“Whatever My Lot…!”: Choosing the Redemptive Path for Our Pain
This Training Table fare on “the staying power of thanksgiving” deals with the periods of our lives when maintaining a deep sense of gratitude is the most challenging: in times of trials and suffering. These are the times when our theology is most challenged and revealed for what it truly is; or truly could be. As CS Lewis said, “If I could only get rid of this toothache, I could write something about pain!” It is so very difficult to separate ourselves from the past, present, or future of pain while pledging to maintain an attitude of gratitude isn’t it? It would appear as though the only way to separate ourselves is imagine we were indeed made for another world. That “the light of hope at the end of the tunnel” is not only part of our eschatology, but an experience of everyday life.
Clearly, the only way to achieve deep abiding peace and joy in the midst of the obvious suffering of the world is NOT to either deny it, or assure that we’re distracted from facing it, but RATHER denounce being a “slave to suffering” by, a) seeing suffering and brokenness as a very momentary plight of living in a fallen world, and b) seeing suffering as a main means by which God’s love and truth can break through and turn our minds and hearts evermore… towards Him.
Dear friends, there is one faith, one word, and another attitude of deep and abiding peace that encompasses this issue of “conjoining suffering with thanksgiving”: a) a faith in the hope of salvation and b) an abiding attitude of “Whatever my lot…” (James 1). Please consider the opposite of these two things—hopelessness devolving into despair, and the ever-shifting sands of circumstance controlling our lives—and ask yourself, “What belief system seems most pervasive today? Why? And what can I do to offer hope and deep peace in another’s life?”
If I may, I would like to use the context of some quotes, to encourage you, dear race runners, to see how a providential, gracious, and loving God is when He is so deeply involved in the most daunting reality and paradox of living in a fallen world.
Why does a loving God allow suffering? Because He loves us so much that He is using the very suffering that mankind caused (Genesis 3) to woo us to Himself, to offer us joy, and to conform us to the likeness of His Son. There are few better topics and truths to get our hearts around than this. Do not waste your suffering!
“When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
But, Lord, ‘tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh trump of the angel! Oh voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!
And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight, The clouds be rolled back as a scroll; The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend, Even so, it is well with my soul.”
CONTEXT: This hymn was written after two major times of pain and suffering in the author, Horatio Spafford’s, life. The first was the great Chicago Fire of October 1871, which ruined Spafford financially (he had been a wealthy businessman). Shortly after, while crossing the Atlantic, all four of Spafford’s daughters died in a collision with another ship. Spafford’s wife Anna survived and sent him the now-famous telegram that contained only two words, “Saved alone.” Several weeks later, as Spafford’s own ship, on the way to a personal pilgrimage in Jerusalem, passed near the spot where his daughters died, the Holy Spirit inspired the words of this timeless and treasured hymn. They speak to the eternal hope that all people can have, no matter what pain and grief befall them on earth, if they place their hope and faith in Jesus Christ. These words have brought volumes of gratitude and the deepest peace to millions of people since they were written by a man who offered eternal gratitude to God while in the midst of the deepest pain imaginable! In fact, if it weren’t for the trial, the treasured triumph would not exist, would it?
QUOTE: “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” “Tribulations cannot cease until God either sees us remade; or sees that our remaking is indeed, hopeless.” (CS Lewis, “The Problem of Pain”)
CONTEXT: An atheist throughout his early life, CS Lewis adopted theism in 1929 and converted to Christianity in 1931. Lewis’ spiritual pilgrimage followed two tracks, both intellectual and emotional-intuitive. Since childhood he had experienced deep and prolonged moments of longing, many bittersweet stabs of desire and the pain of the deepest love of his life, Joy, his wife, lost to cancer at an early age. Over the span of his life, Lewis perceived that these longings, desires, as well as the deep pain pointed away from themselves, to another world of permanence, fulfillment and abiding joy – to God.
QUOTE: “The time was about 8:30pm, Christmas night, 2002. As I stood up to walk away from my Dad’s body lying in the snow, and dying from a fatal, self-inflicted gun shot wound, I heard some very familiar words of the Bible that I had clung to for many years before this most dreadful night: “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand upon the earth.” (Job 19:25) “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,whohave been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) “Have faith, John.”, the voice inside me said. “This night too I will redeem. Have faith, my beloved. You have been redeemed to redeem… Redeemed to redeem.” (John Dozier, a Christmas night 2002 remembrance…)
CONTEXT: Having experienced my father’s suicide on Christmas night 2002, I was blessed even that very evening, and have been many, many times since then, to see how God has used what was the most painful experience in my life—and the lives of many others in my family and Dad’s friends. I’m not comparing myself to the aforementioned greats of Christian history, but I do know, on the most personal level, how it’s possible—yeah, even our greatest hope—to offer God the deepest sort of gratitude possible: the fruit of gratitude rooted in the soil my deepest pain and suffering!
And for me, like so many others, God began to fulfill His promise that very evening last Christmas night as I stepped into the police car. I began a conversation with a young police officer that ended in the affirmation of his faith and the promise to talk to his own Dad and Mom about their faith that very evening. Then and there, God gave me the gift of a down payment on His redemptive promise to me that very night: The night we celebrate the greatest redemptive gift of all time, and eternity!
May God richly bless you and yours with a faith in hope everlasting and the attitude of gratitude that can say, “Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, it is well, it is well, with my soul.”
All love, JohnDoz