When we long for life without difficulties, remind us that oaks grow strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure. Peter Marshall
“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” (Romans 12:12).
I think our whole culture has lost the virtue of patience, for the most part—but certainly patience in affliction. As children, nobody really expected us to demonstrate it, but we were supposed to obtain it along the path towards maturity. I think I used to get on my daddy’s last nerve when we were loaded up in his big Buick (trust me, Buicks were BIG in those days) en route to visit grandmothers or begin a much needed summer vacation. The city limits of Indianola were barely out of sight before I raised the question, “When are we going to get there?”
I‘ve asked that same question of God several times. Do we ever get to a point in the pursuit of Christlikeness that we don’t stumble with the burdens or tremble with fear in the anxious situations that we can’t fix and can’t erase altogether? Sometimes I just think I ought to be doing this whole Christian life a lot better. It’s just that oftentimes when we’re in the middle of a storm of epic proportions and we read something like 2 Corinthians 4:17 that says, “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all,” I am not soothed. I’ve experienced a situation or two that did not feel at all “light and momentary,” and the certainty of “eternal glory” seemed much too far in the future to provide me a bit of comfort in the present. Does anybody know what I mean?
Bible teacher Beth Moore tweeted a few months ago these words that have resonated inside of me. “Sometimes trusting God amounts to making peace with something that won’t fix. Sometimes you let it go. Sometimes you hold it broken.” The extraordinary grace that God gives us in those disappointments and heartaches is a treasure, a supernatural ability to be okay when life is not. Isn’t that the picture of Scripture’s term, “Peace that passeth understanding?” And you better believe the world notices what it cannot explain.
Our cover story offers the perfect illustration of that extraordinary grace and a big chunk of courage. Twenty-five-year-old Nicole Marquez was a promising dancer and actress whose dreams were altered significantly in a six-story fall from the top of her apartment building six years ago—hardly a “light and momentary” interruption of her well-orchestrated plans. But hers is not a story about defeat or despair or bitterness. It is about triumph over tragedy, abundant blessing, and a little glimpse of glory right here in the present.
Someone so much wiser than I am once said, “You can’t always control your circumstances, but you can control how you react to them.” If, indeed, God is the omnipotent God of the Universe, then nothing comes to us that did not first come through the filter of his loving and nail-scarred hands. Oh that we might with open hands receive His grace to live each day and each circumstance in a way that honors Him and reveals His love to others.
I have long loved Elizabeth Schaeffer’s book Affliction. She offers an enduring perspective on suffering, and I have starred many passages, underlined others, highlighted a few, and almost worn out its pages over the past two decades. Her prayer is mine, and I hope it blesses you, too.
“Help me, Lord, to be what You want me to be in this, to learn what you want me to learn in this, to demonstrate what you want me to demonstrate in this, to show in this thing a flashing, vivid reality of the fact that the treasure You have given me is in an earthen vessel and that the greatness, the excellency, is all of You, God, not of me.”