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Dark Clouds and Sunlight

Beloved of God,

When is God more glorified…when you are grateful for the good He brings into your life OR when you are full of praise in the pain He brings into your life? The question presses us at the point of greatest satisfaction.

Gratitude in Good…OR Praise in Pain

By the way…it should be noted that good is often corrupted by sin and used against us. Sin routinely turns the good gifts of God into idleness or idolatry. Our growth is often stunted and/or our God is often ignored in times of comfort. Just ask the nation of Israel during the age of the judges. When they pragmatically prospered they fell into partial obedience—they were more satisfied with the pleasures than pleasing God (something God predicted would happen; cf. Deuteronomy chapters 6-8). So even in good we often fail to give God the glory.

Second, please do not merely ascribe to God that He merely allows affliction into our lives. To do so discredits the Word (cf. Deuteronomy 32:39; Amos 3:2; Isaiah 45:7; Lamentations 3:38), dishonors God’s self-disclosure (God does not offer a theodicy for Himself), and ultimately sends suffers away from God—you turns to a God that may be good, but impotent to help. You are not at the mercy of circumstance. The One who sovereignly reigns and rules over every square inch of His creation is a very present Help in times of trouble (Ps 46:1).

God’s promise is never a pain free life. He promises He will use pain in the believer’s life for good, namely holiness and happiness (cf. Rom 8:28-29). God uses the chemotherapy of affliction to kill the cancer of sin AND create a greater capacity to enjoy Jesus.

The world will never see this. Indeed, much of so-called evangelism lives as though pain is the worst thing imaginable. The Puritans thought sin was. “There is more malignity in a drop of sin than in a sea of affliction, for sin is the cause of affliction, and the cause is more than the effect” (Thomas Watson, The Doctrine of Repentance; first published 1668).

Thus, how much harder is it for us, 21st century comfortable Christians, to cling to God in pain?!? Satan knew this as he sought to hurt Job to the point of dishonoring God (Job 1:9-11; 2:4-5). You see when good is piled upon good what you really treasure is never revealed…but when pain darkens our doors and things are removed, then what one truly desires will be prominently on display.

If God is…seriously is…truly is your treasure then the loss of lesser things will not rob you of your joy. If, on the other hand, Jesus is just (only?) a nice addition, then when lesser things are lost one will be devastated…beloved, there is a grief that reveals unbelief. Paul knew people would grief losses in life…but he also knew that those who treasure Christ will grieve with hope:

“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13).

I owe much of the above life-changing truth to a particular redeemed saint…with him and his words I close—read slowly, read repeatedly, and then pray that God would make you a wise counselor for those who suffer:

“If counselors leave others where they are—seeking satisfaction in family and job and leisure and toys and sex and money and food and power and esteem—then, when suffering and death strip it all away, they will be embittered and angry and depressed. And the worth and beauty and goodness and power and wisdom of God, the glory of God, will vanish in the cloud of murmuring, complaining, and cursing. But if counselors pray well (that God would satisfy us with Himself); if the counselor has loved and spoken well (showing others that they must suffer, but that God is more to be desired than comfort, and the steadfast love of the Lord is better than life [Ps. 63:3]); if counselors are living well (rejoicing to suffer for other’s sake); and if counselors linger long enough in one place of ministry, in real relationships with many people, then many people will suffer well and die well, counting it gain because they are satisfied in God alone. God will therefore be mightily glorified, and the great end of counseling ministry will be achieved” (John Piper, “Counseling with Suffering People,” The Journal of Biblical Counseling,” Winter 2003).

May Rod and Staff Ministries be used of God to help pastors and people be equipped to help others live above circumstance—for the glory of the glorious God.

10,000 Blessings in The Wonderful Counselor,

Jim