Mark Talbot, another contributor to Suffering and the Sovereignty of God, considers, “All the Good that is Ours in Christ: Seeing God’s Gracious Hand in the Hurts Others Do To Us.” Ponder the following thoughts and listen to his message.
“Paul reports afflictions so severe that he and those with him ‘despaired of life itself’ (2 Cor. 1:8; see vv. 8-11). Many of us have tasted such grief. I have known afflictions much worse than my paralyzing accident. I have had seasons of perplexity about God’s providence that have been so deep that sleep has fled from me. Yet these griefs have been God’s gifts. For only by such severe suffering has my loving Father broken me free of some of my deeper idolatries. In the nights’ watches, while others sleep, my wakeful heart must find its rest in him or it will find no rest at all.
‘Be gracious to me, O God,’ David prayed when the Philistines seized him at Gath, ‘for man tramples on me; all day long an attacker oppresses me; my enemies trample on me all day long, for many attack me proudly. When I am afraid,’ he states,
I put my trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can flesh do to me?
‘All day long,’ David continues, ‘they twist my words;’
all their thoughts are against me for evil.
They stir up strife; they lurk;
they watch my steps,
as they have waited for my life. (Ps. 56:1-6)
But God, David knows, has kept count of his nightly tossings; he has numbered his futile wanderings; he has kept track of all of David’s sorrows. He has put David’s tears in a bottle and written all of his anguish in his book. And David knows that the God who cares for him that much will never abandon him. ‘This I know,’ he declares, ‘that God is for me. In God, whose word I praise, in the LORD, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?’ (Ps. 56:9b-11; my emphasis). David knows that God will keep his feet from sliding so that he may still walk before God ‘in the light of life’ (Ps. 56:13).”
Since last week’s Q&A discussion on the ending of a courtship, I have had a few conversations that were too good not to post.
Both were with moms who had daughters involved in relationships. The first mom had just walked her daughter through ending her relationship. As I inquired about how they were doing, she expressed gratitude for how the young man responded to her daughter in this decision. He told her that their courtship had been nothing but a success. Why? Because they had both grown in godliness. This young man had the wisdom and foresight to see that a successful relationship is not one that necessarily ends in marriage, but one where the couple grows in faith and love for the Savior.
The second mom has a daughter who is two weeks into her courtship. Everything is new and unknown. This mom told me that she and her husband were excited about this relationship because of what the Lord is doing in the hearts of their daughter and this young man in the process.
These moms see something much more significant than a relationship. They observe God at work in the hearts of their daughters. They are grateful that their daughters are growing in godliness. This is an eternal and God-honoring perspective.
So, whether you are presently exploring marriage or have recently ended a courtship, may this biblical view of relationships permeate your thinking and fill your heart with faith.
Hey y’all, small confession. I was supposed to be working on a Q&A post for this afternoon, but a little gabbing got in the way. That’s right, there was some serious “girl talk” going on today. My mom has been quite busy with traveling and speaking lately and she just finished last night. So, this afternoon, we (Mom, Nicole, Kristin, and I) squeezed in lunch during the kid’s nap. And consequently, the post got squeezed out. You should see a Q&A post appear sometime tomorrow morningish.
I want to join Nicole in urging you to purchase Suffering and the Sovereignty of God edited by John Piper and Justin Taylor when it comes out in September. To increase your anticipation for this resource, and to encourage you in the midst of your trials, we will be quoting excerpts from the book each day for the remainder of the week.
Our first selection comes from one of our favorite authors and speakers, Joni Eareckson Tada (see Mom’s post “When I saw Joni Dance”), founder of Joni & Friends, author of When God Weeps, and herself a quadrapalegic. In Suffering and the Sovereignty of God she contributes a chapter entitled: “Hope…The Best of Things.” The following is a brief passage from the chapter. Also, I want to encourage you to listen to the message on which this chapter was based, given at the 2005 Desiring God National Conference. May Joni’s reliance upon God’s strength provoke us all to greater dependence upon Him.
Please know that I am no expert at this wheelchair thing. I’m no professional at being a quadriplegic. There are so many mornings when I wake up and I can hear my girlfriend come to the front door to help me get out of bed and get ready for the day. She goes to the kitchen, turns on the water, and starts brewing coffee. I know that in a few moments she’s going to come gliding into the bedroom, where she’ll greet me with a happy, “Good morning!” And I am lying there with my eyes closed, thinking, O God, I can’t do this. I am so tired. I don’t know how I’m going to make it to lunchtime. O God, I’m already thinking about how good it’s going to feel when I get back to bed tonight and put my head on this pillow.
I’m sure you have felt that way at some point. Maybe you feel that way every morning. But Psalm 10:17 says, “O LORD, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear.” O God, I often pray in the morning, God, I cannot do this. I cannot do this thing called quadriplegia. I have no resources for this. I have no strength for this—but you do. You’ve got resources. You’ve got strength. I can’t do quadriplegia, but I can do all things through you as you strengthen me (Phil. 4:13). I have no smile for this woman who’s going to walk into my bedroom in a moment. She could be having coffee with another friend, but she’s chosen to come here to help me get up. O God, please may I borrow your smile?
As Mom observed yesterday, one of the kindest things we can do for those experiencing trials or suffering is to point them to books that reveal the comfort of our Savior. Or maybe we are the ones currently walking through “The Valley of the Shadow of Death” or sinking in the “Slough of Despond” or clawing our way up “The Hill of Difficulty.” So many of us have found the books Mom mentioned to be life preservers in trials both big and small.
Here at girltalk, we are pleased to announce that on September 7, 2006 we can add another invaluable resource to these “Selections for the Suffering.” Forthcoming from Crossway Books is a brand new title: Suffering and the Sovereignty of God edited by John Piper and Justin Taylor.
You will be able to read about the “Grace of God and Suffering” by David Powlison, discover “Hope…The Best of Things” along with the ever-hopeful Joni Eareckson Tada, and see “The Hand of God in the Hurt Others Do To Us” with Mark Talbot. Of course, John Piper will set your sights high above your trials and on the glorious sovereignty of God. Each of these authors (and there are more!) write from a personal experience of suffering. But more importantly, they write from a personal experience of God in the midst of suffering.
As John Piper writes: “My prayer for this book is that God would stand forth…and show us his crucified and risen Son who has all authority in heaven and on earth, and waken in us the strongest faith in the supremacy of Christ, and the deepest comforts in suffering, and the sweetest fellowship with Jesus that we have ever known.”
So, mark your calendars for September 7 and be among the first to purchase this book. As for myself, I can’t wait to be instructed and comforted by these trial-tested, God-glorifying men and women.
For all the curious, we are pleased to report that Mom has emerged the victor in the Mahaney Family NCAA Tournament Pool. With almost no understanding of basketball and a sentimental method for choosing her picks, she has, nevertheless, vanquished CJ “Still Lots of Time Left” Mahaney, Mike “This is Sports Center” Bradshaw and Chad “It’s Doug Gottlieb’s Fault” Mahaney.
Womanly intuition has triumphed again. But then, are any of us really surprised?
I want to send a heart-felt “thank you” out to all of you who have prayed for me recently. I just returned from a weekend women’s conference in Charlotte, NC (I’ll fill you in on my time there in a couple of days) and tomorrow I am speaking at the first of three Titus 2 Tuesdays at Covenant Life Church. I continue to covet your prayers!
Among many memorable moments this past weekend, I spent time with a group of pastors’ wives at a luncheon. One of the questions these women asked was “how do we best help people walking through difficult and challenging circumstances?” It’s a question I receive often and one I never feel qualified to answer. What do you say to a person you are visiting in the hospital or do for a friend in a protracted family conflict? Just offering sympathy and quoting a verse can seem so inadequate.
There are many ways that we can and should extend care to individuals experiencing suffering. However, as I told these ladies, one simple way to serve them is by introducing them to wise, suffering-tested friends in the form of books.
Godly men and women who have spent time studying Scripture in depth on the topic of suffering, often experienced suffering themselves, and then written about it, are uniquely equipped to serve those in trial. They can walk with them, holding their hand if you will, through the questions, the struggles, and the pain—leading them ultimately to the Savior.
Several months back, following Hurricane Katrina, Nicole wrote a post recommending some resources on the topic of suffering. I’ve reposted it here by way of suggestion. To this list I would also add the book Janelle mentioned last week, Is God Really In Control? Trusting God in a World of Hurt? by Jerry Bridges.
Along with personal expressions of care and love, books such as these can truly be a great kindness to a suffering friend.
September 06, 2005
Preparing to Suffer
Whether or not we are suffering in the wake of Hurricane Katrina this week, author D.A. Carson points out that “The truth of the matter is that all we have to do is live long enough and we will suffer.” It’s not a question of “if” but merely of “when” we will suffer. Similarly, John Piper notes that: “We all will suffer; we all must suffer; and most American Christians are not prepared in mind or heart to believe or experience this.”
Just as the time to shore up the levies protecting the city of New Orleans was before the hurricane hit, so the ideal time for each of us to prepare for suffering is before its howling winds swirl around us.
So how do we prepare our minds and hearts to experience suffering? We must dig deep into God’s Word to shore up our spiritual foundations. And as an expression of His tender mercy, God has provided us with numerous helpful resources that expound His Word as it relates to suffering and applies these truths to our hearts. Here is our short list of the most excellent resources on this oft-neglected but desperately needed topic:
How Long O Lord: Reflections of Suffering and Evil
Besides my dad’s opinion that this is the best book on suffering available today, I’ll let a quote from this book by D.A. Carson serve as it’s endorsement “In the darkest night of the soul, Christians have something to hang onto that Job never knew. We know Christ crucified. Christians have learned that when there seems to be no other evidence of God’s love, they cannot escape the cross. ‘He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?’ (Rom. 8:32).”
When God Weeps: Why Our Sufferings Matter to the Almighty
From a life of intense personal suffering as a parapalegic, Joni Eareckson Tada along with co-author Steve Estes take us to the foot of the cross to view our own sufferings in light of the ultimate sacrifice of our Savior.
The Journal of Biblical Counseling
From our good friends at “The Journal” come two articles: “Exalting Pain? Ignoring Pain? What do we do with Suffering?” by Edward T. Welch (Vol. 12, No. 3, Spring 1994) which you can order by calling 800-318-2186, and “Counseling with Suffering People” by John Piper (Vol. 21, No. 2, Winter 2003), available on their website.
Finally, my personal favorite…
Beside Still Waters
When I was in the hospital following complications from giving birth to Jack, my dad came and read me passages from this amazing book. I still read it often and try to give it to as many suffering people as I know. It’s a challenge to have to pick just one quote to share with you, but I want to close with this one. For although trials and suffering are inevitable, Charles Spurgeon has helped me to see that from a biblical perspective they are also a blessing, because—
“Trials greatly enlarge the soul. Thus I do not want, in my better mind, to escape great trials, since they involve great graces. If my strength shall be as my days (Deut. 33:25), then let my days be long and dark, for my strength will be mighty, God will be glorified, and I will be blessed. I earnestly urge every tested Christian to dwell on this truth, for it may be a great comfort. There is love, immortal and unchanging love, in heaven toward you, which will never grow cold. You will be helped. God will sooner cease to be than cease to be faithful. Be of good courage, for today He will strengthen your heart.”
Whether you are in the midst of suffering from Hurricane Katrina, or preparing to meet your own personal hurricane someday, may you be of good courage, and may God strengthen your heart!
This picture, sent to us by Suzanne from Tennessee, reminded me of my Grandpa’s sense of humor. He has since passed away, but while he was alive he never ceased to keep us entertained. On one occasion he was having a meal at our house when Kristin had the chicken pox. He very seriously informed Kristin that the chicken pox would cause her to turn into a chicken. She fell “hook, line and sinker” and it took some convincing on my parent’s part to make her believe that Grandpa was just kidding. If my Grandpa were still alive, this sign would surely make him laugh!
on behalf of Carolyn, Nicole, and Kristin
I’m tired and I need more rest. But when? How? These were my questions as family and friends recently sought to counsel me through this exhausting season with three energetic boys.
A typical day begins early and goes non-stop until naptime. My kid’s naptime, that is. While my little ones are resting and recharging their batteries, I am usually trying to bring order back to the house, do laundry—you know, start something and finish it without interruption. Then it’s a whirlwind of dinner prep, dishes cleanup, and jammies on. Usually there’s a meeting, or home projects to tackle, and before you know it, it’s time to do the same thing all over again. Except, I still haven’t recovered from the day before.
For me and every other exhausted mom, we must find our rest and our strength in Christ. One of our pastors wives, Nancy Loftness, reminded me of 1 Peter 4:11, “Whoever serves, [should do so] as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.” I MUST consistently seek God for joy and stamina to serve my family another day. There is no other way to bring glory to God as a mother.
However, my mom, sisters, and faithful friends have also been helping me take practical steps to alleviate my tremendous tiredness. In a word, simplify. Get strategic and get creative about eliminating needless work. Make rest a priority so I’m better able to serve my husband and my little men.
Over lunch the other day, Mom, Nicole, Janelle and I brainstormed about my daily schedule. We talked through the trouble points and they threw out all kinds of ideas such as buying pre-packaged food for my boy’s lunches, getting help with babysitting, and developing a plan for staying on top of laundry.
This brainstorming session has made a significant difference in my life of late, and I want to encourage other moms to try it as well. Gather a couple of friends and fellow-moms together for a strategy session (make it a fun night out!), or ask several “older” women for ideas. Examine every aspect of your day and figure out how you can simplify your life and schedule. The practical changes that serve you best will probably be different than for me. However, by minimizing your workload where possible, you’ll find reserves of strength to serve your family, and more peace along the way.
Simplifying my life has provided me with much-needed rest. It has also required a healthy dose of humility, an honest admission that I’m not “Super Mom.” I’m just an ordinary woman seeking to serve with the strength that God provides—in whatever way it comes. May God be glorified!
We’ve already spoken about Chad’s birthday several times this week. Before we leave this event to the family history books, we want to share one of Chad’s letters with you. As Mom explained on Monday, she and Dad wanted Chad to hear the “voices” of godly men he respects on this special occasion. To read Chad’s book of letters is to realize what a precious gift he has received in the lives and the words of these men.
One of the men who kindly wrote Chad a letter was Dad’s friend, David Powlison. While each letter was uniquely moving, Dr. Powlison’s words were not only applicable to a thirteen year old boy progressing toward manhood, but have been an encouragement to us all. So much so, that Dad even used this letter in a recent counseling situation, and we couldn’t refrain from asking permission to share it with all of you.
Please don’t skim this letter or read it too quickly. It is priceless biblical guidance from a wise man for all of us—young and old. I’m willing to bet you won’t get through it without being moved to tears as you contemplate the mercy of God in your life. So, please read it as if it was written to you. Then share it with a friend.