This post has been rolling around in my head for weeks now. I'm just not sure I can verbalize it. I mentioned a while back that I was getting that familiar feeling that God was preparing me for something. This time instead of anticipation I was apprehensive. For the past several weeks God has presented a running theme in my life. It has been quite the multi-media event. It has come to me in the form of sermons, emails, chats with friends, books I'm reading, links on blogs, etc etc. The theme is "A Life of Chosen Suffering". I have long acknowledged that the Christian walk will be marked by suffering, and that much of our testimony about the faithfulness of God is seen in how we respond. When Jay first started having trouble with his hip I was just plain mad - for about a year. Then I was sad and hopeless - for about a year. Right around year 4 of his relentless and debilitating pain was, I think, the first time that we both realized we had been seeing it all wrong. We had searched endlessly for a doctor to tell us what was wrong, and more importantly, how to FIX IT. When at last we were broken and realized, that like Paul's thorn, this trial might be more about allowing God's strength to shine rather than the doctors, we were able to see a light. Not a light at the end of the tunnel, but a light in the midst of the oppressive darkness that had been our life. BUT, that suffering was not CHOSEN. To this day it remains, and not of our choosing. Yet, I hope we have been able to point people to the Lord because of it.
"All experiences of suffering in the path of Christian obedience, whether from persecution or sickness or accident, have this in common: They all threaten our faith in the goodness of God and tempt us to leave the path of obedience. Therefore, every triumph of faith and all perseverance of obedience are testimonies to the goodness of God and the preciousness of Christ - whether the enemy is sickness, Satan, sin or sabotage."
John Piper--Desiring God
So, what of the idea of CHOOSING suffering? Should we be like the masochistic monks who walk the streets flogging themselves? Um, yeah, not so much. Because the whole point of the suffering is that people see Christ in our lives. If you do that, they just see a weirdo. The goal is that in OUR suffering OTHERS can benefit. Paul's missionary journeys were frought with danger and pain. It was worth it to him to show Christ to the Gentiles. If you live in the U.S. and have the ability to read this blog then you are extremely wealthy and pampered by all worldly standards. How then, can we suffer - by our own choice - for the sake of Christ? In a recent sermon on missions our pastor mentioned the prophet Haggai going to the Israelites and telling them it was time to rebuild the temple. When I went back later and read the first chapter it seemed to me a scathing reproach for my life.
"Thus says the Lord of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord. Then the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, "Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? Now therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: consider your ways. You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes. Thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified says the Lord. You looked for much and behold it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declares the Lord of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins while each of you busies himself with his own house. Therefore the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce. And I have called for a drought on the land and the hills on the grain, the new wine, the oil, on what the ground brings forth, on man and beast and all their labors."
I haven't exactly fleshed this out yet. I know that I have been far too consumed with my own house. I know that I have neglected the house of the Lord. How that knowledge will change me is yet to be seen, but I am atleast now aware of my shortcomings and ready to be used by the Lord. I am in fact, ready to choose to suffer.