Thursday, February 08, 2007

Letter to a prisoner

Dear Morris,

Interesting Question: why has God chosen this difficult path for you? Or, you ask, with all the previous suffering and anguish I’ve known, is this current added burdensome trial really necessary? Put another way, why is the Providence of God so severe for some and not others? Great theological minds have grappled greatly with this. I have little to offer because I too am perplexed by why God’s paths for people are so different. Why do some with as much faith and trust in God as you have, never seem to find a place of steady comfort and a position of strength to live from. I know that someone in your current situation, does not want shallow, petty, glib answers to things.

Over the last few years, I had two close Christian friends die. In both cases, I spent a lot of time with them in their final two years to comfort them in their spiritual distress. Both were extraordinarily passionate in their faith in God and their love for Him. They seemed less concerned about their physical ailments than the bigger questions of why their lives were so unfulfilled. Both died unfulfilled, feeling that they had very little to show by way of service and fruit for the Lord. I encouraged both of them that God took delight in the fact that they “loved Him through the pain.” I counsel you to do the same.

Tell God that you are confused AND disappointed by the painful path He laid out for you to walk, but also tell Him of your desire to love Him dearly because of who He is and ask Him to build deep trust in His Sovereignty, Love, and Infinite Wisdom. As hard as it is to believe, He means to do you good by His severe dealings with you. Remember, as you read Job, God didn’t answer Job’s questions; He rather showed up as the powerful, majestic God and Job was silenced. But let me speculate that perhaps God knows you so well, that in His Wisdom He knew that without this severe path to humble you and crush your self-dependence, you would have destroyed yourself. You would have cheerfully taken the broad path to hell. Perhaps God knew that without these severe obstacles, you would have been eternally undone. It is your pain that has caused you to ponder the right questions and make attempts to deeply trust Him.

In your current situation of brokeness, remember that God adores a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Ask God for wisdom. Ask God for Meekness and Humility. Ask God for deeper trust in Him. Ask God for the miracle of giving you deep contentment in Him even there in Prison. Ask God to cause the fruit of His Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control) to grow so much in your heart, that it bursts out to bless everyone around you. Ask God for one of the greatest of all gifts: a zeal for His Glory. Then wait. You might have to wait 10 years for these fantastic gifts, but persevere in asking and you will know an unspeakable joy, even here on Earth. All of these gifts come directly from God (they are not native to your corrupt heart) and He tells us to ask for what we want. Let the suffering you have known lead you to a place of godly desire. And finally, dear friend, I encourage to practice the hard discipline of THANKING God for the difficult, painful path He has chosen for you.


Beth said...

Is this something you wrote to someone you know?

Wonderful counsel to a hurting soul. Oh, that we might all grasp these truths when life is hard. I sometimes wonder why I have had is so easy compared to others. Life has been pretty smooth. But I was once reminded that Corrie ten Boom spent the first forty years of her life in a watchmaker's shop and then the hardships came. God's ways are beyond our comprehension, but all his ways are good. Thanks for continually pointing to that truth.

Hi to everybody up there!

ed elliott said...

yes, I wrote this last week to a one of the prisoners I met at Alexandria jail. All that I am today was born in a hot crucible of deep brokeness and pain. It is why I can relate to Christian prisoners so well. I know that place of bewilderment while bearing the severe providence of God. It is a hard place that I am happy to reach into and comfort our younger, weaker brothers.