Sunday, January 22, 2012

of suffering

{I'd like to start posting more "personal" photos instead of the pretty ones I find online, 
so I present to you a portion of the montage of magazine clippings that grace 
the empty wall space in our bathroom. 
Isn't that so much more interesting than a google image?}

I'd like to first preface this post by calming your thoughts that I may be going through some kind of early-twenties crisis; don't fear, I'm doing quite well, praise the Lord, and have no tale of woe to speak of.

That being said, my thoughts do wander and stay awhile on the topic of Christian suffering, for a few reasons; mainly because I am blessed to know a circle of people who either have gone through or are currently experiencing seasons of trials and deep afflictions. Perhaps it is a result of this that I am drawn to books, talks, resources of suffering and dealing with its various forms; I'm very interested in investing in these people's lives and hearing what they have to say. Very much like the way I am interested in books on mothering and things of that nature; I'm not in that season or time of life but I am a Tia (aunt) as well as a traveling post-pardem doula (aka, Mary Poppins); and it's been my experience that one can glean much knowledge from people and resources that address things that I may not be experiencing at that time.
In the very same way, I'm interested in suffering and affliction, not because I have a difficult past or present but because as a Believer, I know that suffering, in various shapes and forms, will be a part of my life and through much prayer and trust in His sovereignty, I can look forward to that time.

I wanted to share with you a few excerpts from one of my favorite books on the topic of suffering, Surprised By Suffering by R.C. Sproul. I really enjoy reading Sproul and have learned much from him. This book takes a particular look at sufferings related to physical death but also touches on other areas.
One of the points I appreciated when reading this book is the simple, clear way Sproul explains suffering for the Believer, we truly are followers:
"We are followers of Christ. 
We follow Him into the Garden of Gethsemane. We follow Him into the Hall of Judgement. We follow Him along the Via Dolorosa
We follow Him unto death. 
But the gospel declares, we follow Him through 
the gates of Heaven...
It is because of Christ that our suffering is not useless. 
It is part of the total plan of God who has chosen to 
redeem the world through the pathway of suffering."

In my house, my Dad is the only male (especially now that the cats are gone) and as a result, we girls have come to learn some really handy skills (like blowing in insulation, using a drill, and some minor electrical skills to name a few). We're also expanding our off-trail biking abilities. My Dad loves to going biking for exercise and (when it's not too boiling hot) we often enjoy a good, muddy bike ride on the trails around our house.
My sisters and I don't mind sweating, we can stand the heat, and it's really not a big deal to fall down or nearly fall down really hard a few times; however, none of us like going down steep hills. Death by a bicycle is pretty pathetic not a very interesting way to die. All of that being said, for some reason, it's much easier to go down the steep cliffs if my Dad goes first; it's always so much easier to follow someone else into the gravity-pulling unknown than to go by yourself.
Sometimes I wonder about what my own "valley (or valleys) of the shadow" will look like, thankfully, we don't live in a "What-If" kingdom but my mind does sometimes go the wondering. It's my hope and prayer that through the death of a child/spouse, through an illness, through tragic and painful circumstances I will find my hope and strength in Him who has gone before me, who finds it good to lead me through The Valley. That I'll remember the ultimate answer to the "why" of my suffering.
"The man born blind was afflicted with blindness for the glory of God. This is the startling conclusion our Lord revealed. 
This is a crucial teaching for us. It serves as a warning for us not to jump to conclusions about the "why" of our suffering. 
God used the man's blindness for His greater glory...
We remember the dreadful suffering of Joseph at the hands of his brothers. Yet because of their treachery the plan of God for all of history was brought to pass.
Ultimately the only answer God gave to Job was a revelation of Himself. It was as if God said to him, 
"Job, I am your answer."...
God was asking Job to exercise an implicit faith, An implicit faith is not blind faith. It is a faith with vision, a vision enlightened by a knowledge of the character of God."

There is so much hope in suffering. Paul in 2 Corinthians informs us that just as we share in Christ's sufferings, we also share in His comfort, that being just as abundant; there is always leftovers. With that abundant comfort we are able not only to comfort ourselves but also others as well. We have the opportunity to share it with those who are going through any trial, pointing them to the God of all comfort.
I know I've quoted Spurgeon before and here is another excellent quote that adds much to this topic,
"I would go to the deep a hundred times to cheer a downcast spirit.
It is good for me to have been afflicted, that I might know how to speak a word in season to one that is weary." ~Charles H. Spurgeon

"It is the hope of Christ that makes it possible for us to persevere in times of tribulation and distress. 
We have an anchor for our souls that rests in 
the One who has gone before us and conquered."

~R.C. Sproul


sarah beth said...

thank you for this Elena. The trial our family is going through is coming up on six months, and even though there has been great pain, there have been such sweet blessings. I am so thankful for the friends across the nation that I have. :)

*changing topics*

I didn't know you were a doula!?

OrchidsandLaundry said...

good thoughts

Emily said...

Thank you Elena, your post blessed me today.

Elena said...

Sarah, Praise the Lord! I have been thinking of you often these past weeks and will be praying for you and your family. May He continue to show you His faithfulness and mercies.

Well, a post-pardem doula is pretty much a fancy word for a nanny (at least in my case); though serving as a doula through birth is something I'd be interested in pursuing! Is this something that peaks your interest as well?

Elena said...

Praise God, Emily! We are continually keeping your family in prayer and love you very much.

Ruth said...

It was a joy to visit with you the other day! I enjoyed hearing the things you are pursuing during this season of life. I see such a joyful, radiant Christ likeness in you and was encouraged by our short visit. I noticed something on the blog about a film you all are involved in. I would love to know more about that. It sounds exciting. May the Lord bless you this afternoon.
Ruth Adams


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