Jul 23, 2016

Struck Down, But Not Destroyed (2nd Corinthians 4:8)

Life here in Mexico has been passing peacefully. Luke has finished the classroom portion of his school, and we have begun the "outreach" phase of his training. The outreach portion has been broken up into three segments. Segment one is hosting "Hijos Del Rey" camp which means "Kids of the King". It is a camp for local kids in the area who are Christians. My oldest 2 kids have been blessed to take part in this camp and I have been amazed by all that the Lord has done in their hearts during this time. Campers receive teachings, time for 'adoracion' (praise and worship), workshops (either music, dance, or drama), small groups, and more. We have been blessed to spend time with the kids and teenagers who are here. My little guys attract a lot of attention from the local teenage girls because of their blonde hair and light eyes. Often times I look into the crowd to find one of my  littlest three posing for pictures. They call my kids "guerito", I think it means "little blondie". Seems like I hear that word everywhere I go, especially from the sweet little Mexican grandmothers that we happen across.

The next segment of our outreach will last almost three weeks. We will be travelling to Puebla and Mexico City to do evangelism. The kids and I will join in for this portion. I am really looking forward to it. The kids and I are going to try to learn a few new christian kids songs in Spanish to sing with/for the kids on this leg of our journey. I will post more about this phase in the next few weeks.

The final leg of outreach will be in a city a few hours south of where we are here in Chapala. Luke will take part in this journey, but the kids and I are going to stay home. At that point, Luke will have completed his schooling. We plan to attend a meeting in Kansas after his graduation in September with another couple from the base, and then we will be in Amarillo (Lord willing) to visit our family and friends.

So what does all of this good news have to do with the title of this post? Well, I'm glad you asked.

To answer that question, you need to know a little bit of my back story. During my first pregnancy with my daughter, about 10 years ago, I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. It completely rocked my world. I went from being a very active and energetic person, to a person whose fingers were to weak to pull up the bedsheets at night, and who couldn't stand up straight when I got out of bed. Over the past 10 years I have had my fair share of physical suffering. In the worst times, I couldn't walk or function. I was utterly miserable. The Dr. I went to at that time advised me to start taking a biologic drug that would prohibit me from safely having any more children, and that would certainly have negative long term side effects on my health. I was left asking myself some really hard questions.  Why me, God? Am I still important to you? Do you want me to suffer and struggle? Do you love me? Did you ever really love me? I had moments when I felt like I had been robbed of the healthy active life I had been planning on living. In many ways, I thought my life was over. To put it simply, I had been struck down, way down . . .

As the years passed, the Lord showed me how to care for myself in a way (mostly through diet) that all but eliminated my pain, without taking any toxic prescriptions. Not only that, He blessed my husband and I with 4 sons. I have been able to care for my home, my husband, and my children all with fingers that may not look exactly like yours but can get the job done just as well. He has used my arthritis to teach me humility, compassion, empathy, and more. He has allowed this disease to reveal to me that which is important in life, and that which is not. He has used it to make me thankful, and to reveal to me beauty that would have been overlooked before. Today, I am living a very active life in Mexico doing exactly what the Lord and I want me to be doing. Ten years ago I never would have imagined the life I have now was a possibility. My life was not destroyed by rheumatoid arthritis, in fact I am thriving.

A lack of pain and suffering in life does not equate to being loved by God. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Pain and suffering in life are to be considered "all joy" to the believer who believes that the struggle being faced is evidence of sonship to almighty God. Suffering is required to produce the character traits the Lord is trying to develop in His children to "make them perfect". Suffering makes us more like Christ. Suffering gets the attention of the world. Hard times have come, and more are brewing on the horizon. This is not a lack of love from our Father. When we find ourselves in the midst of agony, and the inevitable question comes to mind, "Do you even love me, Lord?" The answer is to be found on the cross, not on our personal comfort scale. At the cross He proved His love. At the cross He gave us new life that is being renewed by Him day by day, although outwardly we shrivel and waste away.

On the day I die, when I trade my temporary body in for an eternal one, I hope that God and I have a good laugh over the condition of my body. Some parts will be shrivelled from arthritis, others will be stretched from pregnancy and nursing, my brain will be full of our conversations, my hands will have been used to bring nourishment, comfort, and sometimes even to usher a new life into the world. My skin will have wrinkles and sunspots. My toes will not all point in the same direction. But I hope and I pray that every part of my body will have been made accessible to the Lord, no corner kept for myself, and God and I can look on my body and see that it was His more than mine. And on that day, all the pain and suffering will have been well worth it.

"Fallow Ground" by A.W. Tozer:   http://www.theprayerlife.com/tozerfallow.html
Sermon on suffering by Matt Chandler:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KlGdmKYqfMI