Category Archives: Suffering

Perspective

My wife and I are reading everything we can get our hands on by Randy Alcorn. His writings have encouraged us more than anything else we have read.

My wife is currently reading Safely Home by him and below is a picture of who the book is dedicated to. It really puts things in perspective:

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God’s Sovereignty…hurt or help?

I was able to spend some time with my dear friend, Ed Litton, these past couple of days. Ed’s wife, Tammy, passed away about 6 years ago in a tragic car accident. He has since re-married to another wonderful woman, Kathy, who interestingly enough had her husband pass away several years ago in a tragic car accident as well. The Lord is His providence and grace brought Ed and Kathy together after they both experienced such difficult losses.

Ed has become a recent friend and God has used him mightily in my life. When he speaks, I listen. He has a warmth and wisdom about him that blesses me so much. Last night, he and I were talking, and he told me something powerful, yet simple…something that I needed to write down and share.

After Tammy passed away, Ed had a young seminary student ask him if his view of God’s sovereignty had helped him or hurt him during his time of loss. Ed’s answer was simply, “Yes.”

I completely resonate with Ed’s answer…I get what he was saying. In one sense, yes, it’s incredibly difficult to reconcile God being sovereign, fully able to control all things, and yet He still allows such horrible things into our lives. When you experience something difficult…tragic…and you’re praying so fervently for things to be different and God chooses not to intervene temporally, sometimes it is hard to understand. So yes, understanding that God is sovereign does hurt a little bit at times.

But, in another sense, in a greater sense, it is incredibly overwhelming and beautifully comforting to know that while God does allows such difficult things into our lives, He has a plan and He is in complete control. God’s sovereignty brings purpose to a believer’s suffering. In fact, I can’t even imagine the thought of Trey’s suffering not serving a purpose. If Trey’s suffering was all that there was, I would feel horribly defeated and probably could not even go on living. However, knowing that Trey’s life served God’s purpose and has had incredible eternal significance, and knowing that I will see Him again because God HAS acted and HAS saved his soul…in that sense, God’s sovereignty has been more than helpful. It has been what has carried us and is carrying us to this day.

There is nothing in the world that can prepare you to watch your child breathe their last breath…NOTHING. Emily and I thought we were prepared, and in those final moments with Trey, we found ourselves broken and hurting in the deepest possible way. However, GOD WAS WITH US, and while we were not prepared, He carried us. He gave us the necessary grace to simply breathe. In our tears, He held us and more importantly held our son and carried Trey directly into His presence.

So…knowing that God loves Trey a million times more than I ever could, I have to rest in the fact that God then sovereignly accomplished His perfect plan for Trey…a plan that in some ways is hurtful to us, because we just don’t understand everything and we miss Trey so much, but also a plan that is incredibly helpful to us, because we know that God did what was best for Trey. He saved Trey and has now delivered Trey from ALL sin, sickness and death. TREY IS WHOLE! TREY IS FREE! And Trey now is with the Lord who is making ALL THINGS NEW!

So, yes, knowing that God is sovereign can be a little painful because we don’t always like what He does…BUT…and this is big…knowing that God is sovereign allows believers to face this sin-stained world with an eternal perspective that reminds us every day that God is doing something eternally with every aspect of our lives…that this world IS NOT all that there is…and that one day, we will have resurrected bodies, living on a resurrected earth, serving our resurrected Lord!!! And in all of that I shout HALLELUJAH!!!

God…thank you for sending Your Son! Thank You for coming and giving us a way of escape from sin and death! Thank You Jesus for dying on the Cross so that EVERYONE who calls on Your name might be saved. Oh God, keep using Trey’s life to point people to Your Son. Thank You for giving His life a purpose…thank You that his suffering was not meaningless…thank You for the 7 incredible years You gave me with him. Please hold him and give him love tonight from his daddy. Oh how I love you Trey and I will see you again soon and get ALL of eternity with you. I love you son…always and forever.

Truth!

Meditating on these words today…

“Sovereign in the mountain air
Sovereign on the ocean floor
With me in the calm
With me in the storm

Sovereign in my greatest joy
Sovereign in my deepest cry
With me in the dark
With me at the dawn

In your everlasting arms
All the pieces of my life
From beginning to the end
I can trust you

In your never failing love
You work everything for good
God whatever comes my way
I will trust you!”

God, help me to trust You today! Hug my son for me. He’s in such good hands. We love You Lord!

Living a Life of Joy

Here is my sermon from Sunday night. It was my first sermon in the new study of Philippians. I’ve titled this series called: Living a Life of Joy! Here is the link if you care to listen :-)

http://www.fbcnewcastle.com/media.php?pageID=36&

Jesus Suffers Alongside Us!

I am reminded this morning that Jesus suffers alongside us…He is very well acquainted with grief and suffering. In fact, as Tim Keller says,

“Jesus hates suffering, injustice, evil, and death so much, He came and experienced it to defeat it and someday, to wipe the world clean of it.”

I am reminded today that Trey’s story is not bound to this earth. The Lord has an eternal plan for Trey, one that Trey has embraced, and because Christ has overcome all things, Trey will likewise overcome as well…along with all of us who are in Christ…because of the power of the Resurrection.

As the Scripture says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:15-16).”

I am just trying to draw near to The Lord today and rest in Him!

In Christ Alone!

Our family Is going through the fire, and the struggles are no where near over. Emily’s mom and our son Trey are still fighting tremendous battles and we don’t know the outcomes of their earthly journeys yet…but we are trusting the Lord! Toby has gone on to be with Jesus, and while we grieve deeply, we also rejoice because we know he is with the Lord God Almighty! We will announce the funeral date and time this afternoon. It will be sometime Saturday at FBC Newcastle. While we grieve and wait and trust…we take solace in these words…these truths!

No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me!
From life’s first cry, to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny!

No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand!
Till He returns, or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ, I stand!

Toby is with Jesus!

Update from Ben and Jeannie:

The Lord gave, and The Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of The Lord. Job 1:21

Despite our extensive efforts, God showed us today that His plan was to take Toby home to be with Him. Toby slept peacefully in his mother’s arms, and awoke in the arms of our Savior in heaven. Our hearts are broken, but our trust and faith in our sovereign God is not.

We wish to extend our heartfelt thanks to the talented doctors, nurses, and technicians that helped Toby fight as hard as he could for as long as possible. And we are especially thankful to all of you who have lifted us to the Father in prayer, opened your home to our family, and brought meals while we walked this road. We could not have made it this far without
the strength that God provided as a result of your faithful prayer and support.

In John 16:33, Jesus said, “In this world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” We rest in the fact that God created this world, and Jesus Christ overcame this world through His death, burial, and resurrection. As a result, we know beyond a shadow of doubt we will see Toby again. If you do not understand how we can say such things in the midst of such grief, I implore you to read 1 Peter chapter 1. As we suffer, we keep our hearts and minds fixed on the return of Jesus Christ when suffering will cease for all believers. And now we pray, Jesus come quickly. This word is the good news that has been preached to you.

– Ben & Jeannie, parents of Toby, whose name we chose because it means, “The Lord is good.” And He is good indeed. May you find that to be so as we have.

Difficult Day

Today is looking to be a difficult day from my brother in law and sister in law, Ben and Jeannie Stewart. All I can say at this point is that I would like you to pray for them. Pray for God’s strength, wisdom, and grace. Pray that the Lord will hold Toby close to His heart and that Ben and Jeannie will be comforted by that incredible reality. With the Stewart’s permission, and as I can, I will update later with more information.

My worship pastor, Dave Watson, reminded me of these words this morning:

“How sweet to hold a newborn baby,
And feel the pride and joy he gives;
But greater still the calm assurance:
This child can face uncertain days because He Lives!

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow,
Because He lives, all fear is gone;
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living,
Just because He lives!”

HE IS…

Some good friends dropped this card off at the hospital today. I needed this reminder and you probably do too. God is all these things and so much more:

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He is Able!

As I write this, life is in a very difficult place for me, my family, and my community. I’ve been reflecting greatly on these challenges and struggles over the past few days. Currently, my mother in law continues to bravely battle stage four bone cancer; my brother and sister-in-law are facing an incredibly tumultuous and volatile situation with their new baby; my own mother recently had a mild surgery and experienced some complications from that; our community and state just experienced one of the most horrific tornadoes in human history; my worship pastor just lost his father, I’m doing a funeral for a beloved member of our church this Saturday, and of course, our youngest son continues to fight daily for his life. So, with all that going on, you can imagine why I was crying out to God to spare our home as I sat in my neighbor’s storm shelter just a few days ago…I prayed, “Please Lord, I’m not sure I could handle one more thing right now.”

However, as I have been reflecting, I am coming to understand in a new way that there is NOTHING I cannot handle with the grace and strength of the Lord. If I would have popped my head out of the storm shelter and found my house leveled, God would have supplied what I would have needed to endure. I’m not saying I would have enjoyed that loss by any means…what I am saying is that somehow, someway, God would have provided what I needed. At the end of John 15:5, Jesus tells us that “apart from Him, we can do nothing,” while Philippians 4:13 says that “we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.” So…what that tells me is that I desperately need to cling to the Jesus EVERY SECOND OF EVERYDAY, because with Him I can endure any storm, but without Him, I’ll sink faster than a boulder that’s dropped into a pond. If there is anything I know right now, it is this: I need Jesus like the air I breathe…every minute or everyday.

What happens in most of our American-Christian lives though, is we get comfortable. We get used to living the American dream and rocked to sleep with the comforts and conveniences of this world. And then…suffering comes…tragedy strikes…and we are awakened out of this worldly sleep and realize just how far we have drifted from our desperate and daily need to walk with Jesus. Suffering, on any level, causes God’s children to cry out for help, for deliverance, for strength, etc. When we suffer, we always find ourselves facing situations beyond our control and we feel helpless…BUT…it is in those moments that God shows up and becomes more real to us than perhaps ever before. In those moments, we find out if we truly trust the One we have entrusted our soul to. We find out that God is more than able to carry the weight we bear and has what we need to endure it. We find out that God is without a doubt ALL we need because He becomes ALL we have!

So, as I reflect…I’m grieving in many ways and for many people; I’m hurting with and for many people, and I’m also longing for patience and strength and grace for all…but I know this, God is the source of those things and He will gloriously supply all my needs and the needs of those who trust in Jesus Christ! As the Scripture says, “His grace is sufficient and His power is made perfect in our weaknesses.” Well…I sit here today weak, but knowing He is strong! I sit here today knowing I cannot, but He can! I sit here today not knowing what my next step be, but knowing He is directing all of my steps. So…today…in the midst of whatever you and I face…HE IS ABLE AND HE WILL SEE US ALL THROUGH!

“Lord, help us all to look to You and trust in You today! While our lives are constantly changing, YOU NEVER CHANGE! You are our Rock, our deliver, the only true God…and our hearts rest in You. We love You Lord!” Help us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”

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