“… though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” I Peter 1: 6-7
Believing God had guided me wasn’t difficult when the outcomes were welcome, such as seeing Tundra Swans and retiring early. Painful outcomes of decisions created a crisis of faith because I had sought God’s will. The logical question to those outcomes was: why did God lead me into pain? I have pretended that He didn’t hear me when I sought His guidance because it was the easiest way to resolve the conflict. In those cases, I proudly took full responsibility for my decisions and chose to learn from the experiences or chose to berate myself for my foolishness. At one point in my life, where the rubber met the road, I chose to believe the truth. I had prayed for God to lead the way, and He had. I was then required to either have a doctrine of suffering or rage against God for forsaking me. I chose anger with my Heavenly Father. Eventually, as I continued to read scripture and my anger burned out, I laid hold of the validity of suffering, of its purpose in the lives of Christ followers, not because I wanted to, but because it was my lifeline. I even learned to cherish the words from Saint Peter who suffered more than I have ever suffered.
This morning I read a chapter called, “In the Dark”, from the book, The Geography of God’s Mercy, by Patrick Hannon. As a priest, his vow of obedience took him to a new ministry in a different part of the country. He soon found himself in the black abyss of major depression, a kind of suffering that only fellow sufferers can fully understand. He shared his story with humor and with authenticity. I laughed with him, and I cried with him. He said, “I remember that Thomas Merton often talked about the idea of redemptive suffering. For Christians, suffering of any sort becomes redemptive, he said, when we willingly hand it over to God, trusting in the healing power of the redeeming cross of His Son, Jesus Christ.”
Father, I haven’t liked it when Your paths for me have led to trials and troubles. Not liking it is immaterial. You call me to willingly hand my suffering over to You and trust Your redemptive purposes. Thank You for the pain in my life that You have used to prove my faith genuine. You are a good Daddy.
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