Saturday, June 9, 2012

By His Grace, I Cling To Him

Several weeks ago I had the privilege of meeting Nancy Guthrie.  She was passing through town on her way to a retreat, and she stopped to have lunch with my bible study group.  Until about a year ago when my friend Lacy suggested a book to me written by her, I had never heard of her.  Around the same time Lacy mentioned Nancy to me, I also started a bible study she had written, Hoping for Something Better.

Coincidence, no.  I don't believe in coincidences.  I believe in a God who ordains everything in my life.

Just as Nancy was about to leave, she pulled a book out of a box in the trunk of her car and handed it to me, Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow.

Nancy knows sorrow in a way many of us never will.  She had to place her 6 month old baby girl into the arms Jesus.  Just two years later, she had to do the same for her 6 month old son.  Although her story will make your heart ache, it also will give you so much hope.

God doesn't waste pain.  Her pain is no exception.

I have slowly read through this book.  I want to take in her every word because I know she is speaking from her own pain.  She is honest in sharing her  questions with how God could allow so much pain and suffering into our lives.  But just as she shares her own questions, she also shares how she heard Jesus speaking to her in the midst of her suffering.

Our suffering will do one of two things.  It will either cause us to run as far away from Jesus as we possibly can get, or it will cause us to cling to Him tighter than we ever have.

By His grace, I am clinging.

As I read further into the book, I find myself going back and reading over and over the things I've already read.  I not only need to remember it, I need to hear it within my heart.  And I don't always "get it" the first time around.

I picked it up this morning and as I was flipping back through the beginning of the book I read this ...

"It would seem to me that if anybody ever deserved to have his prayers answered in the affirmative, it was Jesus.  Here he was in the garden of Gethsemane, pouring out his repeated request to his Father, asking him to accomplish the salvation of sinners in some other way.  Yet God, through his silence, said no.
Jesus knows what it feels like to bring a heartfelt, passionate prayer to God and to hear God say, in effect, "I've got something else in mind.  I have another plan.  And that plan is going to require intense suffering on your part"
Somehow it helps me to know that Jesus wrestled with God's plan for his life--and his death--even as he submitted to it, because I, too have wrestled with God's plan for my life even as I have sought to submit to it.  Maybe you have too."

I most certainly have.  I have wrestled with God's plan so much in my life that Mary said to me, "You know, this might go a lot easier for you if you would stop kicking against God's sovereignty."

Did I stop kicking?  Not at first.  Actually, not until I was so exhausted I couldn't kick anymore.  But once the kicking ceased, I began to see with much clarity part of what God was accomplishing in my life.

His way is always the best way ... even if it requires suffering that seemingly will never end.  It may not end in this life, but one day suffering will be no more.

Jesus, come quickly.

I've been kicking hard lately.  I wasn't kidding when I said I don't always "get it" the first time around ... or the hundredth.  I've spent a lot of time lately wallowing in my sorrow.  He isn't giving my wants, and I don't like it.

I want to be healthy.  I want my pain to go away.  I want to be able to drive again.  I want to be able to stop taking medicine.  I want my Mama back.

My list of wants go on and on, but God's says, "no" ... at least for now.

Nancy says,

Here is the hope we find in hearing Jesus speak into our own sorrowful situation: it is possible to overcome our own wants, to push through them to surrender.  We see that as we pour our wants out before God, he gives us the grace we need to face whatever comes.  We, too, can learn obedience from what we suffer.  Our suffering does not have to be wasted pain.  It can take us closer to the heartbeat of God as we pursue obedience in the hard places of life.
As we stop fighting and start welcoming his Holy Spirit, we discover that he is actually changing what we want.  We begin to enjoy an inner strength and rest, a firm confidence that whatever God asks us to endure is purposeful.  We begin to truly believe that the joy of surrendering to his will is going to be worth whatever it may cost.
What we need most is not to hear God say yes to our requests.  What we need is to be filled with such deep confidence in the character of our Father that when he says no, we know he is doing what is right and good for us.  What we need most is the faith to trust him.
Some claim that strong faith is defined by throwing our energies into begging God for a miracle that will take away our suffering and then believing without doubting that he will do it.  But faith is not measured by our ability to manipulate God to get what we want; it is measured by our willingness to submit to what he wants.
It takes great faith to say to God, "Even if you don't heal me or the one I love, even if you don't change my circumstances, even if you don't restore this relationship, even if you allow me to lose what is most precious to me, I will still love you and obey you and believe that you are good.  And I believe that you, as my loving Father, will use everything in my life--even the hard and hurtful things--for my ultimate good and your eternal glory, because you love  me."

Let me be very clear, I believe God can perform miracles.  I have asked for them, and I have witnessed them.  One of my best friends just gave birth to one on Tuesday.  And I also know God says no at times.  A miracle isn't part of His plan.

Just after getting sick I had someone tell that if I had enough faith in God I would be able to get up and walk.  Her words crushed me and caused me to question if I truly trusted God.  It took me a long time to work through that.  Although I can walk now, it isn't without difficulty.  Does that mean my faith is shaky?  No, it means part of God's plan for me is for my legs to be shaky.  I don't like it, and it certainly isn't what I want.  I've asked Him to heal me, and I believe with all my heart He can, but for now He says no.

He told Jesus no, so why should I be any different?  Jesus suffered far greater than we can even imagine.  He suffered so much that His perspiration was like, "great drops of blood"

 And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground. ~ Luke 22:44

I have had much pain in my life, but I have never suffered to the point of sweating blood.

Jesus is more acquainted with suffering than I ever will be.  He has suffered through it all.

And He still submitted to God's will.

By His grace, I cling to Him.

More than I want Nancy's words to resonate within me, I want to hear Jesus.

I want to hear Him speak into my sorrow.

1 comment:

  1. Rust gave me "Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow" after our ectopic pregnancy & then miscarriage. I haven't read it, but what you've shared here makes me hungry to crack it open.

    So thankful for how God has used Nancy to point so many people to Jesus, and so thankful for how God is doing the same through you.