I am a reader, (I have been since I was young), and I have my wonderful parents to thank for that. Frustratingly though, I’m not a particularly fast reader, and as a result I am still slowly working my way through Driscoll’s book Who Do You Think You Are?. Yesterday I read a particularly helpful chapter on affliction, and would like to share some of it, plus my thoughts, with you – so here we go;
‘All too often, when we suffer, we question whether God is sovereign or good. Some of us are prone to believing the sovereignty of God while diminishing his goodness. The result is a cold, distant God who can’t be our comforter. Others of us lean toward downplaying God’s sovereignty while retaining his goodness. The result is a false view of a God who doesn’t want suffering to occur but is powerless to stop it. Sadly, when either the sovereignty or goodness of God is questioned, we’re left without comfort or help because our pain distorts our perspective of God.’
– I have to admit that I have often thought this way. I have never really doubted God’s sovereignty – I trust and know that God has complete power and control over everything and all situations – but I have definitely doubted God’s goodness. I suppose in reading this it is comforting to know that I am not the only one, but that it happens often. As the weeks and months have slowly passed since Matt’s death, and since I have had time to stop, process, reflect, pray and listen; God has slowly been changing my heart and reassuring me that even though he has allowed this pain and affliction, he does still love me and that will not ever change.
‘The Bible repeatedly reveals that God is both sovereign and good. For those in Christ, this means that everything in life, including our suffering, either comes from or passes through his hand. Further, God uses suffering for our good, even if it were intended for evil. Theologically, this is what Paul meant when he said in Romans 8:28 that “all things work together for good to those who love God.” And this is precisely what Joseph said in Genesis 50:20 to his brothers who sought to destroy him: “You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good.”‘
‘The Bible does not promise that we will immediately see God work all affliction for his glory and our good – or even see it in this life – but for those in Christ, it’s guaranteed that whether in this life or the life to come, the promise of God will come to pass.’
– One thing that I have been struggling with is the idea that God has allowed this pain for my good. I can see how Matt’s death has touched and changed many people’s lives for the better, and God has most definitely been glorified through it, but how on earth is this meant to be good for me? I just lost my husband of 2 months. I’m widowed and unemployed at 22 years old. How is this good? And it’s painful to know that I may never get an answer to that question on this side of heaven. God is most definitely teaching me trust and patience right now, and I think I am going to need a lot of it!
‘Until that day, it’s often difficult for us to believe in God’s goodness and sovereignty when we suffer. We’re prone to ask God ‘why’, which is dangerous because it puts us in a judge’s chair and puts God on trial. Admittedly, sometimes this is simply an emotional response from a hurting person and even has biblical precedent. In such cases, we want to help those who are suffering, not condemn them. But as in Scripture, it’s important for us when suffering to move from asking ‘why’ to asking ‘who’.
‘The ‘who’ question does not seek answers from God as much as it seeks God himself. The one who asks ‘who’ seeks to grow in deeper understanding of who God is and who we are, because when we’re suffering, what we need more than answers – even helpful, biblical ones – is God and an assurance of our identity in Christ.’
– This is so true! I have noticed that when people see me these days, they either don’t know what to say at all (completely understandable!), or they try and comfort me with Bible verses and cliches. Don’t get me wrong, if there is ever a time or situation where the truth of the Bible is needed to be spoken and read, this is it – but for some reason they seem to just bounce off. Right now, I need to know God. I need to know His character. I need to know His love. And I need to know who I am in light of that.
‘Christians often get discouraged because of affliction, and we feel guilty and unsure what to do about it…While life in Christ doesn’t prevent us from facing affliction, it does empower us to endure whatever we may face by God’s grace and for his glory and our good, (e.g. Ephesians 3:1-13).’
‘Because afflictions cost us so much, they are too precious to waste. Though God may not cause your affliction, he can use your affliction for his glory, others’ good, and your growth, if you are in Christ. Only by trying less to dissect and avoid our suffering and instead embracing them as opportunities in Christ to grow, glorify God, and share the gospel will we beging to “not lose heart,” and instead find joy in our circumstances, whatever they may be.’
– I can’t say that I have ever thought of afflictions as being precious! I mean, I think of kittens as precious. I think of babies as precious (that is, before they start chucking tantrums and breaking things). I think of a nice hot cup of coffee – preferably a double-shot flat white – as precious. Afflictions are not precious; they suck! But maybe Driscoll has a point here? Maybe we should be somewhat (shudder) thankful for our afflictions because through them we are given the opportunity to reflect Christ to those around us. If I am honest, I think that as each day goes by I am becoming more ‘ok’ with what has happened. Please don’t get me wrong – I still very much hate that this has happened to me and my family; I hate that Matt has been taken from us – but I am starting to slowly (very slowly!) feel God’s hand and purpose in all of it. And that is actually comforting, believe it or not.
‘In affliction, we become most discouraged when we can’t have what we consider most dear. Paul’s affliction was both evil and painful, but he was not disheartened or disappointed, because he didn’t lose what he counted most dear – friendship with Jesus.‘
– In the lead up to our marriage, and the short two months of our marriage, Matthew and I put a lot of effort into ensuring that God was still number one; that we didn’t replace him with each other or idolise our relationship. I’m not going to lie; it is, and was, really hard! Especially in the early moths of marriage! It was so new and exciting and we spent all of our waking hours thinking about each other, that we often unintentionally pushed God to the side. This quote really hits me hard. I am discouraged because the thing I considered my dear to me is gone. My husband is gone. I think that I may have sinfully put Matthew in God’s place, and that has made the last 3 months all the harder. On the up side, I can honestly say that God is the most important thing in my life now; nothing compares, nothing comes close.
It makes me think about the times I’ve preached about identity and the things we trust and value. On numerous occasions both Matt and I have told kids and youth that the only thing that is worth trusting in, placing our identity in, and finding our value in is God himself, because he is the only thing in this world that will not perish, spoil or fade, or let us down. I now have an example and illustration of this fact from my own life. The man who loved me more any any other, who said he would always be here to protect and support me, who said he would never leave me no matter what – is gone. He didn’t make the choice to leave me, but it happened. I believed him with my whole heart when he told me he would always be here, but he’s not. But friends, God is still here and He will not leave. And we must find comfort in that. He is the only thing and person who will never let us down or leave us. What do you trust in?
‘When we’re afflicted, we have a unique credibility to speak about difficult subjects in a way that helps bring healing and life to others facing the same afflictions. For instance, a dear friend of ours was repeatedly raped growing up, and now speaks to rape victims about the healing hope in Jesus Christ. Through her experiences were tragic, an authentic credibility with those she counsels could not likely be had any other way.’
‘For those who are afflicted and in Christ, Jesus is a God to whom you can speak personally. You can run to him and walk with him. Jesus Christ didn’t sit back in his heavenly ease and from a safe distance give us mere counsel for our suffering. Instead, he entered into human history to identify with us.’
– I am so thankful that I have a God who knows what it means to suffer, who understands what I am feeling right now, and I pray that one day He will use me this terrible situation to bring healing and life to others who face similar situations.