There’s much wisdom in James’ warning to be “slow to speak.” I’m guilty of opening my mouth too quickly, too fully, too transparently. There’s much I want to say, but, as Amy Carmichael cautions: Is it necessary? I challenge my own heart with the question—is what I want to say going to fulfill Paul’s directive in Ephesians 4:29?
Paul encourages us to guard our communication—let nothing unwholesome pour out, but only words that are good and needed, words that will edify and give grace to the listener (or the reader). Are my words driven by sinful emotions or is my mouth filled with the Spirit’s timely message for the moment?
Will my communication draw others closer to Christ or push them away from pursuing Him?
It has been four long months since I’ve opened my mouth on the blog. I’ve stayed away from social media, and limited my online interaction, and it’s been good—and necessary. My hands have been busy and my voice has been silent. For those of you who’ve reached out for updates on LeRoy’s condition, or expressed your concern, or wanted to know how to be praying for us, I’m grateful. I’m thankful you still want to intercede for him, and for us.
As we’ve entered a new season, my favorite season, I knew I couldn’t let this month pass without sending you a reminder. Every fall, I give you the same challenge: “Begin seeking God for what your spiritual focus should be next year!” I send out that reminder in the fall months, so you have time to pray and seek God to confirm what direction He has for you in the coming year. I encourage you to have a spiritual focus for the year, because an intentional pursuit of God brings the joy of knowing Him more intimately. And there is nothing better than that.
Do you know what passage I focused on this year? 2020 has been a year like no other—I think most everyone will agree with that obvious observation. Last fall, as I began praying for 2020’s spiritual focus, and seeking the Lord about what He had for us, He led me to the verse that I’ve written on every journal page this year. At the start of each day, I record this encouraging truth:
“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” (1 Peter 5:10)
This year has been one of deep sorrow and suffering like no other. Not just for us, but for all peoples across the globe. This has been a year marked by suffering. That is the word that will always typify 2020 for me personally: suffering. Little did I know, last November, when God put this passage on my heart, all He had ahead of us. But, even while enduring the heart-wrenching blows of this year, God has proven true to His character. He truly is the “God of all grace.”
I’ve never seen my husband experience such horrific pain. As we’ve walked through personal tragedy this year, his body has reacted violently. It is sheer misery to helplessly watch him endure the punishment his body unleashes. But through all the wilderness of loss and affliction—LeRoy never wavers, never complains, never gives way to anger or resentment. He remains the same steadfast and devoted man of God he’s always been. His example of faithfulness is my daily inspiration.
We begin each morning with him “washing me” in the Word. We have our time in prayer and the Word together and that is my very favorite hours of the day. We talk about God’s goodness, His wisdom, His incredible mercy and grace—and we worship. We pray. We have so many dear ones that we carry on our hearts: family, and dear friends, who are also walking through loss and affliction. And we have time to intercede for them and stand in spiritual battle for them through prayer.
Peter doesn’t offer a sugar-coated version of following Christ. He admits that walking with Him will include suffering. Why wouldn’t it? He is our example, and He suffered as no other. Peter was writing to believers who were literally losing their lives because of their commitment to Christ.
But, following the season of suffering comes the promise of restoration, confirmation, strengthening, and solid establishing. This is the fruit of suffering.
Precious friend, if you’ve been enduring a season of affliction—take heart. Our dear Savior desires to use those painful blows in your life to shape you, mold you, to conform you to His beautiful image. He delights in stripping away all that boasts of fleshly me, and clothe us in His beautiful character: compassion, mercy, kindness, wisdom, and love. He desires to restore the broken, to confirm the wavering, to strengthen the weak and weary, to establish the faltering.
We so often want the “quick fix” to grow up into the likeness of Christ—but without pain, without sorrow, or selfless devotion. Today’s mantra is: live for your own happiness. Jesus’ call however, is much different. His call is to live for Him—not ourselves. And in living for Him, He prunes us for growth.
God places us in the fires of affliction for purification. He leads us through dark valleys and on lonely roads. He takes us on a journey of suffering—not to destroy us, but to conform us. He is always at work on our hearts, working to produce in us “an eternal weight of glory, beyond all comparison” as we look to the eternal rather than grabbing for my “best life now.” As we look to Him, behold Him, He is at work transforming us into His image—from one degree of glory to another (2 Corinthians 4:16—18, 3:18). And there is no greater privilege than being shaped by the Potter’s hand into the image He has planned (Isaiah 64:8).
Today, I’m opening my mouth to simply say: God is good. He is working on our hearts. He is worthy of all worship. He is the Potter, and we are the clay. And we can trust Him in this season of suffering. As always, we are deeply grateful for your prayers.