I've been reading a book I bought years ago by Elisabeth Elliot called A Path Through Suffering. I began reading it when I bought it but never finished it. As I scanned my bookshelf recently looking for books that could feed my soul I decided it was high time to dust it off and give it another try.
It's a beautiful book and I'm learning a lot from her insights as well as taking comfort in what she has written. There are a few excerpts that I feel are particularly meaningful to me, and so I'll share a few of them over the next few days.
So you can understand the book, she uses analogies from nature: the seasonal flow of winter into spring, or pruning of the vines by the master gardener, or the transformation of something called a gorse thorn into a beautiful flower. Life from death as shown to us in nature.
So here it is--in the gorse blossoming from thorns, in the harvest of wheat from the solitary grain--the gospel, the Good News of life out of death, a gospel for every individual, every need, every hopeless and helpless situation.
"It'll never work for mine," someone is tempted to say. Are you sure your problems baffle the One who since the world began has been bringing flowers from thorns? Your thorns are a different story, are they? You have been brought to a place of self-despair, nothingness. It is hard even to think of any good reason to go on. You live in most unfavorable conditions...you are up against impossible odds. Is this something new? The people of Israel were up against impossible odds when they found themselves between the chariots of Egypt and the Red Sea. Their God is our God. The God of Israel and the God of the gorse thorns looks down on us with love and says, "Nothing has happened to you which is not common to all. I can manage it. Trust Me."
He wants to transform every form of human suffering into something glorious. He can redeem it. He can bring life out of death. Every event of our lives provides opportunity to learn the deepest lesson anyone can learn on earth, "My present life is not that of the old 'I,' but the living Christ within me" (Gal 2:20, JBP). When our souls lie barren in a winter which seems hopeless and endless, God has not abandoned us. His work goes on. He asks our acceptance of the painful process and our trust that He will indeed give resurrection life.
This is exactly what I need to hear. A great part of the loss of Meg for me is a hard to shake belief that there isn't anyone out there who could possibly be more well suited to me than she. They are impossible odds in my mind. In my hubris, I seem to say to God sometimes, "good luck finding someone better for me than Meg!" Sometimes some straight talking like what Elisabeth Elliot wrote above is exactly what the doctor ordered. Do I actually believe that God can't handle it? I have to continually cling to the words I heard him say to me: "I can't wait to show you the ending--you're going to love it."
There is a story from Steve's and my trip to the U.P. that I keep meaning to relay but just haven't gotten around to it until now. It's germane to this post, so no time like the present.
We were in the U.P. on the heels of me professing my love to Meg. As we were discussing how she might respond to me, talk turned towards all kinds of things having to do with trusting God and putting your faith in him. I mentioned how Jeremiah 29:11 has at different times in my life been either solace or a stumbling block. The thought of "plans and a future" seemed to ring hollow for me sometimes, and I was struggling with thinking about it that day.
The following morning I started out driving so Steve could do his daily readings in the Liturgy of the Hours. After we traded seats, he handed me the Liturgy and asked me to read the Scriptures for that day. You can see where this is going, right? What do you think was included in that day's readings? How about Jeremiah 29:11?
That's no coincidence and a sign that God cares about me and my life, enough to do something so clearly directly related to my life. There's a hint of God's sense of humor there too, don't you think? Regardless, the message was clear: God really does want me to trust Him, and he means what He says. I just wish I could let go completely and trust Him fully. When I think of Meg right now though, it's just so hard.
God help me, I'm trying.