God provides the will and supplies for going well through suffering.
Have you ever wondered how you would handle a persecutor threatening your life, or a time of deep despair when all hope was lost? I have. I do not know how I would respond, but I know there are people who have gone through the suffering well because God enabled them to at just the right moment.
Jesus asked his Father if there was some other way than him dying on the cross to remove the sins of the world. There was not, and at just the right time God gave him the strength to carry his cross on a march through the crowds and to fulfill all the prophecies through his words and obedience on the cross.
Let me finish with a story:
There was a young girl who told her father that she did not think she could stand strong to be a martyr for Jesus Christ under Nazi rule. Her father gave a wise answer:
“When we take a train trip, when do I give you money for the ticket? Three weeks before?” No, the girl replied. “You give it to me just before we get on the train.”
“That is right,” said the father, “and so it is with God’s strength. Our wise Father in heaven knows when you are going to need things too. Today you do not need the strength to be a martyr; but as soon as you are called upon for the honor of facing death for Jesus, he will supply the strength you need – just in time.”
This little girl was Corrie ten Boom, a Dutch Christian survivor of the Nazi concentration camps who had helped many Jews escape the Nazis during World War II. Corrie told this story of the train ticket to African Christians several decades later who were living under persecution by their new government. As they listened to her talk, she shared another story:
When she was in the concentration camp she was asked by other prisoners to read some stories from her Bible, an offense punishable by death. Corrie agreed, took her Bible from hiding, and began to read. With her back to the door, she sensed a female guard come in silently. Aware of this enemy’s presence, she started to sing. The others began to nervously sing with her. When they had finished, the female guard said, “Another song, like that one.” And so they sang again – and many more. After that, Corrie spoke to the guard about Jesus. From that time on, this female guard changed her behavior toward that group.
From that experience, Corrie shared with her African friends this lesson:
“I knew that every word I said could mean death. Yet never before had I felt such peace and joy in my heart as while I was giving the Bible message in the presence of my enemy. God gave me the grace and power I needed – the money for the train ticket arrived just the moment I was to step on the train.”
From these stories, and perhaps stories you know, we see that God is never late in bringing us His grace and power to handle the suffering we go through.
I told you of the robbery and suffering we went through during and after the crime. What I didn’t tell you was that in the midst of that robbery, being threatened with my life, I remained entirely calm. I remembered my Maasai language skills to communicate with the thieves. God kept them calm as He kept me calm. I had done nothing to anticipate or prepare for this, except to faithfully serve the Lord day by day by day. And in the moment, he gave me my ticket of calmness, language ability, clear thinking immediately from a deep sleep, and even a motion with my arm that saved my body from deeper injury of a club I didn’t see coming on me in full force.
As I close, I can only say that a theology of suffering can help you think through suffering more clearly – but a faithful walk with Christ will empower you to bear the suffering supernaturally, by his grace.
I leave you with this scripture:
For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!
So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. (2 Cor 4:17-18)
‘Til next time…