Years ago, I remember praying with Glen. (We have prayed together since then but this one stands out).
We were relatively new Christians and and he said something like, ‘Lord if suffering will bring us closer to you, then let your will be done’. ‘What?’ I hissed – ‘Are you asking for suffering?’ ‘Not exactly,’ he began…
Elbowing him, I cleared my throat and in my prayer voice (louder), continued, “Sorry Lord, can we stop right there. I would like to be close to you – but between us, I’m not good at pain. I don’t want it. And I don’t want Glen to have it either; because if he hurts, I do too. Hope that’s okay.’
It wasn’t. And it isn’t still.
Suffering is not an optional extra for the super-keen believer. It’s part of the package:
In the worldwide church, Christians experience suffering on a level we can barely imagine. But even here, with Netflix and fourteen kinds of olives; it burns us too. By all means, start your own business; write a best-seller; discover a new cure… these are good things! But don’t set your hopes on them. In the face of sickness, grief, abuse, addiction, loss, they’re like sugar cubes dropped into scalding tea.
So what is our hope? As we cry out in weakness and dependence – how can even our suffering become a ‘gift?’
God’s made it topsy-turvy. To find ourselves whole, we have to be broken. That’s when we can stop pretending. And that’s when His power is displayed in us. We are bruised and bleeding but — listen — now God’s power is at work in us. Now we can really start to bless.
Who can minister to the broken like one who’s been broken themselves? Who speaks to the shame-filled but those who know their shame? Who dares to offer hope but those who know despair?
Your weakness does not disqualify you from His work; it’s the precondition for it . And the very thing you hate most about yourself can, in the Lord’s hands, become what is most beautiful.
Your anger can become passion, for His justice. Your sadness can become sympathy. Your pain can take you into the very throne room of God. The world says, ‘find your strengths. The gospel says, ‘find your weakness.’