Thank you, Father, for trusting me with the pain

“No suffering for the present time seems joyful but grievous; nevertheless, afterward….it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:11).

“And indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (II Timothy 3:12).

I hated the pain at the time, Lord.

It’s no fun hurting, lying awake at night hoping for sleep that will not come, wishing for relief and seeing none on the horizon.  At those times I knew why some turn to drink or drugs or worse, but that issue was settled decades ago, Lord, that I would not be bypassing, shortcutting, or tranquilizing whatever you send me in this life.

Remember that time back in the 1960s when a few unhappy people were stirring up matters in your church, saying that I was pushing integration and was going to destroy their church?  Remember that?  I do too.  Oh, how I do.  That was no fun.

As though it were their church. That’s a laugh.  They’re long off the scene and Your church is still there. And integrated, too, I imagine. (smiley-face goes here)

Remember the time they spread the rumor that my wife and I were divorced and that there was deceit in my background, and I didn’t find out about it until it had circled the earth for a solid year?  That was painful, too.

I wondered how they thought I could be divorced since our oldest son was named junior and was only 20 years younger than his mama.  The calendar didn’t leave room for another marriage. But, I suppose gossip should not be expected to follow rules of consistency.  The pain comes from finding unprincipled gossips living in Your church.

Remember the time when my next door neighbor stood in his yard cursing me with obscenities because my trees were shedding on his driveway?  It took a couple of phone calls to people who knew him to learn that his anger was directed at You and not at me personally.  I felt so honored that he identified me with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Remember the time, Father, when a few deacons would stand in the foyer of the church and slander me, telling visitors I was a liberal and that they should not try to worship in this church?  That was so painful, and of course, a complete falsehood. But You dealt with them, and I didn’t have to, and I am grateful we got through that.

I would not want to experience that again for anything. But I’m thankful to have come out of it stronger than before.

Remember the time, Lord, when You asked me to take a church with a 40% cut in salary? And when I was worrying about how we were going to be able to manage, you sent friends with an additional $12,000 a year for the first four years in that church, after which the church came through.  Whew. That was a close one! (another smiley-face here)

Remember my cancer?  Ha. Of course you do.  And the radiation treatments that blistered my mouth and destroyed saliva glands and ruined my taste buds. But here we are, all these years later, still going strong. It’s a small price to pay to go on serving You, Father, and I am more grateful than I can ever say.

And remember the four-hour long deacons meeting when they tried to fire me and You wouldn’t let them and Your Spirit settled over me like a warm blanket filling me with the most comforting peace I had ever known?  You were there and did You ever use that!

Thank you.

It’s all good now.

Even the time you led us from a big church to a smaller divided one, from a new clean city to an old dirty one.  That was a wonderful gift You gave us, although we had trouble seeing just how at the time.

Looking back….

My Lord, I would hate to come down to this time in my earthly journey–I’m in my 81st year now–and think that You did not trust me enough to let me suffer for You.  It would feel awful to look back at an unbroken string of comfortable assignments where Satan ignored what we were doing and everyone spoke well of us.

The early disciples rejoiced “that they had been counted worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41).

I know so little about suffering shame for You, Lord Jesus, but I do rejoice that You allowed me to take some of the same type of opposition You endured which sent You to the cross. (And, frankly, I’m glad it wasn’t any more than this. I couldn’t have stood it the way You did.)

Paul said his heart’s desire was “that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings….” (Philippians 3:10).

Thank you, loving Savior. How great Thou art.

“Thanks be unto God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” (I Corinthians 15:57)

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