I just wrote about struggling through unbiblical expectations of the things owed to me by God; and as a verbal processor (writing counts – I just need to get it outside of my head), the lesson is sinking in fast and deep. So, this post is mostly a Part 2 to my previous post, If/When … Then.
I have a friend whose young child is struggling through a significant illness. He is in and out of the hospital with very little hope for a permanent cure. The pain and debilitation that accompany his disease are awakening in him a wisdom beyond years. And I have no doubt that this experience is growing a unique understanding of his relationship to the Savior. I also have no doubt that Christ will use this time of deep disappointment for His glory and my friend’s good. And lastly, I hope this young man is able to take the lessons he’s learning through the tears and point others towards a Heavenly Father who cares for us more than we could ever imagine.
However, there are many who encourage him to view this trial in light of a special anointing. Their comments read something like this:
- I’m sure God is preparing you for a very special ministry through all this.
- God would never ask something like this of you without having an anointing for your life.
- When you are struggling, remember that God calls all His mighty servants into the desert for testing.
- As you show yourself faithful in these trials, God is preparing a mighty harvest for you to reap.
I have heard (or thought!) versions of each of these statements in my own life, too. And it is heady stuff to ponder the possibility of a ministry that could impact people’s lives. But let’s be real before we swallow this thinking hook, line, and sinker.
What is this saying and what is it not saying?
- It is not saying that God is preparing me to appreciate, with an even greater understanding, the deep satisfaction of life eternal with my Creator in the life to come.
- It is not saying that the mighty harvest made ready for me to reap is a more connected relationship with my Savior.
- It is not encouraging me to recognize my trial as part of a bigger whole that EVERY believer experiences in some form or another.
- It is saying that suffering is a guarantee for a platform that brings my voice to a large audience.
- It is playing to my vanity and pride telling me that I am somehow more worthy of a public ministry.
- It is encouraging me to view my suffering as a marker for God’s promise of earthly advantage.
The subtle subtext of these statements is that my suffering, my experience through a season of sorrow, is a guarantee of bigger things to come [read: earthly wealth, public ministry, freedom from future trials, easy happiness]. But that is not a biblical promise. And taken in view of suffering Christians across the globe, it is a slap in the face of untold millions of faithful brothers and sisters who died in obscurity having lived out a life filled with anguish, affliction, and trial.
I need to get my head around this truth. The end-goal of this calamity is, and will always remain first and foremost, to bring glory to God and draw me closer to my Savior. Period. Only with that clear understanding can I reinterpret the well-meant-but-biblically-inaccurate remarks given to me.
Let me revisit the comments left for my friend’s son and that are sometimes given to me (if even in my own mind).
- I’m sure God is preparing you for a very special ministry through all this. [I’m sure God is preparing you to experience His all-encompassing grace in special ways through all of this.]
- God would never ask something like this of you without having an anointing for your life. [God would never ask something like this of you without knowing there was a purpose in every tear and heartache. He is not allowing you to suffer in vain even if you never see the outcome of your faithfulness.]
- When you are struggling, remember that God calls all his mighty servants into the desert for testing. [When you are struggling, remember that Christ, too, suffered and you participate in the life of your Savior when you share in His death.]
- As you show yourself faithful in these trials, God is preparing a mighty harvest for you to reap. [As you show yourself faithful in these trials, God is preparing you to more deeply and fully embrace His heart for your life now and in the life to come.]
I do not hold lightly the testimonies of my faithful brothers and sisters who are called to speak to the masses. And I pray that if God were to ever call the Reynolds family to be a light in the darkness of sexual abuse, we would answer that call with conviction. But if, as the vast majority of saints who make up that bright cloud of witnesses spoken of in Hebrews, this race marked for me is to be run in obscurity, let me run it well for my Lord, Jesus Christ. For to Him is all glory and honor and praise now, and forevermore. Amen.