How our Suffering Makes Way for New Life

Before getting married, I was afraid of adversity, afraid of getting hurt, and I sought to protect my heart from both of these things. But God exposed me to adversity and deep hurt five years into my marriage. I found out things about my husband I didn’t know, numerous struggles came to the forefront at this time, and we were going through counseling.

In response to all this, darkness invaded my heart and my mind. Sleep evaded me at night, I had bouts of depression, and thick anxiety clouded my thoughts. I quickly went from being “not much of a worrier” in general to extreme anxiety that felt completely out of my control. If anyone ever told me to “take my thoughts captive” it felt futile. How can someone take their thoughts captive when they can’t even discern one of them? They came at me like a myriad of daggers at once. At the same time I was in deep mourning for my marriage and the husband I thought I’d married. I suffered a grievous loss. It was like mourning a death.

Read the rest at ERLC >>

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The Wounds of Christ: An Instrument of Healing in The Redeemer’s Hands

Time heals all wounds. But does it really? As time edges on will it completely erase our pain? Will we truly forget the trauma? I would propose that it really depends on how we use that time. If we are using time to our advantage, we’ll be seeking help, counsel, encouragement, care, and gracious accountability. If we are real with ourselves and admit we need time to heal, we’ll have to work at it. We’ll need to be vulnerable, process biblically, and seek out the grace of God; the One who heals the brokenhearted and is near the crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18). Doing these things won’t hide our wounds, but we will no longer find our identity in them, and our wounds will also no longer have the power to dominate our lives and thoughts. Time will not heal our wounds if we waste our time through denial or stay stuck in deep bitterness. This is actually enslaving and the complete opposite of healing for ourselves. Time can be a healing agent for us if we steward and manage our time well as we seek to heal. (What I’m specifically referring to here with the word “wounds” are the ways we have been hurt, subjected to trauma from others, and our experiences of suffering.)

Read the rest at Servants of Grace >>

Infertility in the Arms of the Church

I was a miracle baby. After fighting infertility for two years, my parents’ prayers were answered. I grew up, got married, and had babies of my own, but around me were friends crushed by the heavy hand of infertility. I’ve known suffering, but not the specific suffering of those struggling with the deferred hope of children.

My parents’ story is the one we like to share, because it has the happy ending of God answering prayer and fruit born of long-awaited desire. Like a neat, clean, and perfectly tied package, the happy ending is satisfying in film, literature, and even life.

But what about the stories of continued suffering? Stories that leave you hanging? Stories with loose ends?

Read the rest at Desiring God >>

Lightning Book Reviews on Suffering and Adversity

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Here are short (lightning) reviews of recent books I’ve read. Each one has a similar theme of trusting God and loving others in the midst of suffering and brokenness:

A Path Through Suffering: Discovering the Relationship Between God’s Mercy and our Pain by Elisabeth Elliot

If anyone is an intimate friend of suffering it is Elisabeth Elliot. She experienced the anguish of delayed desires with her future husband Jimthen after two years of marriage Jim was killed by Auca Indians in the jungles of Ecuador, and lastly her second husband passed away from cancer. Her path was through suffering, but Elliot shows us the light on the path that guides and comforts us, and ultimately transforms all our grief, loss, and heartbreak. She weaves in analogies from the life and death cycle of nature: the breaking of acorn shells, the plant’s first stages of leaves and shoots, seasons, falling leaves, and bearing fruit. Elliot helps us see meaning in our dark night of the soul.

A Loving Life: In a World of Broken Relationships by Paul E. Miller

Paul Miller traces the life of Ruth in a way I have never seen done before. He highlights biblical truths, ancient history, cultural underpinnings, and symbolism, while also using Ruth as an archetype of loving sacrifice and unconditional love in the center of personal isolation, hardship, and grief. This is a great book if you are in the midst of a broken relationship and figuring out the part you can play towards restoration, if you struggle to love people (especially those who are difficult to love), or if you are experiencing any kind of relational hardship and pain.

Trusting God: Even when Life Hurts by Jerry Bridges

This is probably considered a Christian classic, but I never read it because as a young naive girl I didn’t think I needed insight into trusting God in life’s hardships. Honestly, I never experienced anything that hard, until I moved across states away from friends and family to marry my husband and start my own family. Life got hard. And life hurts at times, like the subtitle to the books says. Bridges builds a thorough theological, and yet practical, case for trusting God. He addresses the sovereignty of God over people, nations, and nature, and even in relation to our responsibility. He asks hard questions like, “Can you trust God?”, and “Is God in control?”, while helping us grasp God’s love and wisdom, even in adversity.

 

 

Theology is Meant to Help Us Love

I was not your typical middle school girl. I was more into books and studying than I was into boys. At fourteen I was already reading Sproul, Calvin, and Packer. I could explain the five points of Calvinism and discuss the paradox of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. Needless to say my head grew large and I needed to be humbled.

At eighteen I went on my first short term missions trip alone. I was meeting up with a missionary couple, Scott and Melissa, in Peru. The first few days into the trip Scott told me Melissa would be starting seminary soon.

He said, “The reason she’s going to seminary is to love Jesus more.”

My big theological young head was deflated by his piercing words. Love? I learn and study to love? His words were Sunday school simple, but exactly what I needed to hear.

Complexity is expressed in simplicity. Complex truths in Scripture are learned for the purpose of fulfilling the royal law of our King – to love God and neighbor. Our study of theology can be expressed in three simple everyday truths.

Read my three points at For the Church >>

Do Not Fear the Hard Things of Marriage

The picture in my head was clear, the image of a sheep being guided along from the rear by its shepherd. The sheep stayed the course on the straight path by the taps of the staff to its hindquarters. I heard the Lord say: “Do not fear, I will guide you and protect you.”

God was speaking to my heart as I confronted my fears of marriage. I was dating my husband at the time and fear tethered me back from going forward in the relationship. I was afraid of putting myself in a vulnerable position, because it could possibly lead to hurt. I wanted a life devoid of personal pain and heartache. I wanted to take my own hands and shelter my heart, instead of placing it into the hands of my Father…

Read the rest at desiringGod.org >>

Glorifying God with Autism

By: Teresa Chen

In the summer of 2012 we welcomed our first child. We didn’t realize that he was behind most kids developmentally and struggled to meet many of his milestones. He received a diagnosis of autism at age three this past summer. Some signs seemed to point towards this direction but we were never quite sure.

“He’s quirky,” one of his therapists would say, “but I don’t think he’s autistic.” Also, because autism is a spectrum, there are many different experiences of it and children with the diagnosis don’t always look the same. I’ve wrestled with this diagnosis in the past. On one hand, he has many things about him that are “normal”. On the other hand, he’s struggled socially than most other kids. As we have walked down this path with our son, here are some things that God has shown us.

1. It’s completely ok to say it’s not ok.

Raising an autistic child is a form of real suffering, and it’s ok to say it’s hard. 1 Peter 1 says we have living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and yet are grieved by various trials. Life is not what it should be, and yet we hope in something better for all eternity.

Our son’s inflexibility and outbursts are a real part of our daily lives and are emotionally draining at times. During those times I’ve found freedom in admitting, “This is really hard!” without feeling guilty that it IS hard. As Christians, our lives are lived sorrowful, yet always rejoicing (2 Cor 6:10). This sorrow helps us cling to Christ in our weakness, and that is a true gift.

2. A diagnosis is a tool, not an identity.

The word autism is a scary word in today’s world. It certainly was to us. Over time, we’ve realized that this diagnosis is both helpful and unhelpful. While it highlights that our child is different than others, it also has opened up doors to therapies and schools that have served our son a lot. Also, it helps those meeting our son for the first time to be more understanding and patient with him.

His diagnosis doesn’t change who he is, but is merely a tool that describes aspects of who he is. Autism doesn’t have the final say in who our son is, because Scripture paints a fuller story of his identity. In the world’s terms, a diagnosis traps him into saying, “I am autistic.” He instead can say, “I have autistic tendencies, but I am a son, an image bearer, of my Creator and King.”

3. God is not limited by autism.

As we prayed for God to provide children, God heard our cries and provided our son for us. He is the exact son that we were supposed to have. God didn’t make a mistake in giving him to us.

While it would be great if he could catch up with his peers, Scripture tells us that there is a greater “human-ness” than achieving academic or social success; being truly human is glorifying God and enjoying Him forever. Our son is included in this calling. Our biggest desire for him is that he knows God and lives for Him in the context of who God made him to be. Faithfulness to God may look different for him than us, but we are called to raise him and guide him in figuring out what that looks like.

Recently, God graciously gave me a picture of how the Gospel includes people with autism. Another family’s teenage autistic son sat two rows in front of me at church and took part in communion. He was included in the kingdom of God and was remembering what his Savior had done! I was reminded that God isn’t limited by autism in His ability to save. I can look up from weakness and dream big for my son because his God is so big.

4We must all make room in our lives for people with disabilities. 

Raising our son has challenged me to make room in my life for other people who are different or hard to love. I am thankful for those who have been compassionate and welcoming to him, and have been humbled in my pride to want to love others like I would want people to love him.

Many times I just want to be comfortable and to be around people who are like me. However, true unity in Christ includes diversity in age, race, culture, socio-economic status, and physical and mental abilities. Through Christ we are united to His church, which transcends all boundaries and unifies us. We must make room for diversity in our lives and in the church, including those who are relationally difficult, because the Gospel is for such as these.

Adversity Can Drive Our Affections to Christ

I didn’t want to get married. But I knew I was turning away a gift from God. Fear was gripping my heart as I resisted the gift of marriage. I knew it would be hard work and I would get hurt in the process. I thought thinking about marriage in terms of a gift meant adopting a sentimental view: a dozen red roses, date nights, dinner and wine, romantic picnics, and late night pillow talk. Maybe the romanticized view of marriage would elevate my negativity? After five years in my marriage I’m just now learning what that gift actually means.

Read More at For The Church >>