I have just, within the last hour, finished reading Suffering and the Sovereignty of God by John Piper and Justin Taylor. It's a compilation put together of various authors, written on the subject of suffering. I have loved reading this book, albeit there were some hard things to wade through. It was excellent, just the same.
I am thankful that they seemed to put into words what I believe about God's view of suffering and His purposes for it in my life, as I was just unable to verbalize it myself in any meaningful way. The Lord also confirmed some things for me as far as understanding His ultimate plan of redemption and how He has done everything from the beginning of time to demonstrate His grace to the praise of His glory.
The icing on the cake for me, if we can call it that, was the final chapter titled Hope...the Best of Things, written by Joni Eareckson Tada. If you know of Joni, you are familiar with her story of becoming a quadriplegic as a young woman because of a diving accident. She has learned through adversity what it is to cling to hope through a lifetime of utter dependence upon God.
By the end of the chapter I was weeping, blown away by the way she has chosen to take up her cross daily and knowing my own miserable failures at rejecting my own cross. Are you familiar with the Bible verse?
Then He [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. (Luke 9:23 NKJV)
"Taking up my cross" was always one of those phrases in the Bible that I didn't really "get." Finally, it all clicked one day for me in a Bible study a few years ago. I like how Joni explains it, and I was happy to find that DesiringGod.org has the book available online so I can share it with you here. This is what she says....
Please know that when I take up my cross every day I am not talking about my wheelchair. My wheelchair is not my cross to bear. Neither is your cane or walker your cross. Neither is your dead-end job or your irksome in-laws. Your cross to bear is not your migraine headaches, not your sinus infection, not your stiff joints. That is not your cross to bear. My cross is not my wheelchair; it is my attitude. Your cross is your attitude about your dead-end job and your in-laws. It is your attitude about your aches and pains. Any complaints, any grumblings, any disputings or murmurings, any anxieties, any worries, any resentments or anything that hints of a raging torrent of bitterness— these are the things God calls me to die to daily. For when I do, I not only become like him in his death (that is, taking up my cross and dying to the sin that he died for on his cross), but the power of the resurrection puts to death any doubts, fears, grumblings, and disputings. And I get to become like him in his life. I get to experience the intimate fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, the sweetness and the preciousness of the Savior. I become holy as he is holy. O God, “you will make me full of gladness with your presence” (Acts 2:28).
(Excerpt taken from Suffering and the Sovereignty of God, by John Piper, Joni Eareckson Tada, pg. 196)
My words can't convey the conviction I felt, not just over this one paragraph but over the rest of what she shares. I'm not even sure I know what else to say. I just know I want to live differently, without the grumbling, disputing and murmuring. I want to be full of gladness at His presence.