Last month, my friend Dora at the Chinese Coordination Centre for World Evangelization sent out a link to an article by Peter Lin. The article was intended as thoughts for the Lenten season but I found the subject especially meaningful and thought you might too.
The article, entitled “Suffering and Glory”, chronicles Mr. Lin’s experiences through a painful illness earlier this year. I hope you’ll read the whole article, but want to share with you some of his thoughts here. (Make sure you click on Part II and Part III at the bottom of his article to read his entire reflections.)
Mr. Lin writes: “We all fear pain and yet God said that the path through pain can be a blessing . . . Pain is an unwanted blessing because in some mysterious way, like grace, it is a crucible for growth and glory.”
I confess that I run from painful experiences. Really, after all, who WANTS to hurt or be in pain? As parents, don’t we do all we can to protect our children from pain? Don’t do this, don’t touch that.
But what about Christians who are being persecuted and martyred for their faith in Christ? (Read a thought-provoking article on persecution).
What about the young girl in the red light district in Kolkata (Calcutta)?
Or the mother suffering from breast cancer who will never see her young daughter grow up?
Or the parents dealing with a drug-addicted son who is lying and stealing?
Or the wife struggling to understand the Alzheimer’s disease that is ravaging the mind of her husband?
People around the world are suffering in unimaginable ways. I don’t pretend to understand it and I don’t pretend to have the answers, but I have learned that I have to hold fast to the One who does.
Mr. Lin says “Instead of asking ‘why, Lord?’, I asked ‘God, what do you want me to learn?’ and I expected to experience his presence in a(n) intimate way.” It seems that the word “expected” is key. When I go through painful experiences do I put my head down, slogging through with only the hope that I’ll eventually get to the other side? Or do I look up expectantly knowing that I can draw on the deep resources of God’s love and mercy and his all-sustaining power?
Several years ago I walked with my dad through his cancer and eventual death, and now am walking with my mother and many others dealing with difficult challenges.
What have I learned?
Sometimes it’s all you can do to get up and face the next day. Sometimes I remember that death is not the end and that our eternal hope is in heaven. Sometimes I remember how precious our time with each other is here on earth. Sometimes I clear away the everyday clutter and focus on the moment. Sometimes “gallows humor” isn’t so bad. All the time I know that “I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears . . . This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles . . . O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him, (Psalms 34: 4, 6, 8) and “Precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of his saints,” (Psalms 116:15).
Mr. Lin also goes on to point out the importance of his friends during this difficult time because “God used each and every email/phone-call/visit to remind me that I was not alone. He was present with me in my pains through His family. And every time I got an email/visit/phone-call, I heard God saying – ‘see, I remembered you and I cared intimately about what you are going through.’”
All around us people are suffering and hurting. We’re not the only ones. Some are relying on God. Some are relying on themselves.
God made us to be in community and fellowship with one another. How can we support each other and carry each other through these periods of pain and become a reflection of God’s glory and grace? Whose burden do you need to carry today? Who do you need to walk with today, offering encouragement or just remaining silent?
How can I walk alongside you?
As we continue our journey together to Cape Town 2010 (www.capetown2010.com) let’s commit to walking alongside each other – in the bad times as well as in the good times. And together might we reflect the love of God to a hurting world desperate to know his hope and his peace.