Some days, I don’t think I have suffered much. Not like some friends have.
My two month old baby never contracted meningitis. I never sat in my doctor’s waiting room, watching as every TV channel in the world reported that my office complex across town was under terrorist attack. I never had to help a dear friend bury her drowned two year old. I don’t have children who regularly berate and belittle me. I've never had a baby in my home and then taken away because the birth mother changed her mind. But, I have friends who live every day with these realities.
One time at RUF Summer Conference, I heard a series of talks from a campus minister about suffering and the role that suffering plays in our sanctification. Basically, he said that sanctification happens primarily because of suffering. (OK, honestly, I think he said that it happens exclusively as a result of suffering but, let’s face it, I’ve slept several hundred times since then and I don’t really remember if he went that far.) Initially I balked at that, but now I think he was right.
I have suffered through a divorce. And it was… terrible.
But there’s something I want you to know.
I would go through it all again. When you’ve been searching for a way to change for so long, and then all the sudden by no real effort of your own you find that you have changed… it’s just astounding. I wanted to change so badly. I wanted to be better.
This ridiculous thing that I’m getting ready to tell you is the honest truth. I thought that if I just read the right Jeremiah Burroughs book, or listened to the best Tim Keller sermons, or went through the right bible study, or found the perfect verse for every situation, I would be better. But, I could never get there. I knew the gospel. I taught the gospel.
But at the end of the day, I didn’t get the gospel. I kinda knew it was true, but I didn't get that there was no way to earn God's look of approval by doing better. He already approves. He smiles when he thinks of me. Y'all really don't know me all that well so I just need you to trust me that this is truly amazing. Shocking, even.
What a lifetime of trying could not do, God has begun to do for me by stripping away all my security, my dignity, and all my hope in anything or anyone that is not himself. I have been humbled and humiliated, scorned, manipulated and violently rejected. But I have grown. I have known Jesus better. I have rested in the work of Christ. Do I want to suffer? Am I happy that I have had to suffer in this way? (hmm - trick question?) No. This sin, this terrible, terrible thing that has happened to us - it's not the way its supposed to be. But, God will redeem what he is pleased to redeem.
Nothing in my hand I bring ~ Simply to thy cross I cling.