All I wanted was a little white house with a white picket fence. That didn’t seem too much to ask. After all, I had gone through several years of difficulty with our son, and two years of watching my husband fight and lose his battle with the dreaded “C”. Wanting the rest of my life to be free from suffering seemed reasonable.
In time, however, I began to realize some of the consequences of my dream. I was no longer as sensitive to the still small voice of the Holy Spirit. I was becoming more focused on temporary pleasures (a nice house, a nice bank account, vacations) rather than on spiritual things.
Oh, I was still going to church every Sunday and having my daily Bible readings. I was still praying and trying to listen – but my growing desires for ease and comfort were desensitizing me to the fellowship with Christ I had once known. A fellowship that had been rich and beautiful during those excruciating seasons.
God used a dating relationship and the book “Crazy Love” by Francis Chan, to begin my journey back to him. It took seeing myself through the life of someone who was as I had become; and then realizing through the book what I had lost, to begin to bring me to my senses.
It also took time, reflection, and repentance (turning away from the path I was going, to a new path) to realize that my problem wasn’t the fact I had suffered. The problem was I had believed a lie – about life and about God. I had come to believe that “suffering” was just a stint – a gig I had to endure to earn my stripes. I didn’t understand the suffering I had gone through was the very thing that taught me who God is, and what his heart looks like, as his Spirit comforted and embraced me in the middle.
I had also failed to see that by running from any and all possibilities of future suffering, I was forfeiting “the fellowship of suffering“, as Paul calls it in Philippians. A special bond with Christ borne in sharing adversity together.
God graciously used two other books to soften my heart and open my eyes to the truth:
“A Sacred Sorrow“, by Michael Card. After 9/11, some leaders in American churches realized Christians don’t know how to grieve – or in Old Testament terminology – “lament”. Unfortunately, over time, much of American Christendom had come to believe that to please God we must always be “happy” and “praise him joyfully” – leaving no place for sorrow in worshiping Jesus.
But, we aren’t able to maintain constant “joyful praise” because life throws us hard balls that knock us off our feet.
This book taught me, God is also pleased when we come to him with our anguish and our cries, clinging to him through our grief or lament. God seeing our lament as a sweet form of worship! The author used examples from the Bible (Job, King David, Lamentations, some of the prophets, and even Jesus himself) to show how God even blessed those who chose to lament to him, even when their words were angry and harsh. It changed how I see God and suffering.
“David – Seeking a Heart Like His“, a Bible Study by Beth Moore. God called David, “A man after my own heart” (I Samuel 13:14, Acts 13:22). The study seeks to show how David over his lifetime was able to gain such a recommendation from God and how we too can have that kind of relationship with him. God used this Bible Study to show me I really hadn’t known his heart for me at all. I also realized, as I studied the life of David, I wanted more than a “white house and a picket fence”. I wanted Jesus. I wanted to know him, and have a close relationship with him.
I also began to realize that this type of relationship with Jesus was the only thing that would really satisfy me in this life, even if it meant suffering.
Did I surrender my dream easily? No. I now knew the horrendous cost of suffering and it was hideous to me. Yet, it began to dawn on me I was paying a much higher price by “refusing to allow” any suffering into my world.
When I did finally surrender, there was a sense of peace I hadn’t experienced in a very long time. Did this change everything instantly? No! For weeks I had to daily surrender as circumstances gave me choices – his dream or mine? But the hardest part – the beginning of surrender – was finished.
There have been some pretty tough struggles since, but I am learning to know Jesus and his peace are worth everything. Neither he nor his peace can be bought at any price. I am also realizing that
White houses with picket fences aren’t worth anything if Jesus isn’t living there, as only he makes a house a home.
“…and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:10 (NIV)
With love and prayers,