I remember the first time I read these words penned by author and IF:Gathering Founder, Jennie Allen. She’s probably not the first time to question this idea, but it was through her that I first pondered these words.
These six words cause me to sit in silence, humbled and convicted on a frequent basis. It’s these words that gives me discipline and life-giving correction.
A few days ago, my mom and I were debating over evacuating from Hurricane Laura. Neither of us wanted to make the decision (for me, it meant leaving my husband behind). We joked as I wanted HER to make a decision for the both of us and she wanted ME to make the decision. The truth behind the indecisiveness was summed up in one sentence from my mom, “I’m just weary from the last 2 years and I don’t want to have to do this.”
May I introduce you to my mom? She’s the most grace filled woman you just might ever meet. She has a heart as big as Texas. That same heart also has wounds the same size as our beloved Lone Star State. In the last 33 years, my mom has buried a husband killed in the line of duty as a police officer, buried a son who died from drug overdose, a brother who died from suicide, and a mother who died from cancer. This doesn’t include the sufferings from random everyday life- like the natural disasters that living on the Texas coast can bring (they had to clean up 3 homes from flooding during Imelda).
I share these things not to be heavy, although there might not be a way around it. Just a few days ago, our area of Texas had immense suffering predicted from the fate of wherever Hurricane Laura landed. We prepped and prepared, said goodbyes, traveled, and did not sleep until it was over. I’ve heard so many praise God with reflections like “God heard our prayers!” and “God is so good!” Both are true. But, were there not praying people in the areas of Laura’s landfall? Do we not say “God is good!” for all? Either God is real or He’s not. He’s either good or He’s not.
As the recipient of the same sufferings as my mom (albeit by different relations), I can say this about suffering:
IF God is real, then suffering is…
Inevitable. “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4
Necessary. “But we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5
A grace. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Romans 8:18
Think about it this way: read 2 Peter 2 about eternity. If what I read about heaven and hell is real (and if God is real, then eternity is), then it can only be an act of love of God to do whatever He deems necessary to reach me. Even if it means suffering on THIS side of heaven. As a matter of thought, if heaven/hell/God is all real, then I would only HOPE that God would do everything possible to reach me in this vapor called life. If heaven/hell/God is real, then the suffering that brought me to Him is not JUST pain, it is grace. It is a gift. I’m currently watching not one, but two friends grieve the losses of their husbands due to car accidents. They would not see their suffering currently as a gift. We can not confuse the grace of God with pleasantries. See, we are so quick to shout from the rooftops “GOD IS GOOD!” when good stuff happens that we have no idea what to do when life is painful. We have to decide what we believe about God because it’s that belief that will give us hope and joy in the midst of sorrow. For the Christ follower, grief and joy can co-exist. Note I didn’t say happiness.
Many people in Southeast Texas were both spared and share in the devastating effects of Hurricane Laura. It’s a both/and. As followers of Christ, we have two of my favorite words to live out and give to others- grace and peace. These two words, because of Christ in us, go with us wherever we go and whatever we go through. “Grace and peace” sum up what it means to be spared and yet to share the sufferings of life with others.
Whatever circumstances God has allowed for you today, think on those life-changing six words… if God is real, then what?
Grace and peace,