The Thing About Suffering

Privileged to Reveal the Glory …

1 Peter 4:13:But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.”

Romans 8:35-39: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Key Words: rejoice in sufferings; in death and in life, nothing can separate us from Christ

Laurie’s Comments:

Years ago, as we prepared to move to underdeveloped Equatorial Guinea (EG) to live as missionaries, we encountered one consistent question: Will you be safe?

Safe they asked?

When did anyone ever considering doing the work of Christ safe?

Post EG, Africa now, I can tell you, we were not safe.

But, besides marrying an amazing Christian man and birthing three radically talented children, the year and a half in EG was the richest experience of my life. Those months in the Congolese Rain Forest changed everything. “Everything” includes my walk with Christ, my view on prosperity, and my view of health issues.

This blog probably needs to be a book but let me try and capture my rousing thoughts in a few points. Here are some examples of our “not safe,” status then:

  • Our legal driving papers were stolen by the police.
  • One of our sons (age 10 at the time) had a massive asthma attack on a mountain with no breathing treatments available. He survived.
  • Our daughter (age 8 at the time) had a close encounter with death when her malaria meds were not effective. She survived.
  • Our older son was dealing with drug issues back in the states. (And this, today, continues to be the biggest trial/suffering time of my life)
  • My daughter and I were separated from the rest of the family for two days when seeking medical help. Without phones, my husband had no idea where we’d gone . (Long, beautiful story).
  • Whenever at the market, men offered to buy our blond-haired, blue-eyed daughter – we couldn’t take our eyes or hands off of her when in public.
  • My husband and sons were kidnapped (but only for several hours thanks to our very clever mission leader).
  • We all suffered dysentery when living in an African village home for 3 weeks.
  • We had snakes in the yard and neighbors who robbed us on a consistent basis.
  • We had to filter all water and bleach the vegetables from the local market.
  • We encountered corrupt, inebriated, and packing police at checkpoints every time we traveled.
  • And the local parasites loved our tender American digestive systems.

I learned more about myself in that year and half than I’ve learned about me in a lifetime here in the US. Hardships reveal our weaknesses and once our flesh is out in the open for everyone to observe, Christ will sweep in and cut that honor-destroying flesh right off your bones.

I encountered more of Christ in that jungle than I’ve encountered here in the land of plenty. When faced with unusual challenges day in and out, and not in control of much of your life, you tend to seek guidance and wisdom from the Lord. He responds to these requests in big, audacious ways.

And because this isn’t a book, but a blog, let me jump right to the point: It is in suffering that we run headfirst into the glory of our God.

In the first chapter of James, we’re told to count our trials as joy, knowing that various hardships create in us a certain, glory-yielding perseverance – a trust of sorts that points the rest of the world to Christ.

Because people and principalities are watching.

As I write, I’m traveling back in time to the lessons I learned in the “not safe” time in EG. Even though our pantry was thin, I kept canned tuna, flour and sugar on the shelf and some kind of protein in our propane, camper-size refrigerator. Most of the Africans I knew didn’t have pantries, much less a refrigerator. The local Christians there depended upon God for their daily bread. Literally.

As well, our African, Christian friends didn’t obsess over health but depended upon God Almighty when illness came. There was a hospital in town, and there were a couple of Cuban doctors (another long story) practicing there … but people were not obsessed with what might or might not happen health-wise in the future. When illnesses came, we prayed, sought help if available, and trusted God with the outcome. People we knew died. People we knew survived. We trusted God in both circumstances.

In an underdeveloped nation, I developed a dependence upon Christ.  

Oh, I’ve such a long way to go in deeply trusting my Savior. And I forget to turn first to Him when uncomfortable or trying times catch me off guard. But the lessons I learned in the most challenging situation of my life, I pray I cling to.

May His glory will be revealed in and through me. What a privilege we have in radiating Christ.

I’ll end with the words of James:

“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”       — James 1:12 

If I perish, I perish,

Laurie

Read more about our African pantry here: shttps://lauriegreenwestlake.com/2018/07/16/empty-plates/

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