Saturday, September 20, 2008

Suffering's Surrender

Ravi Zacharias’ apologetics ministry recently sent me “Just Thinking,” containing two excerpts from books by staff of RZIM. The second one was about doubts and suffering. Stuart McAllister wrote of his experience in a Czechoslavakian prison after he and a companion were caught trying to smuggle Bibles through to Poland. He was an enthusiastic young missionary, who knew the potential risks. The missions organization had trained him to respond to difficulties like this. Additionally he had a confidence in the existence and purposes of God that could not be shaken.

After a day or so in prison, however, he began to realize that he had expectations of God that were not necessarily consistent with what he believed. He wanted to experience God’s immediate, physical intervention in the form of a quick release from prison. He wanted to be aware of God’s purposes in allowing the prison term: something like a chance to preach the gospel or some great revelation. In the very least he had accepted the supernatural peace and grace for circumstances that others had reported. God did not grant any of these, so Stuart began to doubt.

He wrestled through the idea of suffering, through the reality of suffering, searching for a reason for suffering. God was real. That never changed. God was present, yes, that too was sure despite appearances. Did God have the right to do this to him? Did God ask such serious consequences of His followers? Had Stuart too long ignored the theme of persecution in the Bible? What examples did the Bible afford? Did anyone else doubt? What answer did God provide?

At last he had to surrender his expectations. There was nothing inconsistent in the character of God if He chose to leave Stuart McAllister in prison for years. He had to give up his sense of control. And then he had to focus.

This experience might be equated with believing you may soon die. When faced with a cancer diagnosis, or any other terminal illness, one is forced to examine just what demands he ought to make of God. God will act in accordance with truth. Knowing the way things really are can prepare us to cope with what comes.

In any case, I think that the sincere surrender to the rights of God over our own, to the possibility of long suffering and of never receiving what we want, is as good as actually experiencing those things. Some do. Others are rescued.

Stuart McAllister left prison after eleven days of not knowing. But he left as matured by the years he had imagined and accepted.

To God be all glory.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

nice post. This is the first time I've read your blog but I've seen your comments on YLCF.

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In Him, Elizabeth R.