“Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth.” (1 Timothy 6:6 NLT)
My first mission’s trip was to an area near Lima, Peru. Nothing would have prepared me for what I saw. I cried much of the first day. The average life expectancy there was about 40 years. Children were running the streets begging, stealing, doing what they could to survive.
We were there to help build an orphanage for some of them, but it was a Band-Aid on a cancer. Yet, amid poverty I’d never imagined, there was a joy and contentment among those who knew the Lord.
We had a Maundy Thursday service at the church compound where we stayed. We sang songs in Spanish that I recognized but struggled to sing because I only knew them in English. But the joy that the small group exuded changed me. As I washed the feet of a young man it was as if I was washing the feet of Jesus. I wasn’t able to grasp it then, but I’ve come to understand that what was different wasn’t their view of the world, it was their view of God.
Joni Eareckson Tada, who dove into shallow water when she was 17, breaking her neck and confining her to a wheelchair for the rest of her life, wrote a book entitled When God Weeps. She writes: “We want what we do not have. We have what we do not want. And we are unhappy. A story about noble Africans who suffer joyfully is inspiring, but God – we convince ourselves – wouldn’t want to cramp our style as He might with poor people in Ghana. Our God exists to make our lives happy, more meaningful, and trouble-free. Our God deals differently with us.” (pg. 19) I highly recommend you read her book or any others you can find by her.
Unlike many with similar circumstances, she has devoted her life to helping through JAF Ministries (Joni and Friends). But that was after much soul-searching and anguish; begging God for healing and wrestling with why He didn’t.
Suffering can be a volatile subject. In America we’ve come to see God more as our servant than our Savior; our expectation is that God should serve our needs rather than we serve His; we tend to see suffering as punishment for disobedience rather than privilege that is born out of intimacy with God.
The truth is, life on planet earth after the fall of man in the Garden, is far from perfect. The things with which we are forced to deal as humans that break our hearts, cripple our bodies, and challenge our spirits, didn’t exist in God’s original plan. How we view God in suffering, on some levels, is like looking at ourselves in a mirror.
Suffering enables us to see God in ways we could never have seen Him in any other way. But it also reveals our heart and soul, magnifying what’s really behind our professed love of God. If the overriding cry of our soul is “Why?” we’ve missed the point. But if it’s “How?” we’re finding our way to the heart of God.
“Lord, why did you allow this? Why haven’t You healed me?” These are the cries of the heart bent on having God serve our needs, not His. “How,” on the other hand, is to mine the gems of wisdom, courage, and contentment that only the heart of God can reveal. “Lord, loving Father, while I don’t understand what Your purpose is in my suffering, please help me to understand how you want to use it, and me, to Your honor and fame. Help me to so rely on You in my current circumstances, that I can share Your life and love with others as my faith deepens and my love for You grows in ways it never has before. To You be all glory, honor, and praise, now and forevermore.”
That is the pathway to contentment. When nothing but deepening our love for and dependence upon our Heavenly Father is our heart’s will and desire, we will find contentment in our lives like we never imagined possible.
Blessings, Ed 😊