Thursday, January 21, 2016
Suffering and the Presence of the Holy Spirit
One year ago today, I was recovering from an abdominal surgery that would, ultimately, cause me to spend 22 of 26 days in the hospital. I won’t soon forget the night of January 19, 2015, the night when I lay awake in my hospital bed staring at the clock, counting down the minutes until my next dose of pain killers could be administered. I would later learn that grapefruit-sized abscesses had developed behind my lungs by reason of the post-surgical bacterial infection that I had developed in the course of an earlier surgery. As I look back at my response to what God permitted to occur in my life one year ago, I am pleasantly surprised to reflect upon my own reaction to that suffering. This suffering was certainly inferior in degree to the suffering our family endured beginning in 2009 when Micah died. However, that larger suffering, and my dependence on the Holy Spirit by reason of it, has had positive results in my life. Throughout my hospital stay, I was able to maintain a focus on the Lord and His plan for my life, and generally respond with an open hand and mind to where the Lord was leading through that illness. (I blogged about my responses on this blog last winter and spring). I write about this not to boast in my own strength or moral character, but to boast in God’s character. I want to encourage you (especially if you are a fellow grieving parent), that God’s strength will be sufficient to carry you through current and future trials. Any good that comes from the lives of believers in absolute weakness is by reason of God’s strength in us, not our own. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul emphasizes that his boast is not in his own works, but in the cross. “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the worlds has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” Galatians 6:14. In the cross, we see that all of our works can only get in the way of our relationship with Him, because in our absolute weakness, God is able to accomplish far more than we can do on our own. How can I boast in my own strength, when I could not even eat, and was too weak to even bath myself? Where is boasting when, but for God’s very breath in our lungs, we would have no hope of entering another day without the strength that He provides. How can I brag when I would not have the moral fortitude to respond in a Christ-like manner to those around me? While I (for one) cannot say that I “rejoice in my suffering,” I can say that I take hope in my response to it. We can be glad that spiritual fruit arising out of suffering demonstrates the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life. Having seen God work through my own weakness, we can rejoice in the hope of eternity, knowing that God’s presence in our lives has guaranteed our salvation. Paul says, “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” Ephesians 1:13.