Reading in Hebrews this morning, I came to this verse:
“Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”- Ch. 13, verses 7,8
I started thinking about those people that I admired, both known and only known through writings. I began to, “consider the outcome of their way of life”. It occurred to me that not a single person that I look up to in the faith has had things “easy” or “comfortable”. In fact, quite the opposite. Most of the friends that I look to for wisdom are the people that I know can relate to the road of suffering and have walked it in the unique way God required of them. Think about it. We are all intrigued by the ones who walk through the unimaginable. It’s probably one of the reasons you are reading this blog. There is something in each of us that is drawn to the hard in others’ lives. You pass a wreck, and traffic is slowed because everyone is looking at what is going on. We watch the news and television shows; and are equally horrified and interested in hearing the drama. Someone dies unexpectedly, and we want to hear the story. It’s an odd truth about humanity.
“For my own part, I have never ceased to rejoice that God has appointed me to such an office. People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa…is that a sacrifice which brings its own blest reward…and a bright hope of a glorious destiny hereafter? Away with the word in such a view, and with such a thought! It is emphatically no sacrifice. Say rather it is a privilege. Anxiety, sickness, suffering, or danger, now and then, with a foregoing of the common conveniences and charities of this life, may make us pause, and cause the spirit to waver, and the soul to sink; but let this only be for a moment. All these are nothing when compared with the glory which shall be revealed in and for us. I never made a sacrifice.”- David Livingstone, a missionary who gave his life to serve Christ in Africa
“My wheelchair was the key to seeing all this happen- especially since God’s power always shows up best in weakness. So here I sit…glad that I have not been healed on the outside, but glad that I have been healed on the inside. Healed from my own self-centered wants and wishes.”- Joni Eareckson Tada, a quadriplegic who has found true hope
“For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”- 2 Corinthians 12:10, Paul, who was ultimately martyred for Christ
As I began to consider the outcome of life of those before me, I was initially disturbed and then suddenly comforted as I realized what the word outcome truly means. You see, outcome is the final score. Outcome is, “It is finished”. How often do I look to the temporary, the humanity, and forget that the outcome is actually unseen but all the more real. David Livingstone, Joni Eareckson Tada, Paul. While different, the common theme in each of their lives is giving Jesus their all. None of them surrounded by comforts, white picket fences, or temporary ease. And, their outcome? Jesus. Eternal oneness with the God of the universe. No more tears, no more sickness, no more disease. No more persecution, trial, or disability. Him.
As you are walking through whatever suffering you may be today, I want to encourage you that God hand-picked this road for you. If that feels heartless and like the doings of a mean god, let me remind you that His very best for His only Son was the road to calvary.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”- Isaiah 55:8-9
Friends, He is so other than we are; and for that I am thankful. I do not want to serve a God that I, in my own humanity, can understand. Can the painting fathom the painter? Can the book attempt to analyze its writer? No. Neither can we, as the creation, begin to fully “get” our Creator. The more we know Him, however, the more we can learn to trust Him in all His ways at all times, no matter what our flesh cries out.
Here’s another thing that is encouraging about all this:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For we share abundantly In Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.”- 2 Corinthians 1:3-5
I can guarantee you something, beloved: if you will trust God in your trial, and believe that He is walking this road with you, you will be comforted beyond anything you could imagine. It will not take away the pain, it will not change your circumstance, but it will give you the peace that passes all understanding. And, going forward, you will have a story and a way to love on others like you have never had before. You will be able to minister to others in ways that would have never been possible without this trial. And, dear one: You have a Savior that understands. His suffering, His affliction, was solely based on the need of others. He died so we could live; He was afflicted so we could know the Almighty in our own afflictions. Don’t ever believe the lie that you are alone in this. He is with you. He has walked it. There is purpose and He knows exactly what He is doing.
Today, as I look to the ones before me, to the outcome of their faith, may I be comforted that the outcome was ultimately Jesus Himself and that is more than enough to encourage me in whatever today holds, no matter how circumstancially dire. Friends, let’s be a people who walk through our hards with our heads held high, looking to Jesus. Let’s not shrink back from whatever suffering is at hand, but walk through it joyfully, knowing that there is eternal purpose at hand. It is a privilege to suffer for that which matters most. Without Christ, the brokenness and despair of this world is just that, broken. With Him, we can know that all things are working together for good, and that one day we will be able to see the beautiful tapestry of His grace and love that would not look the same without the trials He has allowed. It will be worth it. He that gave all is worth all.