What’s the Point of Suffering in Obscurity?

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The angels and demons are constantly watching to see if I treasure God.

When I initially heard this idea, almost 15 years ago, it changed me. Radically.

At first it was unsettling to think that I was constantly being watched. Yet it became strangely comforting when I realized I was not alone in my suffering. That there was a greater purpose to my being faithful than I could see.

Over the years, I had often wondered if my private suffering had much meaning. I understood that public suffering, such as the faithfulness of the martyrs, inspired believers and unbelievers to see the value of God. But unseen suffering, that no one else on earth was aware of, seemed pointless.

Or at least it seemed pointless to me.

If no one ever knew what I was going through, how could God use it? If it didn’t inspire others to love Jesus more, did it really matter? If no one was there to observe it, what was the point of a godly response?

And yet as I heard Pastor John Piper unpack the book of Job, I saw that my response to suffering mattered. Not just for me, but because a watching world, a world that I could neither see nor hear, was waiting to see how I would respond to trials.

The book of Job begins in the throne room of God. Satan is mocking God, claiming that Job treasures Him for what he has been given. Satan claims that if God takes away what Job has been leaning on, Job will curse God to His face. In essence he implies, “God, Job doesn’t really love you. He loves your blessings. He worships you not for who you are but for what you give him.”

This is a great assault on God’s value. And after the worst has happened to Job, Job’s wife falls into despair and tells Job to curse God and die. This appears to be a great victory for Satan.

At this point, Piper conjectures that tens of thousands of angels watched in dismay, wondering what Job would say as well. But when they heard Job declare, “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” Piper imagines that 20,000 angelic arms went up, proclaiming, “Yes Job! God is more valuable than your health. Thank you for holding fast.”Continue Reading

Celebrating Joni’s 65th birthday- A Radiant Life in a Dark World

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I write about suffering.

I have been all too familiar with it for decades. In many ways, my life has been intensely painful but at the same time breathtakingly sweet.

The sweetness has come from walking with God. Many of you know that paradox as well, as you found the faithfulness of God in the darkest of places.

No one I’ve ever met demonstrates and lives that paradox more than Joni Eareckson Tada. Joni, who was paralyzed at age 17 in a diving accident, has a radiance that shines against the backdrop of unspeakable life challenges: quadriplegia, riveting pain, and cancer to name a few.

Joni turns 65 today, on October 15, 2014.

I marvel at this because quadriplegics generally don’t live very long. She doesn’t look 65 though; Joni looks like she’s in her 40s. Anyone who has met her would agree that she is stunningly beautiful.

But mostly I marvel at this because Joni has been faithful, blessing God and proclaiming His glory, for almost 50 years of quadriplegia.

This is why Joni is my hero. Not because Joni is so amazing, though she is, but she demonstrates what God can do in a life yielded to Him. Her life points to a magnificent God who is beyond compare, who can elicit genuine praise in the midst of deep suffering.

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Upside Down Success

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I’ve been thinking a lot about success lately.

I started blogging about nine months ago and I wasn’t sure where the Lord would take me with it.

Since then I’ve read numerous books and articles about writing, blogging, using social media and publishing. Everyone talks about how to be more successful. How to build a bigger subscriber base. How to become famous.

I struggle with that.

I struggle not because I don’t want to be famous, successful, or well-regarded. On the contrary, I want all those things. But I want to look humble when I get them.

I don’t want to look like I worked to become famous. I want it to look like I was humbly obeying God in my own little obscure corner and then surprisingly, naturally, even organically, people discovered me.

It sounds so shallow and deceitful when I write it. And it is. But it’s also the ugly truth.

I want people to read my blog or my articles and appreciate what I say. I want recognition. All too much.

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Why Is God Whispering?

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Lately, I’ve had a hard time sensing God’s presence.

Its not that my life is in crisis. On the contrary, my life has been getting a bit easier. And for that, I am grateful.

But I miss the intimate, life-giving walk I had with God when I was desperate. I don’t go to my quiet time as needy as I used to be. I want to hear from God, but it is not as though my entire day depends on it.

There were years when I pulled the covers over my head each morning, struggling to get out of bed to face the onslaught. Years when the only good part of my day was my time with God. Years when the Word was the only thing that revived me.

I lived and breathed Psalm 119, “My soul clings to the dust. Revive me according to your word.”

I experienced Jeremiah 15, “Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart.”

I discovered God’s exquisite blessing from Isaiah 45, “I will give you the treasures of darkness and the hoards in secret places.”

God faithfully met me every day. His Word revived me when I felt I could not go on. I would go to Him hungry, desperate, needy. And He would provide without fail.

He still provides without fail. But now, though life is far from perfect, I don’t feel desperate day-to-day. Now that I have so many things that occupy my attention and bring me joy, I don’t have as much joy in God alone.

So what does that mean? What do I do? Do I ask God for more suffering – so I can have more of Him?

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