A few times in my life I’ve prayed very specifically about certain issues that have become landmarks in my life. One time I prayed very passionately for God to make me a patient person. I didn’t fully realize what I was asking at the time until God started answering it.
I’ve also prayed very seriously that God would make me useful for the Kingdom. I didn’t really understand what I was asking for then either. (Praying prayers like these makes me believe that they had to be Spirit-led because no one in her right mind would really ask for these things if she thought about it.)
I don’t think that I fully comprehended at the time that quite often the people who are the most useful in the Kingdom are also the people who have suffered and struggled so they can then be an encouragement to their brothers and sisters in Christ. Yes, we can be useful in the Kingdom by using our spiritual gifts of helps and administration and so on, but those don’t (usually) bring about suffering. The reality is that the people who impact us the most for the Kingdom and in our own walk with Christ are usually those who have suffered and struggled in similar ways to what we are currently going through.
This came to mind today when I read our daily Streams in the Desert calendar we keep in the kitchen.
And there arose a great storm. Mark 4:37a (KJV)
Some of the storms of life come suddenly. Some come slowly. Yet it is in the storm that God equips us for service. Every man who is preeminent for his ability was first preeminent for suffering. The heroes of life are the storm-swept and battle-scarred.
But if we are honest we don’t want to be preeminent for suffering! We DO want to be preeminent for our abilities. We want to be someone who has the right verses to share and the right words of encouragement when a sister in Christ is suffering. We want the wisdom and discernment that comes as a result of the suffering, but we don’t want to suffer to get it. We really don’t want to pay the price to learn those lessons so we can comfort others with the same comfort we’ve been given.
For me personally, this means I want to write something on my blog that ministers to someone. I appreciate receiving emails and comments that something I’ve written has met a very specific need. Honestly, that is what keeps me blogging – I believe this is one of the ways God has made me useful for the Kingdom. I have always believed the experiences I have had are not just about me. They are about being useful in the Kingdom.
BUT… in my flesh I don’t want to have to learn any more helpful lessons! I want to ride on the riches of my previous spiritual victories, not have to learn any more. I’m in the midst of a suffering experience right now that has been going on for months and I find myself tempted to feel frustrated or even angry that God is making me go through this now. Somehow I feel like I should be exempt from this kind of stuff while I’m pregnant with this special baby we’ve waited so long for so I can just focus on being gloriously happy during my pregnancy. Well, God wants me to go through this and STILL be gloriously happy during my pregnancy. It’s a choice I have to make – sometimes weekly, sometimes daily, sometimes hourly.
So I’m trying to choose moment by moment, day by day to not focus on the fact that I am going through a lesson. Instead, I’m trying to focus on learning in this lesson. I’m trusting that like so many times before, God has a purpose in this and part of that purpose is to make me useful in the Kingdom.
I’ve walked with God long enough that I can see the other side of previous experiences. I can rejoice when God chooses to use me to bless someone else. I can focus on the joy and gratitude I feel when God has used me which far overshadows the memory of the pain and frustration I had to go through before in order to learn those lessons. And I know that this current situation will pass, too. Someday I will be able to encourage someone because of what has burdened me in recent weeks and months. I WILL come out on the other side and I WILL have a new story to tell. And God will be glorified by making me useful for His Kingdom.
Sallie, have you ever thought that this is about God’s bigger plan for Peanut? Think of her adulthood and the challenges she will face. It is highly probable that God is using this season to mold you into the Godly Mother for Peanut to emulate, a Godly Wife who can withstand the storms of life. That will enable her to weather them herself. I am very confident that one day Peanut will come to you and confide in you about a storm. You will be able to confidently tell her that her God will supply all her needs, and you are living proof of His work. We stand with you and Dave in prayer, and with faith, knowing that God’s greater purpose in your lives now includes Peanut’s life.
Great thoughts here. I agree. I want to be useful, and I know that past experiences and trials have made me useful. I still don’t ask for them, but I do ask that God will use things in my life, and that I will learn from them.
Amen to that.
It seems to be a commonality that we are all facing. I just posted something to the same basic effect. Sometimes I too want to say “What else is there that I need to learn” – I will be standing with you and yours.
Oh boy, I think I know what you’re saying. We went through some pretty awful times during my pregnancies. I wished so much that I could just enjoy such a happy time and not have to go through those trials. Particularly during my last pregnancy, I was terribly sick and our church was going through major upheaval, plus my husband had a frightening mystery illness that kept him from working for several weeks. Phew! BUT….looking back now I see how God used those trials to shape me into who I am today, as well as give me the ability to minister to others.
Thanks so much for this wonderful post!
What a really thoughtful post. I learned not too long ago, that to bear fruits of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithful, gentleness, self-control), we need to be pruned. (John 15:2). I really want to be fruitful, but submitting to pruning is tough.
Not sure if you posted on this, but I’ve been thinking about all the ladies of the Bible who waited a long, long time to have a baby. The mothers of John the Baptist and Samuel were heart-broken when year after year they couldn’t have kids. They felt that this was reproach from God. In reality, God was preparing them and their sons to do special work.
Except that I haven’t ever asked for extra patience or useablness, I could have written your post too, Sallie.
There have been a number of occasions this pregnancy already where I have claimed Isaiah 40:11 He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young. It often seems like He isn’t being that gentle with me now, but always somehow by the end of the day I am able to rest in His wisdom and He has always met my basic needs (and even thrown in some desires so I know He cares).
I want to chime in with what Jo Ann said, also. The storm that my family is going through right now is very similar to one I remember my parents experiencing when I was young. Remembering the grace that God gave them then and that the storm eventually ended with them only the better for it, gives me strength and hope today to respond as God would have me to.
In my mind’s eye, I have come to see suffering as a beautiful wrapped gift. The most expensive paper, crowned with a bow that is indescribable. The problem comes when I try to unwrap that gift. No matter how gently I untie the bow or pull at the paper, I get cuts, burns, scrapes and bruises that leave lasting impressions. Most of the time, I’m complaining all the way. Sometimes, I want to throw that gift away. Pretty much, I don’t want to unwrap it. But, in obedience, I try to continue to dig into what’s inside. When the gift is finally opened and the wounds are healed, I find that I’m a vessel by which the Love of God can be imparted to others. Not because of me, but because of God’s Grace being lived out in my life. I don’t like suffering, but I love the “feeling” of looking back and seeing the awesome hand of God work. Through suffering I want to be found faithful & useable.
A few years ago, I started praying for patience. When I told a friend (wiser and older) this, she asked why in the world I would do that (a little sarcastically). She then said “you know how God answers that prayer, don’t you? He doesn’t give you patience on a silver platter, He teaches it to you.” Then, I learned some about patience. And it led to learning about humility and then to learning about the heart I had that was set on judging others and then…and then…it’s a big snowball this asking God for fruits of the spirit. So often, I just want that silver platter. I do not want to sit in the middle of a seemingly forever-long lesson that requires painful attention and focus and concentration and effort. I love how you talk about how this learning process though isn’t just to refine you and make you more like Christ, but to do so, so that others are blessed through you by Him.
God can only perform miracles when there is a hard situation for Him to solve. God has allowed me to go through so much and I’ve seen His hand do things only He could do. I had to go through the suffering to see His miracle…
Very interesting a lot of people seem to be going through the very same thing. I was diagnoised with premature ovarian failure aka menopause at 28 as devastating as it is, I pray that God uses it for His glory. And one day during meditations, I was reminded how I prayed many years ago to be molded into His Image, to be less like me and more like Him. So I find myself blogging about it and being thankful for the experience. And sallie, I love your blog, thank you so much for being here. The world wide web may have a lot of horrible sites, but God is using it for His good. God bless and you, your hubby and peanut.
I am one that you ministered today with your words. … what was said in your Streams in the Desert calendar. “Some of the storms of life come suddenly. Some come slowly. Yet it is in the storm that God equips us for service. Every man who is preeminent for his ability was first preeminent for suffering. The heroes of life are the storm-swept and battle-scarred.”
My mom (who I was very close to) died very suddenly — she woke up with a headache, and a few hours later, she was gone. (“storms of life come suddenly”) With her death, came the responsibility of “looking out after” my aunt (who I was not close to — she was a memory from my childhood), who has lots and lots of major health issues. Right now, her kidneys are functioning at less than 10%, and she has chosen not to do dialysis (Some come slowly.)
I struggle with this, because my life has been put on hold, to some degree, because of this person. I love her, she is family. But. I do it because … ?
Because she is God’s gift to me (boy, if I had been on THAT shopping trip, I sure would have requested something different!) You put into words, what I have been struggling with. Yet it is in the storm that God equips us for service. Every man who is preeminent for his ability was first preeminent for suffering. The heroes of life are the storm-swept and battle-scarred.” When I would be holding her hand, after her blood sugars had dropped drastically low, and I was there to help her get back to a functionally level, and she would cry “Why won’t God just let me die”. I would tell her that she was God’s gift to me — that he brought her to me because he knew how devastating my mom’s death would be to be. He knew that I would crawl up into myself, and die as well. But I wasn’t allowed that luxury. Even before Mom was taken off life support, I was “dealing” with my aunt. She hadn’t brought her blood sugar tester to the hospital and we were 60 miles from home, and she was sure it was going low. And so the dance began…. life with my aunt.
And you, so elequantly, put it into words what I have struggled to put into place in my mind and in my heart.
And now that I’ve turned this into a blog entry, I’m off to my own blog to make some sense of this… Thank you for your words of wisdom.
You do indeed minister to many women out there, me included. When I was younger I used to pray for trials and problems so that I could prove my faith and be strengthened. I stopped doing that several years ago!A curent heartache I am under has been going on for 2 years………..and on and on and on it goes. I only pray that all who are involved in it will learn the lessons that the Lord has for us, By the way, I think penue is going to be vert blessed with her mama.
Thank you for this poignant blog entry. . . I myself discovered that when I prayed to be used in His Kingdom and that I might gain more wisdom or patience, I found Him giving me all sorts of opportunities to grow that weren’t always easy. Rather stormy at times.
I certainly am thankful for those times and what I learned. But I confess that as of the past year, I find myself on occasion when I feel heavy with burden or need His comfort & rest more than anything, I pray for a “Shelter Day”, a day where He gives me the opportunity to just rest in Him and renew.
I’m very careful that I don’t pray for “Shelter Days” all the time. It’s tempting, because He has answered my prayers on those days! And it would be nice for everyday to be as such. I just try to make sure it’s in His will and that the Holy Spirit speaks to me that it’s okay that day.
As a mother of small children, when God gives me a “Shelter Day”, I spend the day basking in that part of His character that renews me. He is amazing.
I pray some “Shelter Time” for you soon. . . thanks again for your lovely entry which reminds me of our common struggles.
Thank you so much for all of your wonderful, thoughtful comments. I can only imagine how many people you have touched by what you have shared here. Blessings to each of you!