Sunday, May 3, 2009

Absolutely central

So I've been working on a Bible study on suffering that a friend asked me to lead this month.  When she first asked, I wasn't sure I'd be able to do such a study at this particular point in my life.  However, even as I hung up the phone, Beve said, "You'll do it."  Yes, he definitely knows me.  What came to mind almost immediately was my experience in college as I lived through a broken engagement and broken heart.  I went to see one of the pastors at the large church I attended, and His counsel to me was three part.  First, he wanted me to begin to meet with a young woman in our church weekly.  Second, he suggested I read Martin Luther's commentary on Romans (a very dense commentary that made me have to concentrate deeply on his words and The Word). And third, he told me to start ministering, which led me to become a Young Life leader again.  This last seemed counter-intuitive at the time, when I felt dry and full only of pain, not of any kind of living water. 

But he knew what he was talking about.  I loved the Romans study--my spiritual temperament positively blooms when I have something to study.  I doubt this pastor recommended Luther to every young person who walked through his door, but the Spirit sure gave him insight to me. And the encouragement to ministry?  Ministering out of pain was the road to healing for me.  And so it has always been, for me, and I'd venture to say for most of us.  Getting outside ourselves and allowing the Holy Spirit to work through us is an avenue of grace.  And I've experienced this phenomena more than once over the course of the last 30 years.  At my neediest moments, when I feel like I have the least to give, He sets a task before me, an engaging with His Word and others, and before I know it, I can hear His whisper again, can see touches of His presence written large and robustly across the face of my life. 

So I'm grateful for this study, and specifically for the topic--suffering!  There are no accidents in the Kingdom.  I don't know what will come of this study when I work through it with the women, but I know He's met me in the reading and the writing of it.  It still worries me a little to have to be as vulnerable as I will...but I know myself.  I'm not very good at being anything but transparent. 

I'll be writing more reflections about suffering in the next few days.  But here's one small thought:  suffering is an essential part of growing up in Christ.  Absolutely central.  If you haven't had suffering in your life, you're either in denial or not paying attention.  There is some fruit that ONLY suffering can produce, you see.  If we are to be like Christ, if we are to be Christ to the world, we must also suffer with Him. Paul tells us, "If we suffer with Him, we shall also reign with Him;" and "I want to know Christ and the fellowship of sharing in His suffering."  And Jesus said, "In the world you will have tribulations, but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world."

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