Today’s Readings: 1 Kings 20, 1 Thessalonians 3, Daniel 2, Psalm 106
“For this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith. For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 3:7)
I just love these words from Paul. I read this chapter over and over this week, imagining myself as a new Christian in Thessalonica. Well the truth is, I am one of those new Christians. I’m just in Bloomingtonica. This weekend marks 5 years since I first made a real change for Christ. At that time I was at a lifetime low. Our son had been sick, very sick and then we were dealt a second blow. Almost by accident our pediatrician heard a heart murmur and what followed changed our lives forever. Our ten month old had two small tumors in his heart. My world crashed down around me. I couldn’t understand how a generous, giving and loving God could do something so cruel to mother and her baby. I turned from Him. I felt guilty and ashamed as if I had done something wrong earlier in my life and now I was being punished.
Often, as Christian’s I think we fall into that misconception that turning to God will help us to escape our suffering. I can remember praying harder and harder, longer and longer and being so frustrated that I wasn’t seeing any “results.” I’m smiling as I write this because of course, now I know that God used this time in my life to save my life. God rescued me through the strength and the powerful witness of another Christian. Now I understand that God doesn’t promise an easy life. He doesn’t promise to rescue us from darkness. Instead, he gives us power to grow through our suffering. Just as Paul says,
“We have been comforted about you through your faith. For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord.”
He’s saying that as Christian’s it is our responsibility to encourage one another through persecution and suffering. And then he points to the great joy we feel to see another person come to faith in Jesus Christ in the midst of pain. This week, I had the opportunity to take our son who is now five to Disney World. We couldn’t afford it, but God made a way. A hurricane hit, but God made a way. Hours before we were supposed to leave, he started bleeding…we called his doctor on Saturday night and through the love and compassion of many health care workers, God made a way. On Sunday morning, I had the privilege of waking my child who has endured endless suffering to tell him his dream had come true. For three days our God held Oliver in his hand. The bleeding stopped, he had energy, he had endurance and he had joy. We watched live shows in which the villain was defeated every single time. We rode rides that made our hearts pound and our tummies flip. At the very end, while at a special Halloween party at the Magic Kingdom, we enjoyed a show at midnight. Oliver would want all of our readers to know that midnight is the latest he has ever stayed up…well except when he was in the hospital and the morphine wasn’t working (his words, not mine). He lasted until midnight out of shear determination, so that he could see the show called Happy Hallowishes. This show was a medley of all the best Disney songs while animation was projected onto Cinderella’s castle. After the songs came the most brilliant display of fireworks I’ve ever seen. I held Ollie the whole time because he was too small to see over the crowd. In the last few minutes I felt warm tears roll down his face onto mine. Our faces were pressed together as we watched the finale, our tears now mixing and falling to the pavement. Our villains have been defeated. Every single one of them. We know that there will be more pain on this earth. We know that Ollie will go back to the hospital time and time again. We know that there will be sadness and fear. But we also know that there is no financial barrier, no hurricane, no physical disease that our God cannot overcome.
Since that day when I first made an intentional change for Christ, I began living. Living for today, for the time we have now. Of course, I need reminders, all the time. That’s what my steady husband and Christian friends are for. Just as Paul says to the Thessalonians,
“…for now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord.”
A few days ago, I met a mother that lost her son last month. Her son was 21, his flame blown out in an instant. She told me that her grief is insurmountable. She told me that some days she wonders what she did wrong, why God is punishing her. She’s full of guilt and sadness. I shared Paul’s words with her,
“For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction, just as it has come to pass, and just as you know.” (1 Thessalonians 3:3-4)
We are destined for affliction while we are on this earth. The strength and power and absolute majesty is in the maturation of our faith and in our togetherness as Christian’s. We can do all things in Christ who indeed strengthens us…together.