I love reading. My kindle app is full of books; my shelf has plenty more. Sometimes I find myself paralyized by the quantity of options to the point I just have to force myself to pick one and start reading. The most recent choice was “Running on Empty:The Gospel for Women in Ministry” by Barbara Bancroft. While I don’t really feel like I’m “running on empty” right now a quick skim of the book seems like it might make for an interesting and insightful read.
The author wastes no time in jumping in to the tough stuff as the main topic of the first chapter centers around suffering. Here were a few of my favorite quotes from the that chapter:
“Are you confused by God’s thoughts and ways as he loves the world through you? The disciples were. His word of comfort to them was simple. He vowed never to leave them alone.”
“Suffering became a door for me into the presence of Christ as he really is, not as I expected him to be.”
“We are forced by our suffering to wrestle with His teachings because we need to hear his voice to survive the confusion ministry brings. Only suffering makes us desperate enough to knock on the door of heaven until someone gives us an answer (Luke 11:5–13). We knock until our Father opens his door and welcomes us with his love and peace. Suffering keeps us from a life of glib answers and leads us into a life of listening to his Spirit.”
Later on she was reflecting Scripture passage where Paul talks about rejoicing in suffering. Her statements challenged me while bringing comfort and truth at the same time:
“Paul is also confident and full of joy even as he suffers because he does not fear that his suffering is a result of God’s inattention or displeasure. Suffering is a necessary cost of bringing the gospel to the nations. If we have placed our faith in Christ, we are safe in his righteousness and need never fear that our suffering is a result of his rejection or inattention. … Paul’s suffering was real and extensive, but it did not define him, make him bitter, or cause him to doubt God’s love or call on his life. Paul’s suffering brought him into deeper fellowship with Jesus.”
In my head I clearly know that having to walk through situations of suffering do not mean God doesn’t love me or isn’t paying attention to me. However, as I read these words it struck me that maybe my heart isn’t always keeping up… That I often do let a trial define my life or even worse, my identity… That at times I do let suffering make me bitter … And perhaps worst of all, occasionally I believe Satan’s lies that what I’m going through means God doesn’t love me or couldn’t use me.
The opposite is actually true. The struggles I face on any given day, might be the very situation through which God can bring his grace and truth and love to the world. Maybe as people see His work and presence in my life, they’ll long for it in their own. Not only that, Christ suffered…. A LOT! Through suffering in this life, maybe we can actually, know Jesus a little better.
Still pondering all this… Would love to hear your thoughts!