We hadn’t seen her in years, but she looked just the same. We’d spent many an enjoyable Sunday afternoon at her table, being loved on by her, while eating her famous pecan pie. To be with Miss Linda (as our little ones called this woman who was an “adopted grandmother” to them) meant you were sure to spend most of the time laughing; her laughter is infectious.
Running into “Miss Linda” was another gracious appointment that the Lord had for me, although it took me quite by surprise. I had to pick up a package at a post office that I’d not visited in perhaps a decade. We pulled in just as she was getting into her vehicle. I jumped out to hug her before she pulled away. As always, she squealed with delight, and immediately got out of her car to squeeze me tight. “Where is Brother LeRoy? How is he?” Her eyes filled with tears (which made me tear up) as she told me that she prays for us every day.
“I can’t believe it, this can’t be happening—not to Brother LeRoy!”
“Brother LeRoy” is how most people refer to my husband, even if he’s not their pastor. This precious saint began to pour out the protests that I’ve heard many people express. It’s understandable, we all want to fit suffering into that little box, that system of “Karma” that explains illness or tragedy as a result of some wicked or sinful past. It’s the same error that Job’s friends stumbled over. They were sure that Job must have sinned horribly, and his suffering was the consequence of that hidden sin. A “righteous man” couldn’t be “punished” by God in this way . . . that doesn’t fit neatly in the little box.
When a godly man suffers, it doesn’t make sense in our system of right and wrong.
And yet, it does, when you think of the cross.
LeRoy counters that way of thinking with this question, “Why should I be exempt from suffering?”
We’ve been warned (by our Savior who suffered more than we ever will) that we would endure difficulty during our time here on earth: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). And the book of Romans reminds us that all of creation is groaning under the curse as a result of the fall. We’re all susceptible to the painful experiences of living in a fallen world.
Yes, Jesus brings redemption, healing, and life . . . but He also sends us into storms of suffering that He might be glorified through our response and faith in the storm.
Who is to say why God has chosen this journey for us at this time?
From outward appearance, it would seem a waste, an injustice, a contradiction. But we serve a mysterious God who is known to use the most unexpected means to bring about a miraculous and glorious end result. Would Joni have brought God as much glory outside of her wheelchair? We aren’t the ones who can determine that.
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.
I don’t understand why the person who is the nicest, most kind, and giving man I’ve ever known, is suffering right now. I don’t understand why my pastor, who faithfully has delivered messages from God’s Word since he was just a boy, is enduring excruciating pain. I don’t understand why God has chosen to send us on this journey at this time.
All I know is that our God is all wise, and He suffered to secure us freedom from eternal suffering.
My heart goes out to those who are truly suffering: those who are still held captive under the curse of sin have no hope of redemption or freedom from the eternal suffering that is the just condemnation that comes to those who reject Christ’s payment for their sin. Perhaps one who is caught by the deception of the evil one, will see LeRoy’s love and devotion to His Savior, even through the suffering, and realize the wonder and value of this Savior that he follows.
That’s our hope and prayer.
Will you join us in asking God to accomplish that?