Recently, a friend commented to me about her disappointment when a dire situation suddenly arose in her family. She had just learned to live life without expecting the other "shoe to drop" and then it did. You must understand that this was not a casual or superficial complaint; this friend has faced her share of circumstances which would cause many of us to take one look, and run quickly in the opposite direction.
My friend was widowed very young by cancer, then, just as suddenly, this newly single mom's oldest son faced a cancer diagnosis of his own—and that's just the beginning of her journey. Her life story, meant to be a testimony of joy coming in the morning, has not yet seemed to have reached the light of dawn. Most recently a new set of "challenges" has reared its ugly head just as, in her mind, she could begin to trust in things not completely falling apart at every turn.
My heart aches at her situation and at my own, as we have faced seemingly innumerable losses and reasons for tears in the last couple of years. These are years which we had hoped would mark the end of our own season of "weeping and mourning"—only to replace the chronic pain and sadness I had lived with of raging circumstances. My raging circumstances included almost losing my marriage, walking through my mother's brain tumor diagnosis and her death a year later, the loss of jobs, a bankruptcy, the loss of our home, dealing with an immobilizing injury, and living homeless for three months. And yet, in the midst of darkness, a treasure forms.
Isaiah 45:3 "I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden wealth of secret places, so that you may know that it is I, the LORD, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name."
"Lord, Haven't I Suffered Enough?"
One summer morning a few years ago, as I walked and talked with the Lord, I found myself sitting on a park bench, weeping, and out of my heart came this prayer, "Lord, how is it that it feels like the first 30 years of my life have been about grief and tears?" In that moment His inexplicable love surrounded me, and filled me like a warm and healing balm. I heard Him whisper, the way that only He can, to my innermost being: "Kathryn, though your weeping has endured for a night, the rest of your life will be about carrying My glory."
I went away from that encounter rejoicing at His words, seemingly a promise of better things to come. Only, those "better things" turned out to be the circumstances noted above; not exactly what one would expect restoration to look like. I was understandably confused and disappointed. Not that there weren't amazing, encouraging circumstances and miracles that also occurred during that time. Yet, I too, like my friend, was looking for a quality of life without the constant expectation of bad things happening. "Lord, haven't I suffered enough? When can I trust again that things are going to be okay?"
As it happens, I was asking the wrong question. I had interpreted His promise to me to mean a change of circumstances, but He was talking about much more than that. As always, He has the best in mind when I can only conceive of the crumbs. Hidden inside His words to me was a promise of the transformation of my very heart. My question to Him needed to be not, "When can I trust in better circumstances coming for me," but, "Lord, what did You mean about carrying Your glory?"
Oh, if we only understood the "nature of suffering." Christ's suffering for our ultimate redemption was the greatest passion play, the greatest illustrated sermon ever presented on the very character and Person of the Godhead: "He who has seen Me has seen the Father" (John 14:9). He is ultimate Love, in its purest, highest form. And, if we are very courageous in the midst of great trial, we suddenly become the seat of conception for the greatest revelation that can come to the heart of man: I AM.
The greatest treasure of darkness is that He is unchanging, He is still the same, He is on the Throne, His name is Love, and He never fails. Though the light become darkness around me, though the mountains be removed and hurled into the sea, You remain, Your love remains, and my Jesus is still the same.
In the Scriptures we are told to "count it all joy" when we face trials of many kinds, for to persevere through painful trials produces the character of Jesus, and His character within us gives birth to the hope that does not disappoint—even His GLORY (see James 1 and Romans 5) . Christ in me in perfect, intimate, conjugal oneness IS the glory of God in its ultimate expression.
The Glory About to Be Revealed In and Through Us
To carry His glory is His ultimate design and plan for humanity. Romans 8:18 says, "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us." It goes on to say that even creation is subjected to the frustrated groaning of waiting for the revealing of the sons of the Kingdom. In Matthew 13 we see that it is in His sovereign design to harvest out of us every evil thing that hinders and causes us to stumble, "AND THEN" we will shine like the sun (with His glory!) in the Kingdom of our Father.
His ultimate design was and is to form and reveal in me a true worshiper; to give my life every opportunity to be a testimony and a pleasing fragrance, to reveal in me His glory, the treasure formed in darkness—the wealth in secret places. My place of suffering, at the merciful hands of adverse circumstance, is the crucible for the glorious "AND THEN" of Matthew 13, revealing the "pearl of greatest price."
Pearls are fascinating gems. Natural, uncultured (that is, without human intervention) pearls are very rare, forming only when a microscopic parasite or impurity accidentally invades the safe, pristine environment of the soft tissue or mantle of a sea mollusk. Being irritated by the invader, the mollusk coats the impurity with a calcium secretion in layer upon conjunctive layer. If one were to dissect a natural pearl, there would be no solid "centre" visible, but a series of concentric "growth rings." It's not a stretch to see the allegory. (Incidentally, my middle name is Margaret, from the Greek, meaning "A Pearl." In this sense, Trouble is literally my middle name.)
That summer morning when He spoke to me, He was giving me much more than a promise of better things to come. He was giving me a priceless key for life and having it abundantly. He was essentially saying to me, "Kathryn, I've chosen for you to endure; and where you have wept and thought it was 'for nothing,' you will come to find it has worked to ignite the brilliant, raging flame within you, the greatest treasure concerning darkness. If you will allow Me, Your life will carry the very I AM."
I long to be able to tell my friend that better days are coming for her, but they are not necessarily the better days of "easier circumstances." I have no idea if more loss will come to her, but I do know that as she comes through this time of trouble, she will emerge radiant and shining, with a better revelation of the character and Person of the God who loves her, who formed her, who has called her by name.
Often now, when I meet people, they look into my eyes and say something like, "Oh! I see Him! Shining there!" and I am reduced to tears for the honor of having been given the gift of an unveiled face, revealing His glory as a bright reflection in the mirror of my life. I have come to intimately know the truth of Psalm 84, that blessed are those who have set their hearts on pilgrimage, who pass through the valley of weeping, making it a place of springs—that the former and latter rains fall on them there.
Rightly He promised me that there would come a day for me when I would "Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you...Then you will see and be radiant, and your heart will thrill and rejoice...for you will have the LORD for an everlasting light, and the days of your mourning will be over" (Isaiah 60:1, 5, 20).
And, if He promised me, He has promised you.
In His love,