Counting on Mercy in Suffering

Sharing today from from UnlockingTheBible.org.

Counting on Mercy in Suffering

By Lianna Davis

From the pits of grief and suffering, the human heart and soul can yearn to know the cause of earthly pain. Did a particular sin bring this suffering upon me, or did I need discipline?

Tender answers might pour into the soul from Scripture—Job was a noble man who suffered and grieved (Job 1:8). And the man born blind in John’s gospel was not provided by Jesus with a personal sin corresponding to his pain (John 9:2-3). We cannot always draw straight lines between cause and effect for our individual suffering (Isaiah 55:9). In How Long, O Lord?: Reflections on Suffering and Evil, D. A. Carson writes,

It is the uncertainty of reading what is going on that sometimes breeds pain. Is the particular blow I am facing God’s way of telling me to change something? Or is it a form of discipline designed to toughen me or soften me to make me more useful? Or is it part of the heritage of all sons and daughters of Adam who live this side of the parousia, unrelated to discipline but part of God’s mysterious providence in a fallen world? But must we always decide? If a little self-examination shows us how to improve, we ought to improve. But there are times when all that the Christian can responsibly do is to trust his heavenly Father in the midst of the darkness and pain. (Carson 66)

“Must we always decide?” We can heed Carson to welcome needed growth in obedience that “a little self-examination” uncovers. Yet, he also warns that our inability to understand the full purposes of God behind our suffering can cause us sorrow on top of sorrow.

Draw Near to the Merciful Savior

While we sit in the mysteries of God’s providence, there is a promise we can be certain of. It’s a theme Carson repeats throughout his book: “From the biblical perspective, it is because of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed” (Carson 44).

As I grow to have a higher and higher view of God being God—creating and owning me, being pure and dwelling in unapproachable light, and deserving of my unwavering devotion and holy fear, I am increasingly unable to view any of my sins as insignificant or any of my fleshly contributions as meaningful. This principle Carson writes of has been crucial for me, especially in the seat of suffering.

Read the rest here.

God Is Working Through Your Waiting

Shared from from UnlockingTheBible.org.

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God is Working
Through Your Waiting

Waiting is a common pattern in my life. Waiting for graduation, for work, for a boyfriend, for a trip, for an idea, for the next big thing. And I find this terribly inconvenient. I am a full-throttle go-getter who wants to move from thing to thing with speed and efficiency, and waiting feels like a massive speed bump that kills my momentum and drive.

No, I am not a fan of waiting.

Yet I should be, because waiting is not a pattern unique to me. Every Christian’s life is woven with spiritual, mental, and physical waiting. Waiting for God to provide, guide, move, heal, direct, answer, reveal. To lead us to the mysterious “Next Thing”—the next step, person, place, or plan. But added to the difficulty of waiting is a deep desire for control and comfort, which makes us want to earnestly prepare for the “nexts.”

Faithful preparation is not bad, but how can we do that when we’re not even sure what we’re preparing for? How do we live in the tension between waiting and preparation for the season ahead?

Why God Makes Us Wait

First, we need to recognize why God calls us to wait. He does it for his glory and to make us more like Jesus, whose whole life could be called a waiting game. He waited for his disciples, he waited for the crowds, he waited for his parents, he waited for crucifixion, he waited for glorification, and he is waiting to return. His life, death, and resurrection are pictures of faithful waiting. He is our example when waiting seems so horribly hard and contentment feels just out of reach.

Yet he is much more than our example; he is our hope. When waiting saps you of joy and you feel empty, overwhelmed, and afraid, Jesus is the brother and friend who will give you the strength you need. God’s radical love for you, as shown through his Son’s sacrifice, means he’s not going to leave you on your own, and his wisdom means he knows waiting is best for you. His empowering grace will help you persevere through the waiting, and will abound when you don’t wait well.

And so we need to learn to wait—I need to learn to wait—and recognize how God is working through the waiting.

God Works Through Waiting

God doesn’t make us wait out of capricious malice but in loving wisdom, and he is working through our waiting. How?

To increase our trust. First and most foundationally, he uses waiting to increase our trust in him and loosen our perceived control. Waiting reminds us we’re at the mercy (literally) of God’s timing, and we have no power to change that. As humans, we crave control, yet waiting pulls that from our grasp. Waiting pries our fingers from the ledge and confronts us with an uncomfortable question: “Will we give up on ourselves and trust God wholly?”

To crucify our idols. Second, God uses waiting to crucify our idol of efficiency. We live in an accomplishment-driven culture where value is measured and marked by productivity. How much you get done defines your worth, and we can be guilty of making that an idol. But waiting destroys that. We can’t always maximize efficiency if we’re waiting on God—and that’s okay. Are we putting our worth in our plans and productivity, or in God (Galatians 6:9)?  

Read the rest here.