Sunday, May 25, 2014

Learning through Suffering (2)

     I believe God works all things together for the good of those who are called according to His purpose.  Even debilitating sickness.  Even tragedy.  I have talked with many women lately who are extremely sick.  Many with autoimmune diseases like mine.  They are on medications that damage their bodies as it fights the disease.  This past year and half I developed high blood pressure due to prednisone. My whole body is changed. My face is two times bigger than normal. When I look in the mirror, I don't recognize myself. My eyes developed cataracts and I had to have eye surgery recently. My ability to think was curtailed, which is why I did not blog.  My body was in pain constantly and fatigue was so severe I felt like I was walking through thick mud  up to my thighs.  I spent most of the time in bed, getting up to try to help with light chores and help our kids the best I could.  It's been a tough time.
     Yet, the holding for was Romans 8:28.  That God will bring good from this time.  That He is allowing if for my good, the good of my family and for the good of His will.  I believe God is control. I also believe He can do whatever He desires, but what He does will always be within His character. He cannot deny Himself.  He is good and loving, righteous and just, faithful and holy.  He will never change.  He loves me.  Allowing this time of sickness was God loving me by doing what is best in the light of eternity, in light of His will.  
     So I can rejoice.  I can lie in bed and be thankful that inside, at the core of who I am, I am a child of the living God and He loves me.  That even though my outer appearance is drastically changed, my inner person remains the same, created by God through His grace.  
     And now, I asked God to please relent. To release me from this sickness.  And I feel that perhaps He is.  I have been able to decrease the medication more rapidly than before without the dreaded side-effects.  I have been more mobile and able to actually do heavier housework as we pack to get ready to return to Canada from our sabbatical in Texas.  I believe I am on the mend.  I hope I am.  But still I look to God to learn what He wanted to teach me.  Why He allowed this season of sickness.  
    I may never fully know the reason, but I do know that He as build more compassion in me for people who suffer like this, who are in pain all the time, who cannot move and who have gained weight and have changed features due to strong medication.  And I know above anything that no matter what God allows He allows it because He loves me.  And He is working out His greater purpose, a purpose that I cannot yet see.   
     I rest in that reality. And I have joy in the midst of tears.  I am so thankful that with the lower dosage of medication my brain is functioning again. I'm grateful to be learning from His Word again.  And to have music fill my heart again.  I'm thankful to very possibly be on the mend.  And I'm thankful to know that God is faithful.

Learning through Suffering

    And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Cor. 12)

          When I look at Apostle Paul, I often think of him as somehow super human, like a super apostle, a man who could do anything by faith.  And I believe he was, in many ways.  God spoke to him, teaching him deep things. Things He revealed to no one else. Even Peter said Paul's writings were sometimes hard to understand or grasp.  Through Paul, we have most of the New Testament.  I especially love Romans which shows us the miraculous mystery of being justified by faith.  All this came through the writings of Paul.
         These revelations came through much suffering.  Paul was imprisoned and beaten on numerous occasions. The letters to the Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians were written from prison. Paul writes, "in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. 24 From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26 in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27 in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness—" (2 Cor. 11:23)
         Through much suffering, Paul walked with God.  And he learned to boast in his weaknesses, in his infirmities.  And he was faithful.  He finished the race and was ready to leave the earth.
         For the past one and half years, I have been struggling with sickness. I have two autoimmune diseases that pretty much incapacitated me. Four years prior, God had been teaching me many things and bringing much fruit through the discipleship ministry at our church.  Many people were coming to Christ, breaking free from addictions and finding true freedom.  Then sickness hit, and I was pulled out of everything in an instant.  I often wondered why God allowed this.  I wondered if I had sinned in some way and God was punishing me.  But I could find no known sin.  I wondered if perhaps it was like Job, a righteous man who was tested by God with extreme loss in his life.  Or was I like Paul, who was given a messenger of Satan to buffet him, lest he be exalted above measure.
          Paul pleaded with God to remove the affliction.  I, and others, have asked God to heal me and remove this affliction, but the word I received was, "not now." God was allowing sickness for a reason.   What I have known about God held me. I know He is good.  All He does is from His goodness.  He loves me and all He allows is from this love. So the sickness I am enduring is from the loving hand of God. He is allowing it, for His purposes, for His glory.  I hold to Romans 8:28: 28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

Importance of a Name

 No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you.   (Genesis 17:5-7)

God spoke His promise into Abram, changing his name from Abram (High Father) to Abraham (Father of the Multitude). Roy Hayden wrote, "Every time Abraham spoke or heard his name, he would be reminded of God's promise... The principle: Let God's words, which designated his will and promise for your life, become as fixed in your  mind and as governing of you speech as God's changing Abraham's name was in shaping his concept of himself.  Do not 'name' yourself anything less than God does."

Names are important.  What do you call yourself?  How do you refer to who you are?  What words do you use?  Are you accepting names that God has given or that the world or your own failures have given?  Are you loved?  Free? Redeemed? New?  Holy? and Righteous?  Or are you unloved? Captive? Lost? Broken? Unclean? and Unrighteous?

The names you apply to yourself will direct your life, your view of yourself and your expectations of how you should be treated by others.

Let's do as Roy Hayden said.  Let's not name ourselves anything less than what God does.