This is the fourth time I’ve sat down in the past week to write a new post. It’s also the fourth topic I’ve wrestled with putting into words. I don’t know what it is. I sit down to write and just can’t figure out how to communicate some of the precious lessons God has been teaching me. I guess that’s a good thing 🙂 How do you describe the splendor and magnificence of God within the limits of the English vocabulary? I’m not sure you can but this is my best effort.
I want to talk about one of the biggest and most difficult lessons I’ve learned (gulp!). When I learned it, it changed my entire system of thought and how I viewed pain, struggle and challenge in my life. It definitely marked the beginning of emotional healing during the summer before my senior year of high school. (If you’re new to the blog, head over to my post on hope to read about my high school years).
Let’s start here. Consider this quote by Oswald Chambers:
“If through a broken heart God can bring his purposes to pass in the world, then thank Him for breaking your heart.”
My roommates can attest that this is my favorite quote. (It even trumps every line from She’s The Man and Pitch Perfect. That’s saying a lot, you guys.) Yep. I believe that our pain has purpose and God desires us to be grateful during times of struggle. Sound crazy? Oswald didn’t originate this idea. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” It doesn’t say to be thankful only when life is easy, the bills are paid, and you pass your psych final. We are told to give thanks in ALL circumstances. The good times and the bad times. Sick or healthy. Poor or rich. Sad or happy. It is God’s WILL for us to give thanks.
Now that we know when to give thanks, let’s look at why we should give thanks.
I’ll never forget my brother explaining it to me. As Christians we believe that God’s desire for the world is to bring a lost people back to Himself and in doing so bring Himself glory. Right? Then as a people passionate about this loving God, our desire and drive in life should reflect that of our Father’s: further the kingdom and in doing so, bring Him glory. With all that said, it wouldn’t make sense for God to act in a way that didn’t fulfill one of these two desires. No we can pose this question: What if the pain God had allowed in my life wasn’t about me? What if God allowed the heartbreak and struggle into my life to further his purpose for the world. Well, if my heart’s true desire is to bring glory to God in all that I do, then how can I be anything but grateful that He is using my heartache as part of His greater plan?
So, how could pain bring Him glory and further the Kingdom of God? Until we meet God face to face we may never fully understand why He chooses to act the way He does. Here’s something we do know. When God allows pain into the life of a believer, a progression takes place. “…we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Romans 5:3-4. When those qualities are developed in a person it allows them to better serve God and help others. Those qualities allow Christians to once again further his kingdom and bring him glory. That sound like something to be grateful for.
Not convinced yet?
Watch this. Probably one of the coolest things I’ve ever heard. The guy in the clip below is Matt Chandler, the pastor of a mega church in Texas. He was diagnosed with a brain tumor and this was the last message he gave his congregation before heading into surgery to have the tumor removed. Perhaps my train of thought will start to make more sense.
I still shake my head in amazement every time I watch it. Rather than look at this time of suffering as a time to be angry or upset with God, Matt saw this time as an opportunity to show others that God is faithful and victorious even in the midst of struggle. I know that for me, it’s easy to forget that people in my life will watch how I as a Christian handle pain. Will I act like the world or will I walk a different path, with a different attitude and trust that God is truly good in the middle of my suffering? Matt Chandler was THANKFUL during his suffering, that God would count him worthy of the opportunity to show others his faithfulness and devotion to God. God provided Matt Chandler with an opportunity to be a witness and he took it! (By the way, don’t grab the tissues. Matt Chandler lives 🙂 )
Matt Chandler isn’t the first to be grateful for his suffering. In Acts 5 we are told how the apostles were flogged and persecuted because of the miracles they were performing through the power of the Holy Spirit. Verse 41 says, “The apostles left the Sanhedrin rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name (Jesus Christ).” Now granted, the text doesn’t say they were grateful, but I think it’s fair to assume they were. I mean, is it possible to rejoice about something and not be thankful for it?
I hope it doesn’t come across that I think thankfulness is easy. It’s tough. Some days it is a lot harder to tell God you are grateful than others. It was a long time before I felt I could say thank you to God and mean it. It was hard and felt a little strange at first. However, when I look at the past few years, I can be nothing but thankful. Here’s why. Because God allowed pain into my life, I didn’t major in music and was unable to even consider applying to a music school during the college application process. Because God allowed pain into my life, I ended up at Grove City College and met some pretty wonderful people. Because God allowed pain into my life, it forced me to endure and persevere resulting in a much stronger faith. Because God allowed pain into my life, I was able to learn countless lessons about God’s character and His love for His people. Because God allowed pain, I am able to encourage others with the lessons I have learned. The list goes on.
I know some of you have endured way more than I have and I cannot begin to imagine the difficulty it is to step back and say thank you. I believe half the battle of sorrow and struggle is trying to wrap our minds around why God would allow us to endure that pain. Like I said before, we may never fully understand. However, I believe the words of Peter are true. God desires us to be thankful in all circumstances. Good or bad.
Hopefully this post offers some encouragement. When I was able to understand that my pain had purpose and was something I could be thankful for, it really did changed me.
That is all. Happy Monday folks! Go enjoy your week, love as Christ loved and treat yourself to some ice cream. Doctor’s orders :)))