I am so excited about Secret Church, led by David Platt from Birmingham, AL on April 6, 2012. My husband and I hosted the simulcast in our home a few months ago. We invited church friends over for food and four hours of preachin’. It was amazing and I highly recommend it! For more information, go to lifeway.com. To the Reno folks…If you are interested in attending, please let me know!:)
Here is the topic for Good Friday, April 6, 2012, “Suffering and the Cross.”
Suffering is a sobering reality in a fallen world. Followers of Christ are not immune to adversity and affliction. On the contrary, there is a real sense in which following Christ means that trials and tribulations are more likely to come our way. As a result, whether walking through sickness, sorrow, pain, or persecution, the questions abound:
During this Secret Church on Good Friday, David Platt will explore these extremely profound yet deeply personal questions through the lens of Christ’s sufferings on the cross. In the process, we will come to a surprising discovery of how the gospel strengthens, sustains, supports, and ultimately satisfies us in the middle of suffering.
But the inhale becomes shallow, the exhale postpones.
He’s pale, razor thin.
My grandfather, or “Mr. Wonderful,” a name that stuck as a kid, is dying.
He’s confined to a hospital bed. A bed encircled with a passel of nurses and beeping machines. Friends and family stand nearby exchanging worried glances. Desiring to feel useful we brush fingers through his silvery white hair, offer water, food, anything.
Death is a veiled threat.
Desperate pain causes confusion. He pieces stories and conversations together like a puzzle, only the pieces don’t fit. He utters fragmented sentences with no meaning. Sometimes, he thinks he’s still chained in a WWII Nazi prison. Other times, in a haze of medication, he struggles to communicate at all.
Mom sits on one side of the bed and I on the other. We lean in towards him. He grabs our hands with his wobbly, frail ones. Then he presses our hands together as if to pray.
“Let’s pray together, dad,” mom says.
She prays with sweet tenderness as tears stream down her face.
She’s losing the anchor in the sea of her life.
With a slight squeeze and a clearing of his throat, my grandfather begins to pray. I think to myself, “Even though he fails to make any logical sense in normal conversation, he makes perfect sense while praying to His Heavenly Father.” His words are clear, heartfelt, understood.
So it is with us and Jesus.
Some days the only thing in our lives that actually make sense is Jesus. When we’re confused, uncertain, unsure… Jesus is the One we run to for clarity, for sense-making. He alone is the common denominator, the solution to every problem. He is in control of us and for us.
This is the last prayer my mom and I will ever pray with him, the last time the three of us will talk about Jesus together. But not the last time we will ever see him… and that is such good news.
On my flight home, I ponder the purpose of pain and suffering. In the death of “Mr. Wonderful,” the purpose of our pain, my families pain, was to renew and refine our faith. It was the perfect occasion for God to remind us, “This earth isn’t our home…we are set apart… our souls were created to experience eternity in a seat next to Jesus.”
Suddenly, the wheels of my mind begin to turn a little more and I think, “…The purpose of the pain for my granddad was so that God could remove it from his frail, worn-out body as He ushered him into heaven.”
“The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised,” Job 1:21.
I am joyfully immersed in a beautiful series of books for girls called Elsie Dinsmore by Martha Finley. My daughter and I started out listening to the first three books in an audio series put out by Vision Forum and I quickly began reading ahead in the set of books that we have.
They are fiction books, meant for little-girl character building, however, I’ve found that they are just as impacting on the heart of the mommy-girl as well.
Elsie’s mama dies when she is a baby and her Papa is quite strict with his little darling. Though, he did not start out this way, he is also a very godly man who’s parenting is based on moral and biblical grounds.
There are many times in the early books where Elsie requests to do something and her father’s answer is no. She, being a very obedient child who loves her father, never questions his reasoning and he rarely tells her why the answer is no.
In the few times that she is upset with his refusal she later finds out that her Papa always knew best.
On one occasion Elsie requested to go on a long two mile walk with friends to some strawberry fields. And, yep you guessed it, Her Papa says no… as a result the other children were not allowed to go either.
Elsie, embarrassed and upset, runs away to her room and cries bitter tears. Her papa went to her and asks this question…
And there it is. The question deeply piercing the heart.
This from an earthly father to his precious child when she does not have all the facts and does not understand why she cannot have her own way.
Ah, and it dawns hard on me that this is also the question behind the “why” that I need to address when my heavenly Father has clearly answered no to me.
Is it a flaw in His wisdom over my circumstances… does He not really understand my heart or my needs? Or is His love lacking for me… perhaps it’s not enough love to give me what would instantly add to my happiness?
Then the Truth surfaces.
“He made the earth by his power; he founded the world by his wisdom and stretched out the heavens by his understanding. When he thunders, the waters in the heavens roar; he makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth. He sends lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses.”Jeremiah 51:15-17
Need I… dare I question it?
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
Need I ever… dare I question this too?
And there is such sweet relief and freedom in accepting His refusal with such little understanding, but instead with such great Faith. Trusting that He is most wise and believing His love is ever deep. No need to worry or to wonder. Indeed, He always knows best. I just settle into the comfort of His protection and provision, content with all He has for His little darling… me.
Linking up with dearest Tracy for Winsome Wednesday…
As every woman knows, hope is a perishable commodity. Despite God’s promises, His unconditional love, and His countless blessings, our fragile hearts still lose hope from time to time. When problems come one after another, hope seems to spoil. When the rug feels as if it were pulled from underneath us, hope begins to fade.
When we sense ourselves losing hope, we need the encouragement of Christian friends, life-changing prayer, and the healing Truth of God’s Word.
When we weave the fabric of God’s Word through our hearts and minds, our foundation will stand strong even when the rest of life unravels.
If today finds you falling into the spiritual traps of worry and discouragement, stop what you’re doing right now ~ go to the prayer closet and “sit-n-soak.” Sit at the footstool of Jesus; soak in His Holy Word.
Maybe instead of turning things over in your mind today, turn them over to God in prayer. He’s doesn’t ask us to carry our burdens alone. Corrie Ten Boom in all her wisdom once said, “Any concern that is too small to be turned into prayer is too small to be made into a burden.”
No matter what you are going through today, God promises us peace, joy, and eternal life… now that kind of hope is a precious commodity.
I’m thinking of you today. Are you staring at that calendar of blank days with uncertainty? Wondering what each new day will hold? I’m not sure what divine appointments God has for you, but I do know this—if we seek Him first, He will hold us through it all.
The One who first loved you, dares to whisper, “No matter what, I’ll take care of you. All you have to do is~ Seek first my righteousness [not yours] and everything will be added unto you. I will “meet all your needs,” (Phil. 4:19).
The quality of your life; the direction of your day hinges on whom you’re putting first: you or God. Placing God first in all you do secures a spot in the center of His will.
Can you imagine a better place to be?
So let me whisper a word of encouragement, “When you put God first, there’s nothing in heaven that won’t be yours if you need it. And God has given you all you need to complete His perfectly planned to-do list for you.”
Be comforted in this moment sweet friend that God knows your heart. He sees you placing Him first above everything else. He sees his daughter humbly submitting herself to His will and His glory. He sees a child of His surrendering her future, her life to Him.
Today is going to be a good day for you. It may not be easy. There may be unexpected inconveniences. There may be hair-pulling moments which appear to be more than you can handle. But somehow at the end of this day, you’ll breathe a sigh of relief as you whisper to yourself, “Whew, God was ever present through it all and He is so good.”