Friday, March 26, 2010

Suffering, God's tool

God only allows into our lives what will help conform us to the image of Christ.

It was just one of those lines in the middle of a sermon, but I couldn't write it down fast enough. All of a sudden, suffering came into focus. Admittedly, I had struggled with the goodness of God, in the face of suffering and prayer....all those verses that I've been told work - the ones about keep asking, keep knocking, and God will give in and give you what you want. Well, they didn't say it exactly that way, but you get the idea. Or, if you don't get what you ask for, there is something wrong with how you are asking.

Anyway, I struggled with all of that. Sometimes I had a clear answer to prayer. Sometimes I got what I asked for, but meantime, a lot of people I care about kept suffering. I couldn't figure out for sure what was going on. Certainly I knew God knew what was best. And I did pray that God's will be done. I do know that suffering is sometimes a trust, that God knows certain people have been gifted with the faith and strength to honor Him through the battle and will glorify Him, but I just struggled with the why sometimes.

Then I heard those words: God only allows into our lives what will help conform us to the image of Christ. And it struck me about how little attention we pay to God, how shallow and fast are our prayers, when everything is going well. And it also struck me about how far I am from the target of being conformed to the image of Christ.

Suffering does give us the opportunity to change all of that. It boils down to two choices - become bitter and blame God, or seek His face for comfort and strength - and even to understand why. I'm not sure that is a bad thing, the wondering why, but I wonder if that should be a reflexive search. I should examine myself for the possibilities that might be reasonable realities for why God would allow this challenge into my life.

Perhaps sometimes, the suffering is a direct result of poor choices I have made. But just maybe it is a tool God will use to make me just a little bit more like Christ. Anyway, I was comforted by those words: God only allows into our lives what will help conform us to the image of Christ.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Praying for Others

I am using A Daybook of Prayer as a devotional.  Each day has a selection from a Christian writer from church history - recent and not so recent.  Today there was a selection from Prayer and Worship by Douglas V. Steere.  I copied it out here and then added my thoughts in red.  It  had such helpful ideas on how to pray for others.  So here it is:

Steere, a Quaker writer from the Twentieth Century says: For when we hold up the life of another before God, we expose it to God's love,

when we pray for its release from drowsiness,

from that proneness to lethargy, to taking God's love for granted, when we pray that she might be released from boredom, knowing God means so much more in their relationship

for the quickening of its inner health,

that God would stir up her spiritual appetite, as we pray, that she will hunger and thirst after God, after righteousness; that her inner life would be free of sin - disease

for the power to throw off a destructive habit,

that she would recognize and throw off those things that would seem more important or more appealing, those things that would control any part of her life, and would hinder any intimacy with God

for the restoration of its free and vital relationship with its fellows,

that she would be restored after dealing with "besetting sins and temptation," freed to be in a living and helpful growth relationship with God first and with other believers; that she would know biblical Body Life, that she would have a passion to experience and to minister the "one anothers" in the Body

for its strength to resist a temptation,

that she would be aware of temptation, recognize it for what it is, a tool of the evil one, designed to defeat her, and then that she would draw upon God and the Body for strength to resist temptation

for its courage to continue against sharp opposition-

that she would have courage to persevere through any roadblocks the evil one might put in her way

for only then do we sense what it means to share in God's work, in his concern; only then do the walls that separate us from others go down and we sense that we are at bottom all knit together in a great and intimate family.

It is as we mediate between God and others that we begin understanding what matters to Him, and not only do our relationships with others change, but our understanding of who God is radically changes.