Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Part 5: Joyfully living life to its fullest in Plan A (because there is no Plan B)

[Continuation from Part 4]
Joni Eareckson Tada, in her and Steven Estes’ book When God Weeps: Why our Sufferings Matter to the Almighty, has a great answer to her question she raises, “Why does God pile on hardships so high?” She says: God is more concerned with conforming me to the likeness of his Son than leaving me in my comfort zones” (p. 121, Tada and Estes) God, who sees our suffering and can bear our suffering no longer (Exodus 3:7-8; Judges 10:16 quoted in Part 3), loves us so much and wants to sanctify us making us more like His Son every day, decrees our suffering to accomplish His great and awesome purposes in our lives. After all, we have the promise of Jeremiah 29:11: "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope" (ESV).  God will fulfill his purposes in our lives and complete his good work in us. He will never leave us or forsake us. He will carry us when we can no longer walk. He takes our heavy burden and gives us his easy and light burden. He doesn't leave us alone to endure our suffering. He’s right there with us and can sympathize with us because Jesus suffered in all points as we do yet did it without sin.
Paul says in Colossians 1:24b, “I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions…”

What on earth does that mean? Joni explains this beautifully: “Nothing is lacking when it comes to what Christ did on the cross. It is finished, just as he said. But something is lacking when it comes to showcasing the salvation story to others. Jesus isn't around in the flesh, but you and I are. When we suffer and handle it with grace, we’re like walking billboards advertising the positive way God works in the life of someone who suffers” (p. 101, Tada and Estes). That thought helps bring meaning to the suffering. It’s by far not in vain. There is value not just in our own lives and sanctification but in the lives of those around us. The hardships can cause us to long for heaven just as Paul did, and that’s perfectly fine. There would be a problem if we’d rather stay in this life. He says in Philippians 1:21-24:
"For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account." (ESV) 
We live torn between our desire to be with Christ and to remain to do the work He has called us to. Good thing God knows what is best for us, and He will call us home when our work here on earth is done. Whether we linger longer on earth or see Jesus face to face sooner rather than later, we win! So what does all of this mean to me personally as I struggle to learn to live joyfully in God’s Plan A since there is no Plan B? And what is the summary of the answer for the original question of Part 1: How could a God of love decree so much suffering? Tune in for Part 6: The conclusion!

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