reb•e•lu•tion (reb’el lu shen) n. a teenage rebellion against the low expectations of an ungodly culture.

3/26/2006

Do Hard Things in the Midst of Pain

Faith Felicity was born to Joel and Kimberly Harris on August 8th, 2005, about 10 months after their wedding. However, as ultrasounds had revealed prior to birth, Faith had a severe congenital heart defect called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS), a complicated medical condition and the most severe of congenital heart defects. It can be most simply understood that Faith had only half a heart.

The plan was to undergo a sequence of three open heart surgeries known as the Norwood Procedure. But because of further abnormalities of Faith's heart, an infant heart transplant was the only option. Joel, Kimi, and Faith immediately relocated to Loma Linda, CA, to await an available heart. It never came.

On October 6th, 2005, Faith Felicity went to be with the Lord — having touched the lives of untold thousands in her two months on earth. Her legacy lives on in the lives of her parents, Joel and Kimberly, who suffered greatly, but did so with patience, hope, and an abiding faith.

Kimberly Noelle Harris (or Kimi), who has just recently started the blog, Kimi Harris, Nonconformist, is much more than a sister-in-law to us. She is lover of Christ who inspires us to greater devotion. She is a seeker of God who moves us to press in harder after holiness. And she is particularly qualified to write on the subject of pain and suffering. In the following guest post, she does so eloquently and beautifully.
Christ promised many things for us, and some of my favorite promises are found in John 14. We find in this chapter the promise of an eternal home with Him, the promise of the Holy Spirit for our help, a promise to answer prayers and, one of my favorite promises, a promise for His peace:

"Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful."
(John 14:27)

The reason this verse means so much to me is because I know of His other promises. He has also told us that we will be persecuted:

"Remember the word that I said to you, 'A slave is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you..."
(John 15:20)

But not only will most of us deal with persecution, but we we will also deal with "various trials." This could include personal sickness or disease, birth defects, paralysis, death of close friends and family and the list goes on. This is why in both 1 Peter 1 and James 1, we find references to rejoicing in the midst of trials.

I don't bring this up to be a doomsayer, or to bring fear or discouragement, but rather to encourage you in your walk of doing hard things. I would like to encourage you to do hard things in the midst of persecution and hard trials.

It is easy to get excited about the idea of being a rebelutionary but have inaccurate ideas of what that will be like. We could have visions of going out and changing the world with our wise rhetoric, outstanding logic, and courageous stand. The crowds cheer and the confetti falls. This, of course, is possible.

However, if we follow hard enough after God we are most likely going to meet bitter opposition and ridicule from the world. This, on top of personal pain found in this sinful fallen world, could potentially squash a young rebelutionary's ambition.

In an attempt to prepare hearts and minds for the likely hardships of being a disciple of Christ, I would like to bring to the table a discussion of suffering. One of the great themes of this blog is doing hard things. One of the hardest things we will do in this life, is to go through suffering or persecution in a God-exalting way.

I do not intend this post to be a comprehensive theology of suffering, but rather I would like to propose a few challenges to you in how you deal with pain and persecution.
Challenge #1: Do what's right, even when it costs you.
When I was on a secular campus, saying the politically incorrect but biblical viewpoint could cost you your social standing, your teacher's approval and your grade. Will you be silent, or will you take a stand? In this day and age, you could even lose your job for sharing Christ with your co-workers. Do you consider soul winning important enough to lose your job over?

College campuses aside, standing up for unpopular biblical ideas will often cost you discomfort, ridicule and scorn -- even from more secularized Christians. Will you be passive in the face of opposition? Or will you be courageous despite the opposition?

It is possible that persecution in the United States will become much worse very soon. Dr. Albert Mohler estimates that in ten years it will be illegal to preach the gospel in our "free" nation. If that day comes, what and who will you stand for? Would you be willing to stand up for your beliefs even if it meant imprisonment?

Christ was ridiculed and persecuted. And if we are truly following Him we should expect the same. Do hard things. Stand by His strength.
Challenge #2: Worship God when pain enters your life.
The Book of Job offers a striking example of this when Job's entire world falls apart. His wealth is taken away, his children are killed; and all for no apparent reason. How does he respond? He grieves, he tears his robe, he falls down and worships God.

Wow. Are you up for that?

Our society -- including much of the Christian world -- says it's okay to be angry and bitter when calamity strikes. That's the easy, natural thing to do. The trial does hurt, it does bring searing pain. Our automatic response is anger. But the hard thing, and even more importantly, the right thing to do while grieving, is to worship God.

Why would you, and more importantly, how could you do this? That brings me to...
Challenge #3: View God as more valuable than all else.
What could possibly make us willing to give up our freedom, our standing in the world, and our comforts, all for the sake Christ? The answer is to catch a glimpse of the infinite value of Christ -- His immense worth and complete beauty.

When your health fails, a family member dies, you face infertility, loss of wealth, or if Mr. or Mrs. Right never comes, why would you -- and how could you -- still choose to worship God? If you know the all-surpassing value of God; and if His absolute sufficiency satisfies you; then you won't be able to do anything else.

This is the foundational truth that prepares and helps us deal with pain. It is not attempting to downplay the ache of loss or the pain of disease, but it is recognizing the superior worth of Christ.

Remember the parables that Christ spoke about the kingdom of heaven being like a treasure and a pearl?
"The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field which a man found and hid again, and from joy over it he goes and sells all the he has and buys that field. Again the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it." Matthew 13:44-45
Notice that both of these men gave up ALL, yet they did it with great joy! Why the joy? Once again, it is because they recognized the superior worth of what they were obtaining for their sacrifice. If we can wrap our minds around this incredible truth, then we can more fully understand the meaning of James 1:2, where we are instructed to "consider it all joy" when we face various trials -- and we will be better prepared for every trial this world holds for us.

In closing, I would like to make one final point. If you have gained the impression that facing trials correctly is done in our own strength, then you have misunderstood. It is only through God's opening our eyes to His worth, and through our relying on Him, that we can do right.

It is not about pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps, it is about kneeling before Him in humble submission, crying for help, confident in His eternal mercy.

May we all rely on Him more, and ourselves less. May we consider ourselves lowly, and Him highly. May we consider ourselves weak, but Him strong. And when the storms of life break, take comfort in His promise that He will never leave us nor forsake us.
For a more thorough understanding of suffering, listen to or read John Piper's series entitled, Job: Five Sermons on Suffering, read Joni Eareckson Tada's book, When God Weeps, or Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts by Jerry Bridges.
Make sure you visit Kimi's blog, read her post on what it means to be a 'nonconformist', leave her a comment, and bookmark her blog.