Thursday, January 5, 2012
Yesterday, I was struggling with a devotion that said I needed to believe God would answer my urgent prayers as if I had already received the answer of "yes."
"This is not realistic," my heart said.
Sometimes God answers our urgent prayers with, "no." But that should not diminish my faith. How can I pray with faith and yet still feel such discouragement, fear, and uncertainty about the future? This troubled me as I closed the book and skipped my prayer time.
I thought about this as I worked on a crochet project during the afternoon. The rhythmic movement of my fingers, hook, and yarn gave me plenty of time for thought.
What is it that I can be sure that God will do for me in this life? What is something I can pray for and be sure that I will receive it, as sure as if it has already happened?
Suddenly, it hit me: God will redeem my suffering. None of this pain is wasted. It is all for His glory.
Some pain in life is considered valuable - labor that brings forth a new baby, hard training by an Olympic athlete, rehabilitation for a stroke victim. It is pain with a purpose. When we tend to lose heart is when we feel we are suffering pain without a purpose. Long years of struggle with no end in sight and only a miracle or death as the way out can feel endless and without use. How can God use this quiet, secret pain? I am not on TV. I am not famous. No one will hear of my tragedy. My struggles are hidden and not well understood, even by me.
But by believing in Christ, I can be sure that all my grief will be turned to joy. My troubles are achieving for me an eternal glory that far outweighs the pain. Like a mother holding her newborn, the excruciating labor will have been worth it. Like a gold medalist on the podium, the intense struggle to overcome will make the victory all the more sweet.
When I wonder how this powerful reversal can possibly be true in my situation, I consider the altered book artist Guy Laramee. He took old, dusty books that appeared to be of no use or value and transformed them into the beautiful, valuable sculptures of landscapes pictured here. Sometimes, I think I spend so much time focused on how the book of my life is written and what will happen in the next chapter that I forget: God is in the business of transforming, like a skilled artist. He transforms sinners into saints. He transforms the pain of loss into ministries of comfort. And in Christ, he transforms death into life. My pain is not wasted in God's hands.
I believe we will be blown away by what God can do with our grief if we give it to him. He "is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us."