believe today:
If you knew all that God was doing, if you could see His ending from your beginning, there would be nothing in His plan that you would change.
And I still believe that, even though this is the most difficult journey we’ve ever taken. If we truly desire God’s glory, if we truly know that He is good and worthy of our trust, we can agree with that. We can entrust our lives into His hands and know that, even though the story He is writing through our lives right now, is not how we would’ve planned it, even then, He does all things well.
Even though it is a hard road to walk right now, there is joy.