Suffering

Oct 18

Getting a Foothold

2011 at 10:11 pm   |   by Carolyn Mahaney Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Suffering

When this trial dropped like a bomb on our lives this past summer, it was shocking, painful, and disorienting. Slander and false accusations flew at us from all sides, shrapnel raining down on our entire family. I struggled to get my bearings in a haze of questions and grief. I rushed for cover in the Psalms. I guarded my soul with sermons and hymns. And I sought God for a path forward through this trial that would bring glory to my Savior.

Even though there was so much I didn’t understand at first, I knew from Scripture that there was one thing I must not do. I must not retaliate. I must not return evil for evil, but entrust my soul and our reputation to my faithful Creator (1 Pet. 4:19). Here was a place to simply stand.

Martyn-Lloyd Jones calls this “getting a foothold.” It is what Asaph resolved in Psalm 73 when he was downcast and perplexed and his “feet had almost stumbled” (v. 2). He simply resolved not to sin with his mouth: “If I had said, ‘I will speak thus,’ I would have betrayed the generation of your children” (v. 15)

“He held on to what he was certain of, and he held on at all costs,” explains Lloyd-Jones:

“About his main problem he was very uncertain; he could not understand that at all. Even after he had pulled himself up, it still puzzled him…But having looked at the thing again, he realized that if he were to speak as he was tempted to speak, the immediate consequences would be that he would be the cause of offense to God’s people, and he held on to that fact” (Faith on Trial, p. 38)

When trial or temptation suddenly invades our lives, we may be knocked off our feet by the blast. The first thing we must do is simply stand—stand on God’s Word and determine what we must do, or not do, in obedience to Him. We must not despise the day of small beginnings, urges Dr. Lloyd Jones. For this is “the way in which the Psalmist managed to steady himself and arrive back eventually at such a great and firm position of faith” (p. 31).

God had much more to teach me in the weeks to follow in this trial. But it began by simply “getting a foothold.” May God help us all to stand, and eventually arrive again at a mountaintop of faith.

Oct 11

Still Rejoicing

2011 at 7:55 pm   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Suffering

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” James 1:2-3

To “count it all joy” doesn’t mean we will always feel happy in the midst of trials; but regardless of how we feel, it is a command we can and should obey. Martyn Lloyd Jones explains:

“There is all the difference in the world between rejoicing and feeling happy. The Scripture tells us that we should always rejoice [Phil. 4:4]....To rejoice is a command, yes, but there is all the difference in the world between rejoicing and being happy. You cannot make yourself happy, but you can make yourself rejoice, in the sense that you will always rejoice in the Lord. Happiness is something within ourselves, rejoicing is ‘in the Lord.’ Take the fourth chapter of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians. There you will find that the great Apostle puts it all very plainly and clearly in that series of extraordinary contrasts which he makes: ‘We are troubled on every side (I don’t think he felt very happy at the moment) yet not distressed’, ‘we are perplexed (he wasn’t feeling happy at all at that point) but not in despair’, ‘persecuted but not forsaken’, ‘cast down, but not destroyed’—and so on. In other words the Apostle does not suggest a kind of happy person in a carnal sense, but he was still rejoicing.”

Oct 5

God Will Surprise You

2011 at 9:35 pm   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Suffering

One of the many helpful books I have read and re-read these past few months is Suffering and the Sovereignty of God edited by John Piper and Justin Taylor. This book includes contributions by experts in the field of suffering: men and women who have experienced—and in some cases are still in the midst of—extreme and unrelenting suffering, but who have learned to count it all joy when facing trials of many kinds (James 1:2). A few years ago, when this book was first published, we were allowed to offer a sneak preview of several chapters:

All the Good that is Ours in Christ”: Seeing God’s Gracious Hand in the Hurts Others Do to Us by Mark Talbot

God’s Grace and Your Sufferings by David Powlison

Hope…the Best of Things by Joni Eareckson Tada

“How does God’s grace meet you in your sufferings?” David Powlison asks in his chapter:

“We can make the right answer sound old hat, but I guarantee this: God will surprise you. He will make you stop. You will struggle. He will bring you up short. You will hurt. He will take his time. You will grow in faith and in love. He will deeply delight you. You will find the process harder than you ever imagined – and better. Goodness and mercy will follow you all the days of your life. No matter how many times you’ve heard it, no matter how long you’ve known it, no matter how well you can say it, God’s answer will come to mean something better than you could ever imagine.”

Let me encourage you to listen to the conference messages that these chapters were based on and to buy and study this book. Let these godly men and women hold your hand through your suffering and point you to our gracious, sovereign God.

Oct 3

This is a Test

2011 at 9:35 pm   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Suffering

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” James 1:2-3

Nancy Wilson has some helpful thoughts on trials and testing:

So, how do we react when tough things happen? We should view it the way the Bible tells us to view it. This is a test. God sends His children pop quizzes and tests from time to time to see if we are learning our lessons, if we are paying attention, if we are reading our assignments.

Read her entire post here.

Sep 30

Forget Not

2011 at 6:36 pm   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Suffering

“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.” Ps. 103:2

The Psalmist tells us to “forget not” because it is so easy to forget—especially in a trial! When enemies surround us and troubles rain down like arrows thick and fast, it is hard to remember the benefits we have received from the Lord.

That’s why my mom started a “mercies list” She wanted to help our family remember all the Lord’s benefits, and not forget a single one. So she asked for our help to think of all the mercies we had received from God’s hand in the midst of this difficult time and she wrote them down. She continues to add to the list regularly whenever one of us remembers or receives a specific mercy.

Not only is this (long!) list a reminder to all of us of God’s many benefits, it encourages us to keep on the lookout for new mercies every morning (Lam. 3:22-23). This regular recalling of God’s mercies gives us renewed hope for the future, for as the hymn writer put it so well, His streams of mercy are never-ceasing.

The amazing thing is that even when we do forget His benefits, God does not forget to lavish us with grace. “God has not forgotten to be gracious, nor shut up His tender mercies,” Spurgeon reminds us, “it may be night in the soul, but there need be no terror, for the God of love changes not.”

What mercies can you remember today? The rest of Psalm 103 can get you started.

Sep 29

God Does Not Fail You

2011 at 6:15 pm   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Suffering

“Why yield to gloomy anticipations? Who told you that the night would never end in day?.... Who told you that the winter of your discontent would proceed from frost to frost, from snow and ice and hail to deeper snow and yet more heavy tempest of despair? Don’t you know that day follows night, that flood comes after ebb, that spring and summer succeed winter? Be full of hope! Hope forever! For God does not fail you. Do you know that God loves you in the midst of all this?.... You will yet, midst the splendors of eternity, forget the trials of time, or only remember them to bless the God who led you through them and works your lasting good by them. Come, sing in the midst of tribulation. Rejoice even while passing through the furnace. Cause the desert to ring with your exulting joys, for these light afflictions will soon be over, and then forever with the Lord, your bliss shall never wane.”

~Charles Spurgeon, Morning & Evening revised and edited by Alistair Begg, July 21, evening.

Sep 28

Don’t Waste Your Trial

2011 at 5:52 pm   |   by Carolyn Mahaney Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Suffering

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4

Another insight I’ve gleaned in my study of James 1:2-8 is from the phrase “And let steadfastness have its full effect…” This command carries an implication, and the implication is that it is possible to walk through a trial and not profit in the way that God intends. We can actually miss out on the “full effect” God has designed for that trial. What a horrific thought!

Trials are allowed by God for a purpose. They are hard, sometimes excruciatingly so, but they produce good fruit if—and only if—we let steadfastness have its full effect. That’s why John Piper urges people “Don’t Waste Your Trial”: because it is possible to waste it.

“James is bringing in a word of caution.” comments Alec Motyer on this verse:

“A believer might endure for a while, and then tire of enduring. In this case the desired growth to maturity is halted mid-way. There has to be a persistency of enduring: Steadfastness must have its full effect…. The road is, therefore, hard and long, and the task is unremitting: to endure the first onset of the startling, unexpected trial, and to endure again while it persists, and then to go on enduring…. We are thus called to a persistent endurance. But this hard road has a glorious destination for us: that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. The Message of James, p.32.

So how do we keep from wasting our trial? We persist in enduring. No matter how long the road. No matter how numerous the setbacks. No matter how deep the disappointment. We must keep before us that glorious destination: “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” And having done all, we must simply stand.

Sep 21

Whatever My God Ordains

2011 at 3:34 pm   |   by Janelle Bradshaw Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Suffering

On our dining room wall hangs a four by six foot chalkboard. Come over some time and see, you can’t miss it. I change it up every so often with a Scripture or quote or fun seasonal decor. But I have a feeling that the quote I put up there recently isn’t coming down any time soon. I hope it brings comfort to your soul as it does mine every time I sneak into the dining room for a peek.

Whatever my God ordains is right,
Here shall my stand be taken;
Though sorrow, or need, or death be mine,
Yet I am not forsaken,
My Father’s care circles me there,
He holds me that I shall not fall,
And so to Him I leave it all.

~Samuel Rodigast

Sep 20

“Count it All Joy”

2011 at 4:58 pm   |   by Carolyn Mahaney Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Joy | Suffering

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” James 1:2-8 To be honest, these haven’t been the first verses I’ve run to in the midst of this trial. “Count it all joy.” Really?! But over time, God has graciously drawn me to this passage and taught me encouraging, faith-building lessons as I have sought to study and plunge its depths. One sermon that has helped me explore this passage is by Russell Moore from his series on James, “Life in the Mist”. I’ve listened to it several times and highly recommend it as an insightful introduction to this passage of Scripture. Whether or not you are in a trial, we all need wisdom; and thanks be to God, He promises to give generously to all, without reproach!

Sep 19

My Savior’s Prayers

2011 at 10:16 pm   |   by Carolyn Mahaney Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Suffering

There have been certain times during this trial when my prayers were reduced to nothing more than cries for help throughout the day. “Lord, have mercy on us.” “Lord, we need your grace.” “Lord, please help.” On these days I sometimes felt guilty that my prayers lacked substance. Then I remembered the truth of Christ’s prayers for me:

“It is a consoling thought that Christ is praying for us, even when we are negligent in our prayer life; that He is presenting to the Father those spiritual needs which were not present to our minds and which we often neglect to include in our prayers; and that He prays for our protection against the dangers of which we are not even conscious, and against the enemies which threaten us, though we do not notice it. He is praying that our faith may not cease, and that we may come out victoriously in the end.”
Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, p.403.

“If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million enemies. Yet distance makes no difference. He is praying for me.”

Robert Murray M’Cheyne, Robert Murray M’Cheyne p.179.

(From a post by Justin Taylor)

What enormous comfort and courage poured into my soul when I remembered my Savior’s prayers!