You know it's going to be a challenging day when you're grumbling before you even open your eyeballs. When it's day three of rain and drizzle and warm spring like weather, but you know it's only December and a long way off until real warm spring like weather. When you meet the youngest on the landing of the stairwell because he's up already, too, bouncing and ready to go. And the other son has been up for an hour and a half (again) and has already done his day's work and is ready to talk and practice adding suffixes to adjectives, all before you've even started the coffee pot that has now peetered out to the point that it takes twenty minutes to make a batch of black brew.
So, in my impatience and desperation, I pour a cup half-pot and settle with drinking really strong coffee. Yeesh! A morning person I am not. Well, actually I am a morning person, if this old farmhouse is quiet and my brain can finish it's God thoughts and the phone doesn't ring and there's plenty of cream and sugar.
"Only those who have known sorrow and suffering can have fellowship with those in affliction," is the quote from the book The Faith of Billy Graham that I happened to flip open to this morning. Interesting, considering that my thoughts and prayers this morning centered around this verse:
Philippians 3:10-11 "I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead."
I have been trying to wrap my brain around that verse for quite some time now, even before Trent died. I can't honestly say that I have truly, at my core, really, really ever wanted to endure great suffering. At my core I am really a wimp. But, as odd as it sounds, and as I have watched others suffer, and have seen a glimpse of the grace poured out on them, I have longed for that grace; especially the knowing of Christ in that way. But knowing Jesus Christ that way only comes about through the fellowship of sharing in His suffering. And this fellowship goes beyond me, all the way to God's glory, and only God's glory.
"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us." Romans 5:1-5
That's another verse I have been pondering for the past near 10 months, because it is not enough to suffer for only MY perseverance, MY character, MY hope, MY fellowship with those who are afflicted, MY, MY, MY. It has to go beyond . . . beyond me.
And this verse points to that beyond, all the way to Jesus; our hope is in Jesus alone. I don't know how, I can't see it clearly, but somehow the suffering we are called to in this life produces in the Christian the hope of Jesus making this all right one day; and beyond right, all the way to glorious; His glory shining in a way that we can't begin to fathom. Our eyes turn to Him in a way that they would not be able to without suffering. And His Spirit brings endurance, and grace, and faith, and mercy, and joy, and hope one day at a time, often one moment at a time.
I've found myself in therapy this week. Therapy for me is putting my hands to a pitchfork or a hammer. What I build is usually not pretty and always far from perfect, let alone level; there is a reason why I build on the back of the forty. All year I have hardly been able to even get up the gumption, let alone had the physical strength, to even pick up a hammer or a pitchfork. But this week I did. So I cleaned out the much overdue goat barn, and Cole and I mucked out the chicken coop and started preparing the kidding stalls for next month. And then Traci stopped over and we laughed and talked God and she held boards and swung a hammer with me and we built a hay feeder for the goats. And I think she appreciated the therapy, too.
And then the thought struck me . . . that last night, eons ago it seems, I was dreaming about spotted goat kids and farm plans and preparing kidding stalls and there were five kids playing in the haymow. The haymow that I can barely go up to, the thoughts that keep on coming, trying to paralyze me from trusting God and living in His good plans.
"Can't I just pitch a tent here, God, and stay on this mountaintop?" I asked Him. I've never understood Peter so well. (Matthew 17:4)
"Let's not go down, keep me in this place of safety and trust, God. Don't let the thoughts invade, or the peace flee, or let me be consumed with here and now; keep me in the palm of Your hand; delight over me again; pour out Your grace until I get there, too." If I let them, the thoughts do invade and the lies swirl and I am consumed again with the sinking of despair and I lose sight of my sovereign God's hand. "Let's just pitch a tent and stay on the mountaintop, God. I don't want to go down there."
But I go where He leads, and I take the good days along with the hard days. I pray more on the hard days, I know Him more on the hard days, I hold on tighter and look harder for eternity on the hard days. And on the good days . . . I smile, and my prayers turn to rejoicing, and I long for His glory to shine more, and I hold on tighter yet and look harder again for that eternity and His glory that will be revealed only greater because of suffering. And then I remember that Trent is in heaven . . . heaven . . . so I quit my whining and drink my coffee.