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.
“But women will be saved through childbearing.” (1 Timothy 2:15, NIV)
Ever wondered what in the world this verse means?! If so, you’re not alone. As Bible scholar Andreas Kostenberger admits, “This simple statement has mystified average Bible readers as well as Christian scholars for centuries.”
However, it was included in God’s Word. Therefore, truth relevant to our lives is to be gleaned from this verse. Thanks to Dr. Kostenberger’s extensive study, we can better understand its meaning, and its significant implications for us as women.
At first glance 1 Timothy 2:15 can appear to contradict other Scriptures that clearly state salvation is by grace, through faith, and not of works (Eph. 2:8-9). But sound interpretive principles tell us this can’t be true. So what is this “being saved” exactly, and what about single women or those who can’t conceive? Most importantly, what does this verse mean for my life today?
Dr. Kostenberger concludes that Paul is not referring here to final salvation, but rather that “‘women shall be kept safe by childbearing’ is the likely rendering of 1 Timothy 2:15.” Furthermore, “it can be argued that what women are to be kept safe from is being deceived, ultimately by Satan himself.” He goes on:
What does it mean, then, for a woman to be “kept safe [from Satan]”? It means, among other things, that she will not yield in her mind to false notions of what it means for her to be a woman and in particular a woman of God. It means that she will respect divinely set boundaries in the exercise of her spiritual gifts and ministry calling in trust and obedience to God’s Word. It means that she will find fulfillment in her domestic calling, in her relationship with her husband, in her role as mother and maker of the home, and in proper ministry involvements in God’s “household,” the church (see 1 Tim. 3:15)
Suddenly, we realize the tremendous implications of this so-called “difficult” verse. We are “kept safe” from Satan’s lies when we hold fast to Scripture’s definition of womanhood. We are kept safe when we “respect divinely set boundaries” and “find fulfillment in [our] domestic calling.” What powerful motivation for biblical womanhood!
Having said this, Dr. Kostenberger responds to the most likely objection:
Does that mean that women are to be “confined” to the home? Not at all. The mandate for women to center their calling around the home does not mean to limit it to the home. As passages such as Proverbs 31 make very clear, women will participate in a great variety of activities from their home as a base and thus be great blessings to their husbands and children. More than that, women, by bearing children and thus fulfilling their natural procreative and biological functions, actively participate in humanity’s rule over creation (see Gen. 1:28: “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it”). Single women, likewise, can take an active part in God’s work as they devote themselves to matters pertaining to “God’s household” (1 Tim. 3:15; see 1 Cor. 7:29-35).
Properly understood, this verse can serve as both a warning and a comfort. It is like a divine “green zone” for us as women—protecting us from danger outside and providing joy and peace within. When we as women—single and married, the childless and the mother—“find fulfillment in [our] domestic calling,” both in the home and in the church, we are kept safe from Satan’s strategies to rob us (and our families) of peace and joy.
There is much more that can be said about this verse, and Dr. Kostenberger says it in the September 1997 issue (yes, almost nine years ago!) of the CBMW newsletter. You can also find a link to an even more scholarly explanation of this text at Andreas Kostenberger’s weekly blog (you just have to scroll down to last week’s entry). Finally, we want to take this opportunity to recommend the books Women in the Church: A Fresh Analysis of 1 Timothy 2:9-15 edited by Andreas Kostenberger, Thomas Schreiner and H.S. Baldwin as well as God, Marriage, and Family by Dr. Kostenberger, which Dad says is the single best book he’s read on this topic.
Thanks be to God for verses such as 1 Timothy 2:15!
Q. “I am curious what you ladies might have to say on the topic of dealing with the grief that comes from the ending of a relationship, particularly when a woman believed it would end in marriage.”
A. This question immediately brought back memories of a similar season that I experienced in my relationship with Mike. Although the Lord ultimately planned marriage for us, there was a period of time when it appeared our relationship was over for good. And while I realize that not all stories have the same ending, the issues God was after in my heart are the same for all of us—whether or not we eventually get married, and regardless of the nature of our disappointed hope.
When Mike and I ended our relationship, it was after many months of mutual feelings, and much time spent pursuing marriage. Before the decision to call things off, we would both have been pretty confident marriage to each other was in our future (Read the long version of our story here.) So, upon ending our relationship, I was immediately faced with the temptation to despair. What was God doing? Why was I so confused? I thought Mike was the one! The tears were many, just ask my mom.
This decision marked the beginning of one of the biggest battles I had yet to face in my walk with the Lord. The fight for FAITH. Did I really believe what I had been taught from Scripture about God’s sovereignty? Did I trust God that He had a perfect plan for my life? Was I confident that He would reveal His will to me, in His good time? Could I be happy if His plan didn’t include marriage? I’m sorry to say that my answer to many of these questions was often a resounding “no.” I thought that my ideas and plans were best. If only the Lord would speak more clearly. If only He would do it this way—MY way.
How grateful I am for the mercy of God upon my life during this struggle. Through the leadership of my parents, I began to press into God’s Word in a most intense way. I spent hours studying “faith” and “sovereignty” in the Bible, and talking through the issues of sin in my heart with others. The book Is God Really in Control? (previously entitled Trusting God) by Jerry Bridges became a faithful friend to me. I read this book over and over again. Quotes like these fed my soul…
“God in His infinite wisdom knows exactly what adversity we need to grow more and more into the likeness of His Son. He not only knows what we need but when we need it and how best to bring it to pass in our lives. He is the perfect teacher or coach. His discipline is always exactly suited for our needs. He never over trains us by allowing too much adversity in our lives.” Page 122
“If we are to experience peace in our souls in times of adversity, we must come to the place where we truly believe that God’s ways are simply beyond us and stop asking Him “why” or even trying to determine it ourselves. This may seem like an intellectual “cop out,” a refusal to deal with the really tough issues of life. In fact, it is just the opposite. It is a surrender to the truth about God and our circumstances as it is revealed to us by God Himself in His inspired Word.” Page 126-7
Slowly, I cannot tell you exactly when, my heart began to change. I still didn’t know if marriage was in my future, but my heart was at peace in the sovereignty of my good and loving Father. I wanted His perfect plan to be fulfilled in my life.
If you find yourself in a similar situation today (and this fight for faith is certainly not limited to the arena of marriage), I would encourage you to take drastic action. Renew your mind with the consistent study of God’s Word. Purchase Jerry Bridges’ book and pursue the counsel and help of a pastor and godly friends. Grace awaits you!
“The heart of man plans his way but the Lord establishes his steps.” Proverbs 16:9
As you all know, my little brother, Chad turned 13 this past Sunday. While Dad and Mom took the occasion to encourage and challenge him in his walk with God, his birthday wasn’t all serious. This special event also called for some big-time celebrating! So on Monday morning the whole family (silly nephews and sweet niece included) took Chad away for an overnight at an indoor water park. Fun times! We returned home late last night, happy and water-logged. I’ve included a couple of pics below to give you a little taste of our time.
Happy birthday, Chuckie!