The Blessing of Enduring Suffering
I hope you will forgive me for inserting my own personal testimony of the blessing of enduring life' sufferings, but it serves as an example of how the Father works in the lives of His children.
A Leaf On A River
The Personal Testimony of Arthur J Licursi
In her book, "Spiritual Torrents," Madame Jean Guyon mentions the phrase I've used to title this paper, suggesting that Christians are meant to live "as a leaf on a river." By this she describes the kind of unburdened life that the believing child of God is to have as his daily portion. This leaf-like dependence is easily visualized; being buoyed and carried along by the current of the river of God, through turbulence, torrents and quiet eddies of life. Leaves rest and do not struggle or assert their own ways or wants. They're utterly at the mercies of the river, which carries them onward. As a Christian we are immersed into the river of God's very own life and should trust that Lord Himself is the hidden hand guiding our journey.
This certainly is contrary to the way we humans usually live. As a self-confessed, life-long, control freak, I relate to this "leaf" way of living as the diametric opposite of most of my living in the first many years of my Christian life. It was only in 1994, with my stress-induced heart attack, that I began to see that I had been carrying a load for which we humans were never equipped.
I knew Jesus had said in Matthew 11:29-30 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. But this had not been my experience.
My heart attack had NOT been caused by cholesterol plaque buildup in my coronary arteries per se'. The doctor said it was caused by stress! Yes, a Christian with stress. This was an embarrassment to my "self," just as God intended it to be for me. I knew that Christians are supposed to trust God and thereby carry only a light load – and that is simply to trust Him.
John 6:29 Jesus answered, "The work of God (for you) is this: to believe in (Greek, pisteuo: trust in, cling to, and rely upon) the one he has sent (Jesus Christ)."
Since that heart attack I have come to see my "self," the "me" who had suffered the heart attack, in His light and as He sees me. The veil has been rolled back to allow me to see how it was I as an independent self-abled self who had been attempting to live my secular and even my Christian life by my self-will and self-strength; apart from trusting Him who is the only Christian. By this self-effort I was making the Christ who lives in me essentially of no effect (Gal. 5:4) in my life – and so the load was heavy.
A day out of the hospital, after the heart attack, I sat with my Bible open, seeking Him to show me why such a thing had happened to me. I then felt I was under His loving divine illuminating radium as He spoke to me saying, "I've dealt with you and your relationship to the world, but now I'm dealing with your very "self." I did not at that time understand His words but I melted with tears flowing, as I innately knew that He was not condemning me, but rather I sensed His unconditional love and that he was bringing me onward to know Him in a deeper way. This came to me by His exposing and diminishing my independent "self," my self-godhood that was in the way.
I had always lived by my own self-strength and control. To understand the basis of the "independent self" in a Christian, we must know the true condition of all men before and after they come to Christ.
1.) We've all been raised under a merit system of sorts, "Little Johnnie or Susie, you do this, and you'll get this." We've been trained to "perform or else."
2.) We're all born into this world incomplete until our spiritual rebirthing, when Christ completes our creation (Col. 2:10) once and for all by, by the Fathers love and grace in Christ, when we are reborn of His Spirit (cf., Jn 3:6, Rom 8:8-10).
The truth is that we bring into our Christian life the very same self/soul (mind, emotion and will) as we always had lived by - with all of its self-weakness, self-strength, and self-ability. We then try to live the Christian life by that very same self/soul - not relying upon the one and only Christian, which is Christ, now living within our spirit.
The self/soul I brought into my Christian life was the result of a fearful, insecure little boy. I can never remember not being insecure, fearful, and lonely. At a point in time in my mid teen youth I had realization that if I would muster and mobilize every bit of my self-strength and self-abilities I would have "control" of my situations and destiny, such that I would make myself secure. I proceeded to live a life of rigid control over my wife, my children; and myself; and by earthly terms I made it! Yes, it seemed to work for a time in my life, that is until I have discovered my health was out of my control and worst yet, God showed me that even my mind was out of control, having an independent mind of its own. He showed me how obsessive and crazy my thoughts were; always concerned that something may be about to go out of control. Building and running my industrial business, I would answer the phone on the 1st half ring, already surmising the possible problem and formulating a solution.
We've all been raised with the mandate – "be a strong, bold, independent individual, take care of your self." Once again, we ought to realize that the world's mandate to us is usually diametrically opposed to God's way intended for us. God intends that we become dependent upon Him and His empowering and guidance from within us, not to trust ourselves, but in God (2Cor 1:8-10). God's intention is that we have Christ Himself living in us (Col 1:26-27, 2Tim 4:22, 1Jn 4:13), He who is our resident "peace" (Eph 2:14). Thus we have available all the peace that exist in the universe, for us to be guided (Col 3:15) and to enjoy as we rest in Him.
"Now we who have believed enter that rest. (Hebrews 4:3a)
"for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work.". (Hebrews 4:10 NIV)
Many of us have been born-again and we know we had received the Lord, so how come we don't enjoy God's promised peace and rest? I'm sure these same believers believe that God is able to do anything, so its not that God lacks the ability to make life work for us. No, we miss out because we have not come to trust Him in all things having to do with our daily lives on this earth. And this, I am convinced, is because we really do not know or believe that He loves and accepts us just the way we are. Unconditional love is something we can never taste apart from God's love for us. Scripture says, "God IS love." Till that time such love is foreign to us. Mother's love may be close, but its no match for God's love.
Deep inside some may say, "I really don't deserve His love." Many of us may have thought we could be Christians the old fashioned way – deserve or earn it - as we do in all things in our earthly life. This is a wrong idea that we all were born with, or trained in by our parents, by the world system and frankly, encouraged in by religion's graceless teaching, implied if not said right out. Thankfully, God can teach us His love apart from religions offerings – He is at work in every aspect of our lives. It is in the midst of life's impossible situations that cause us to suffer "loss of control" that we likely find Him who loves us. It is in such situations that we may turn to find Him who was there all the time, faithfully waiting there, to be our rest, our source, in unconditional acceptance and love.
Suffering or enduring problems, circumstances and situation is answered by many Christians with a simple – just pray and ask God to "fix it," to give you what you want. They miss the focus of the Christian life. It's not for us to escape suffering but rather to overcome adversity by learning a new way of living - that is to turn to and trust Him to enjoy His rest in the midst of all the situations of life. In His mercy He may for a time, in our early years as Christians, answer such prayer, but there is a higher realm, of being grown up as His grown children, who follow Him in and through a situation (Rom 8:14). It's in the suffering utter loss of control in such a situation that we ultimately turn to Him. None of us lets go so willingly, so in permitting suffering He does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. He presses us, seemingly beyond measure, to turn us to Him, to trust Him.
"But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, AFTER that ye have suffered (experienced vexing tribulation) a while, make you perfect (Grk., katartizo, complete), stablish, strengthen, settle you." (1 Peter 5:10)
"For it is God which Worketh In You both to will and to do of his good pleasure." (Philip. 2:13)
His work in us is according to His pleasure, which is to bring us to rest in Him, that we might enjoy His loving care through our childlike trust in Him.
"Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will." (Ephes. 1:5)
Our "letting go" of the "illusion of control" to trust Him is the essence of believing Him. In trusting Him as a leaf on a river, He will carry us into the sea of His limitless love.
(1Publisher: Seed Sowers, Inc.)