“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you…So then those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good. I Peter 4:12 & 19.
One of our recent graduates from the PAYH is nearing the end of Basic Training to become a U.S. Marine. His Dad wrote us to pray for him as he goes through the final test: a 54 hour grueling event called the Crucible (with only two hours sleep and two meals). I know some of what he is facing from my own 34 years in the Army. There is one comforting thought to this whole experience for him; he knows when it will end….in 54 hours.
Some of you are currently experiencing your own crucible of one type or another. What is more excruciating, you do not necessarily know when or how it will end. Your crucible may be unremitting pain, a debilitating disease, mental anguish, or seemingly irresolvable depression; it may be what you think are “unending problems with one of your children, financial hardship, loss of hope, or the pain of unrequited love. Crucibles come in all shapes and sizes; and you feel like you do not know how or even if you will survive. Some are brought on by recognizable choices of your own; in others you have no idea why this is happening. You only hope it will soon pass.
You cannot read the Bible without coming face to face with the reality of suffering. God doesn’t pull punches like leading us to believe that life is a bowl of cherries. His Word is unfailingly true to what is. And suffering and pain in this life is what is. I have recently been rereading Essays Presented to Charles Williams edited by C. S. Lewis. Williams, the great story-teller, had two sides like all of us do in one degree or another. “Skepticism and pessimism were the expression of his feelings. High above them (however), overarching them like a sky, were the things he believed, and they were wholly optimistic. They did not negate the feelings; they mocked them. But unlike so many, Williams, Lewis tells us, did not struggle to crush the side who wanted to be annihilated, who would rather not have been born, because he saw its point of view. “He did not believe that God Himself wanted that frightened, indignant, and voluble creature to be annihilated; or even silenced. If it wanted to carry its hot complaints to the very Throne (of God), even that, he felt, would be a permitted absurdity. For was not that very much what Job had done.
Job’s impatience with and his “blasphemies towards God were accepted. It was his “comforters, the self-appointed advocates on God’s side, who received the divine displeasure. If anything, Job teaches us this; we needn’t masquerade as though our crucible is nothing, as though it is not terrifyingly real. In the ultimate analysis, though second and third causes do exist, “it is God with whom we have to do. Just as Job, it is God with whom you must wrestle and it is God to whom you should direct your complaints. With everything in you, you must fight to see Him and know Him in the pain of your crucible. Know Him by the scars; yours and His. And as Peter says, knowing this suffering is His will, you, a Christian, can do nothing more healing than this: commit yourself to your faithful Creator and continue to do good. Your faith must grasp this anchor, if for no other reason than simple trust in the One who said it; these present sufferings are of no comparison with what will one day be yours.
“Heavenly Father, I cannot bear this crucible much longer; how long, O Lord? No matter what may come, may the result be like that of Job; “My ears had heard of You, but now my eyes have seen You.
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