Friday, April 15, 2016

Ever Merciful in the Face of Suffering

"He is ever merciful..." Psalm 37:26

That verse is referring to a believer, a Christian human being. I'll be honest: there are times when I do not want to be kind and merciful! You may feel along with me: when I feel hurt or angry, too often, I want the person who hurt me to hurt also. Or I want God to get them back somehow!

"...put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book?" Psalm 56:8

Recently I read a post from Leah at Embracing Grace in which she stated one would never regret extending grace.

Jesus had quite a bit to say about extending grace in Luke 6:
{Please read this Scripture carefully, even if you've read it before.}

"For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them...And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same...But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind to the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful."

Be kind and merciful to someone who has hurt me repeatedly? Stabbed me in the back? Belittled me? One whose main M.O. is to one-up me? This is all too familiar, especially for pastors and pastor's wives, sadly, inside the church!

Love, forgive, be kind and merciful in the face of suffering? What a standard! We would say that's impossible! Surely God wouldn't ask that of me!

Truly, there is no way for me to do this--especially to do it with genuine goodwill toward the person and with good feelings coming along for the ride! That is, it's impossible for me outside of the Holy Spirit's control of my mind, will, and emotions.

That little thing called the "soul" holds these three components: mind, will, and emotions. These three have the capability of choosing the way of the enemy of God, rather than choosing "kingdom living." Kingdom living rejoices in the opportunity to grow in grace!

I love this little chorus by Bill Harvey:

Why complain about the problem? Rejoice in the opportunity!
You have a chance to grow in grace! Take hold of responsibility!
The reward is worth the suff'ring--there's glory some sweet day!
Praise God for the problem on your way!

God wants me to grow! When our babies are born, we watch for them to grow in each and every stage in which they are supposed to grow. If they get behind, we take them to a doctor. God, as our Perfect Father, naturally, wants us to grow, too! He's not content to allow us to keep drinking milk from a bottle when solid food awaits.

God's "purpose" which Paul speaks of in Romans 8:28 is explained in verse 29:

"For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son..."

God's purpose for me is not to be well-known, be acknowledged as a great mom or pastor's wife, or any of the other things we would consider as "greatness" or "purpose" in life. His plan is not even to allow me to make it through life with minimal suffering and sorrow! His one purpose is to make me like Jesus. He does that through many life experiences, and sorrow and suffering are two major vehicles He uses.

Jesus Himself learned obedience to His Father "by the things which he suffered" (Hebrews 5:8).

The writer of Hebrews goes on to tell us to "Consider him..." in chapter 12, verse 3. Jesus is our example (Philippians 2:5-8). I know this in my head, but have I embraced it in my heart to the point that I'm willing to follow His example and love my "enemies" or those who hurt me?

Embracing sorrow and suffering, rather than resisting what God is doing, will enable me to love my enemies and extend grace, no matter how they hurt me. How is it possible? Because when I choose to believe that God is still on the throne and that He has a plan that far surpasses anything I could dream up, I am content no matter what comes my way!

Does this mean I allow people to treat me as a doormat? That's not what Jesus did. I believe in holding people accountable for their actions. Jesus held Peter accountable, yet He extended grace and love to him at the same time. (Further study: Matthew 16:21-23, John 18:10-11, Mark 16:6-7, John 21.) There are times when we are to turn the other cheek (see Matthew 5:39 and II Samuel 16:5-14). Too many times, though, I use the "doormat" excuse to escape, when I don't want to extend grace.

How many times have I hurt God's heart and yet He continues to forgive and extend grace to me? He loved me while I was yet a sinner (Romans 5:8). If I claim to follow Jesus' steps, I will choose to yield myself to His tender embrace, and by faith, I'll take hold of His Word! Then the fetters of unforgiveness will fall off, and I'll be able to anchor my soul--my mind, will, emotions! Then the Haven of Rest (Jesus) truly becomes my LORD in the face of sorrow and suffering!

I yielded myself to His tender embrace, in faith taking hold of the Word,
My fetters fell off and I anchored my soul;
The Haven of Rest is my Lord!

The Haven of Rest, lyrics by Henry L. Gilmour, music by George D. Moore

If you have never read the book, Hinds' Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard, I highly recommend it. Other than the Bible, it is one of the best helps I have found in coping with sorrow and suffering and understanding what God is doing in my life! You can order it inexpensively here.

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