Very special thanks to those who prayed for my dear Philip for his partial knee replacement surgery last week. He is doing incredibly well — I know those of us who believe in the power of prayer should not be surprised, but I think his doctor was! Whenever I asked, “Philip, where is your pain level on a scale of 1 – 10?”, his response would be, “I don’t have any pain.” Now truthfully, after my three surgeries since January of 2012, I was a little stunned, a little jealous and a little irritated. Really, no pain — REALLY, Philip? But at the same time, I rejoice in how God loves my dear hubby and that this surgery is so successful and his recovery so smooth! Praise the Lord and thank you again for your prayers — keep them up!
On the heels of Philip’s good news, we have other news that’s not so good, don’t we? The unthinkable acts of violence at the Boston Marathon where death and dismemberment befell many. On my own home-front, four of my parish members have been diagnosed with breast cancer and have or will face treatment ranging from lumpectomy to radiation to mastectomy. A close loved one of mine is starving herself to death because of a life-long mental illness. Even in my own body, I am still beset with continual pain from my last surgery and the anti-cancer drug I must take for five years. Again, speaking truthfully, I’ve struggled with dealing with chronic pain and after 16 months of it, I’m ready to be done! I SO want the pain to be over.
But Prince Philip sat with me yesterday and gave me a good, hard word: “Cathie, sometimes, you just have to learn to live with the pain.” Wow. As much as I didn’t want to hear that for myself, for others I love or for the world in general, I know it’s true: Sometimes, you just have to learn to live with the pain.
Suffering is not a subject we like to speak of — it’s not a popular or uplifting topic. Yet, as I mentioned in my last blog post, suffering is something that will enter all of our lives in some form or another. I now own six Christian books on the topic. I am combing through them — looking for sound Biblical theology and good, common sense perspectives on the subject. I am learning that the word of God is filled with both — good theology and common sense on the subject of suffering. Today I am helped by the following observations about suffering which come from Suffering and the Sovereignty of God published by Crossway with John Piper and Justin Taylor as general editors.
In one chapter, John Piper makes several observations concerning suffering by Christians. Let me mention just three:
1. Suffering Deepens Faith and Holiness – Piper references Hebrews 5:8 which says that Jesus “learned obedience through what he suffered,” which does not indicate He was disobedient but that, in Piper’s words, “the process through which [Jesus] demonstrated deeper and deeper obedience was the process of suffering.” God desires that whatever suffering we encounter draw us closer to Him and deepen our faith and obedience to Him. In the midst of my suffering (or yours), let it be, Lord, let it be.
2. Suffering Makes Your Cup Increase – It was St. Paul who taught us in 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 that our enduring suffering with patience is rewarded by our increased experience of God’s glory in heaven. One of my dear sisters at St. James who was diagnosed with breast cancer said something along these same lines to me after worship service a couple of weeks ago. To my question of “How are you doing?” she replied that she now understands more about what Scripture meant when it said that “for the joy set before Him, Christ endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2). She is tasting more of that joy and glory because of her suffering. As Piper puts it, “One of the aims of God in the suffering of the saints is to enlarge their capacity to enjoy His glory both here and in the age to come.” Wow. Again, let it be, Dear Lord, let it be.
3. Suffering is the Price of Making Others Bold – Piper makes the point that God uses the suffering of His servants to “awaken others out of their slumbers of indifference and make them bold.” He gives several examples of this reality in the lives of missionaries whose suffering for the sake of the Gospel has emboldened others to share Jesus Christ. But this isn’t just true on foreign mission fields! It’s true right here at home and in our own personal suffering as well. How many people have told me that the simple story of my journey of suffering and how God has used that suffering to let me share the love of Jesus with others has made them bold to share with others as well? When saints suffer well, it is convicting to apathetic saints whose lives, at least for now, are easier and without great suffering. It is one of the glories of my suffering or yours — if we suffer well, we will encourage and convict others to do the same! Praise the Lord!
Dear Ones, sometimes, you just have to learn to live with the pain. So as we view the inevitable reality of suffering in the world around us and closer to home in our own personal sphere of living, let’s remember that God is truly sovereign and though He does not desire our suffering, He will use it — every bit of it — for His glory, if we will allow Him to work in and through us!
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject — what do you have to say about suffering?
May God be with you today in a wonderful way!
Rev. Cathie and Prince Philip
After more than 25 years in parish ministry, Rev. Cathie retired in early 2018 to pursue a quieter life with her husband Philip in the mountains of Central Oregon. Although no longer a leader in congregational life, she continues to follow her calling and passion to minister to those who suffer, especially those with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses.