Friday, September 30, 2011

DOWN ON MY KNEES AGAIN

     Lately, I have had the opportunity to listen to two fine pastors preach on suffering.  Both Dr. R.C. Sproul and Pastor Alistair Begg have spent time discussing the difficulties we face when suffering comes to our household.  There is often no clear cut answer for the "why" except that we serve a sovereign God whose ways and purposes are far above and beyond our understanding.  We simply have to trust Him.   Once again, our son and daughter in law are going through trying times with our oldest grandson Branson.
     In former devotions, I have talked about his very rare birth defect that has given him a set of challenges which none of us reading this have ever experienced.  One issue he is fighting right now is seizures.  He suffered from a serious bout with them in the past and all of us had hoped this would be the end of it for a time.  For a while, that was true.  Then, suddenly several weeks ago, he began to experience a different type of seizure and thus far, no medication has completely controlled it.  As a family, we are praying for the doctors to have wisdom in helping to find a solution.
     When these times come in our lives, it either drives you to the Lord or away from Him.  The Apostle Paul experienced a good deal of suffering in his life and was left with a "thorn" in the flesh which has never been identified.  Paul responded to this by saying:  "Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.  But He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.  For when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Cor. 12:8-10).  Paul found comfort in knowing that God had answered Him.  He wasn't delivered from his "thorn", but instead of complaining or running from God, it drove Him to the Lord for the strength he needed.
     Of course, the classic example of someone who seemed to go through a mountain of suffering was Job.  We all know his story and how in a very short time, he went from being a wealthy, healthy, happy man to one who lost his wealth, his children and his health in a short period of time.  He was devastated.  God revealed to us as readers what Job could not see behind the scenes.  It was Satan who wanted to test Job to prove to God that he would curse God.  However, the Lord knew that Job had a heart for Him.
     During all the calamity, his own wife came to Job and said to him:  "'Do you still hold fast your integrity?  Curse God and die.'  But he said to her, 'You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?'  In all this Job did not sin with his lips" (Job 2:9a-10).
     In addition to his wife, he had three friends who came to comfort him but they only increased his affliction with their misdirected words.  Oh, how this stings me because it should remind us all that we need not come to a friend with advice when we really do not know the answer or the full situation.  They tried to find an answer for his suffering suggesting he might have sinned among other reasons.  However, Job boldly spoke to his friends when he said:  "Though He slay me, I will hope in Him; yet I will argue my ways to His face" (Job 13:15).  Indeed, Job asked God many questions as many of us would do if we were in the same situation.    The blessing in this story is that God did answer Job by asking him where he was when God laid the foundation of the world.  In asking these questions, He made it clear to Job that He was the sovereign Lord.  God also rebuked his insensitive friends who thought they had the answers.  In the end, Job repented before the Lord for even questioning Him.  Then, God did a remarkable thing.  In Job 42:10, we read:  "And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends.  And the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before."
     One thing both Paul and Job did that is important for us.  They prayed.  This is where I find myself daily.  When one of our family members is hurting, all of us hurt.  So once again, I find myself on my knees in deep intercession for a little boy who, in not quite four years, has seen the hospital more than most of us ever see in one lifetime.  Yet, the smile he wears is a gift from God that touches deep into my soul.  I wish I had the answers, and maybe some of you are struggling in the same way with different challenges in your family or personal life.  Suffering of any sort takes a toll on us physically, spiritually and mentally.  This is when we need to pray as both Paul and Job did.  They both had a reply from God.  It isn't necessarily what they wanted to hear, but they found peace in His presence and assurance of His sovereignty over their lives.  They were able to praise Him in the storms of life knowing that He held them in the hollow of His hand.
     Finally, the greatest example of one who learned to suffer and follow the will of His Father was our Lord Jesus Christ.  He also bent His knees in prayer again and asked if there was any way for the cup to pass Him by; yet, He yielded His life into the Father's hands.  From Him, we have a lesson worth noting.
As we walk day to day, we need to think on the words of St Augustine:  "God had one Son on earth without sin, but never One without suffering."  We are not greater than our Master.  He suffered and told us that we would face tribulations as well.  Therefore, let us gird ourselves in prayer.  Let us fall before our Father who knows the beginning from the end of all things.  He is able to take that which is meant for evil and turn it for good in the lives of those who love Him.  Let us look to Him for guidance, wisdom and strength each day.  Selah!


P.S.  I appreciate your prayers for our little grandson Branson and his parents Reid and Jessica as well as his brothers.  This has been a stressful time for the family.  Thank you all!

I welcome your comments and insights.  May the Lord bless you with encouragement as you read here today.
   

2 comments:

Pam said...

What sweet and happy pictures of Branson. Praying for his healing and strength for your family.
Pam

Barbara Thayer said...

Thank you Pam...I so appreciate your sweet prayers for this blessings of God. He is special in so many ways. God knows what plans He has for him and I am grateful for that. Blessings to you!