Suffering and Faith

Time to introduce you to a cool thing. I have referred to Tim Challies and his blog a few times already. This year he entered a venture to form a publishing company with the really neat method of a subscription service where you receive a book every month from their company, Cruciform Press.

The first book, last month, was Sexual Detox by Challies. The November book is Wresting with an Angel: A Story of Love, Disability, and the Lessons of Grace by Greg Lucas. I had read the excerpt and thought the book would be interesting, but admit that when I purchased my subscription I was really thinking about how much I will probably like the December book.

Then life took a weird turn on us and I’m sitting in Raleigh alternating between work and couch time examining the mysteries of Dave’s mind (it would be so much easier if Dave were on the couch talking to us). Every day I have more appreciation of how God has been preparing me for this. In August one of the speakers at the First Presbyterial meeting, Karen Kimmons, talked about the need to lean on Christ when events and troubles threaten to overwhelm us. She pointed us to 2 Corinthians 1:8-9

“…For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.”

I appreciated how she explained that the popular verse 1 Cor 10:13 about God not tempting us beyond our ability is not talking about times of suffering. That’s when she took us to 2 Cor 1:8-9 and her story of experiencing such great suffering and learning to rely on God through it.

Then there was the book we used for the Beach Retreat the weekend before all of this happened. So many of those 10 chapters were useful. Of course,forgiveness and judging the actions of others, but the most useful has certainly been the chapter about how Romans 8:28 is used to blame God for everything, making it even harder to understand how bad things happen if God is in control. My notes include this:

it isn’t that the consequences of a sin since repented of, or an attack, or something bad will turn out to be a good thing. It’s that God’s will can’t be thwarted, even by this mess. Ultimately He prevails. He doesn’t cause it. He doesn’t use it. He overcomes it. Much better to have never sinned or been attacked.

As we have lived through the aftermath of Dave’s great sin in leaving his wife and family, we have turned to God and asked for strength and faith to believe that He will prevail and overcome this in the lives of Alison and the children, and to bring Dave back to a relationship with God, even if not back to his family.

So, back to Cruciform Press. I received the email that my November book was being mailed and then when Anthony drove into town for Thanksgiving Day, he just happened to bring it in case I wanted to take a look at it. Last night and this morning I read through it, praising God for His amazing timing and for being so Awesome!

The author of the story is a policeman with a severely disabled son, and he discusses the struggles, fears, and joys he has experienced over the past 17 years with his son. Page 14 touches on the same issue as above. People like to say “God will never place a burden on you so heavy that you cannot carry it.” His rejoinder to that is “My experience is that God will place a burden on you so heavy that you cannot possibly carry it alone….All the while He will walk beside you waiting for you to come to the point where you must depend on Him.”

Then on p87 “True desperation is always the most fertile ground for God’s grace to produce an abundant harvest of hope. And each time God has shown us His greatest glory, He has always first revealed our greatest despair.”

The story, the lessons learned, and the beautiful grace that Greg Lucas reveals through these pages are a gift. The reminders of the glory that is revealed and the grace that is given us during our sufferings has been timely balm for my heart. Lucas shares how his son’s handicaps have brought him into a much closer relationship with God, a daily dependence on His sufficiency. I laughed and mourned and rejoiced while reading this book. Just as I have done the past 3 weeks here in Raleigh. Life, especially in the midst of suffering, is like that. God is good, and God is ever present.

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