…Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith…Hebrews 12:1-2 (NKJV)
“Suffering is unbearable if you aren’t certain that God is for you and with you.” – Tim Keller
When I mentioned to one of our contributors that this month’s magazine would touch on special needs, breast cancer, and suffering, she gave me a puzzled look. I felt the same way a few months ago as I glanced ahead at our editorial calendar and noticed October’s topics. Joni Eareckson Tada is quadriplegic. Jennifer Rothschild is blind. That does not sound like a recipe for inspiration, but it is.
I cannot think of any two women God has used more powerfully. Nor can I think of any two who are more authentic and Christlike. Nor can I think of many who had greater physical challenges to discourage them, to cause doubt, or to rob them of joy. After all, they could easily be the poster children for the phrase, “Life is not fair.” Who could blame them for living with a victim complex?
Rejoicing in our suffering is one of the many paradoxes of the Christian faith. We live in a kind of “upside-down” kingdom where the Bible tells us to rejoice in suffering, to give thanks in ALL circumstances, and that those who are persecuted for their faith are blessed. We are to love those who hate us, go the second mile when we are forced to go the first against our will—pretty countercultural in every way. Following Jesus is not for the faint of heart because it’s definitely a lifestyle that begins and ends with “It’s not about you.”
Remember the famous Forrest Gump phrase, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you are going to get.” Following Jesus is, in some ways, like a box of chocolates, too. You never know exactly what is around the next corner of this earthly life. The life we plan and the life we get can be very dissimilar.
We read in Hebrews 13 that Jesus himself promised to never leave us or forsake us. That makes all the difference when our world has been broken into a million little pieces. Facing that bend in the road alone and not knowing Jesus in that crisis moment—not knowing HIM is a bigger crisis than any actual crisis.
I was listening to the radio in the car on my way to a funeral in Grenada recently. I’d had more than enough of breaking news. (I think I have confessed often that news talk is my unhealthy addiction.) I came across Dr. David Jeremiah teaching a very basic lesson in Christianity 101. He was explaining salvation. For those of us who have been in church our entire lives, we can flip our brains on autopilot at times and because we have heard it so often, forget the utter wonder of Jesus’ sacrifice and what it means to each one of us personally.
Dr. Jeremiah gave me a new perspective when he said, “Let’s say God will trade you your eternal life for the greatest desire of your heart. You could have anything you want in exchange for heaven. He could give you a million dollars a week, every week, for the rest of your life. Or he could keep you young and toned and fit and incredibly beautiful for the rest of your life.” Just fill in the blanks. We could have whatever our little hearts desired and we could have it in abundance as long as our physical bodies lived.
Dr. Jeremiah made his point well. There is nothing God can possibly give to anyone that is greater than the gift he has already given. His mercy withholds the penalty we all deserve and His grace gives the reward we cannot earn.
It has only been in the last few years that I came to realize in my very small and finite way what it means when God speaks of His ways being higher than our ways. He is never oblivious to our hurts or challenges. He sees what we cannot see in our human form, and He is indeed always working with our eternal destiny in mind—the loving Father who sees the big picture.
We genuinely wish to speak to that very idea in this issue. Happy reading. But more than that—we hope to encourage your very heart.