|Feeling Sorry for Yourself|
Elisabeth Elliot: And even if you seem to have nothing but regrets, horrible pictures of your poor choices, your sins, your mistakes, your failures, we're talking about a God who repairs things, makes things over, transforms them.
Lisa Barry: Those are healing words, aren't they? But how frequently do thoughts like those descend upon our minds? Not very often, I'm afraid. So if those aren't the sort of things we tend to dwell on, what do we think about? For many of us, we like to think about the things our friends have that we don't. Things maybe like a happy childhood, a successful marriage or a good job. Or maybe we mourn the fact that we can't sing or speak in front of others. So then the question, "How should we deal with those missing elements in our lives?" Today Elisabeth Elliot talks about what to do when we feel sorry for ourselves. Stay with us as we continue the celebration of 10 years on the air with Gateway To Joy. Let's get started.
Elisabeth Elliot: "You are loved with an everlasting love." That's what the Bible says. "And underneath are the everlasting arms." This is your friend Elisabeth Elliot, talking with you again today about the treasures and dangers of memory.
How often have you felt entitled to feel sorry for yourself? "I have a right to feel sorry for myself. Look what has happened to me." You know, that's a subtle poison. It can lull our sensibility to others. It can make us self-engrossed, so that we feel as though we are the center of the world and everything has to revolve around us. We convince ourselves that nobody ever suffered like this. I just know that nobody has ever gone through anything like this.
Well, in our better moments we know that that's sheer foolishness, because there's always somebody--and probably very many people--who have suffered in far worse ways than ours.
Let widows and widowers remember every marriage ends, with rare exceptions. It means that there is going to be sorrow. God gives you the great joy of marriage, but there is always that prospect that the day will come when one or the other will be gone. It's a very rare occasion when both go at the same time, and certainly that's what every wife and husband would hope for. Since we have to go in the end, it would be nice to go together.
Well, it didn't work that way with my first husband. He and I had been married a little over two years. With my second husband, we had been married just a little over four years. The first one was killed; the second one died of cancer.
But I can look back and thank God for the privilege that I had of being married to those two very different men. I can't leave out the fact that God has now given me a third man. As far as I know, he's feeling quite well this morning. We've been married more than 17 years.
When we think of the treasures, let's not forget that there are some dangers, too. Suffering should render us not self-pitying, but more sensitive to the needs of others. Kirkegaard observed, "Those who believe themselves to be particularly sensitive are often hard-hearted."
That statement really gave me pause. We may be very sensitive in certain ways, and very callused and hard in other ways. I pray that my own sorrows and sufferings will make me more sensitive to those of others. Not self-pitying, and God help me, not hard-hearted.
Do you-can you believe the truth of Romans 8:28, that everything that happens fits into a pattern for good, to them that love God? Can you believe Psalm 16:5, that says, "Lord, You have assigned me my portion and my cup, and have made my lot secure"?
Those are two verses that I hang onto. I hang my soul on those words, as it were. Everything that happens fits into a pattern for good. The Lord has assigned me my portion and my cup. It's not by accident. It's not blind fate. It is a loving, merciful, just, faithful, wise God who assigns me everything in my life.
Psalm 16:5: "The years or months or weeks or days which you are now remembering with such longing, do you realize that they were measured, assigned, and in God's time withdrawn by the same everlasting love?"
You can certainly understand that when my first Jim Elliot was killed, I thought, "That wasn't enough. Not a long enough marriage. 27 months? Not nearly enough."
"Lord, You have assigned me my portion." He measures it with exquisite accuracy. That little child that you lost, did it seem almost unbearable to think that God would allow that sweet, precious, beautiful little child to be taken away so early?
I had a beautiful letter the other day from a family who had prayed for a son, and God answered the prayer and gave them a little son who lived one half hour. But you know, it is comforting to me to realize that that was the measure that God chose. God knew before the foundation of the world that He would create that tiny child and that He would lend that child to those parents just for 30 minutes. He was withdrawn by the same everlasting love.
Now most days, for most of us, are pretty ordinary. As I was preparing these talks on the treasures and dangers of memory, I thought, "Why don't I look back into some of my early memories, which I have surely forgotten?"
So I pulled out a five-year diary from 1948. I just opened it at random, and this is what I found. It was an ordinary school day. School meaning college actually at that time. I was studying Greek and theism and philosophy and anthropology. I had been invited to participate in a debate. I had a nice time to chatter with some friends. I had two hours of quiet time with the Lord on a Saturday, and I went to a wrestling meet and studied and talked with my friend Van.
But since it was a five-year diary, I looked down on the next day--the same day, 1949, when I was a student at Prairie Bible Institute in Alberta, Canada. The temperature was -23, and it certainly was a red-letter day because I got a letter from Jim Elliot. I was crazy about Jim Elliot. He and I had not anything like what would be called a "relationship" now.
But we had met in college and I was corresponding with him. Very sparsely, shall we say. He would write a letter, and then I would wait about six weeks before I would answer, in order to just try to control my emotions.
Then looking down the next year, 1950, I found on that day that I was teaching a speech class. That was in a little Christian high school in Florida. I was teaching the students to debate, and coaching a mixed quartet.
Why do I mention these little trivial things? Because all these little things are part of the business of life. God put me here. When is He going to put me somewhere else?
This is from another diary entry. Was it the mission field where God was going to take me? Was He going to let me stay for my whole life? I didn't know. So I was just thinking about memories of the past and hopes for the future.
Now to you older ones, it's inevitable to us--and I'm certainly old--that the past keeps reappearing. It's inevitable for us to think it's over. Well, of course it is. The past is over for everybody, isn't it? It doesn't make any difference how old or how young you are. But that, too, is the mercy of God.
Are you troubled because you're feeling so alone today? The Lord is with you, unchanging, near, dear, fully present. Yes, He is. You remember His promise: "I will never, never, never leave you or forsake you." In the original language there are five negatives. So He is with you, no matter how alone you may feel.
The fact that the past is over is the mercy of God. Let's not mourn the past. We would not mourn those days, but remember that we are going to God. His love planned your life. Even if you seem to have nothing but regrets, horrible pictures of your poor choices, your sins, your mistakes, your failures, we're talking about a God who repairs things, makes things over, transforms them, restores the years that the locust has eaten. He is a God of miracles.
There are many amazing transformations that the Bible speaks about. Out of death, for example, comes resurrection. Out of curse, blessing. God promises to turn our sackcloth into joy. Sackcloth, I'm sure you realize, is the cloth of which sacks are made. Very, very rough, hard stuff the people used to put on in order to signal the fact that they were mourning in Old Testament times. But God wants to change our sackcloth into joy, our wilderness into a pasture, our weakness to strength, our humiliation into glory, mortality into immortality, poverty into riches.
In place of our mourning, He gives us praise. In place of ashes, He gives us beauty. And Paul says that this vile body--and as I look at the disintegration of my aged body, I certainly understand his use of that word--this vile body is going to be changed into a resplendent body. We have wonderful things to look forward to. Think of the treasures of memory. Caution yourself that there are dangers in memory as well.
Lisa Barry: I'd like to recommend a new book we've put together that's full of great reminders of the faithfulness of God. It's called GATEWAY TO JOY. In it you'll find many of the poems and readings that Elisabeth shares on this program, but you get the added bonus of beautiful artwork to go along with it. Our special anniversary edition is limited and available only while supplies last. So don't delay in getting in touch with us if you want a copy.
Also something else that may be helpful is purchasing a copy of the original series that today's program came from. It's called THE TREASURES AND DANGERS OF MEMORY.
If you'd like either of these resources, call us today at 1-800-759-4JOY.
Do you have a story about Gateway To Joy and how it's changed your life, your marriage, your relationships? We're collecting stories from listeners for a book. If you'd like to be a part of this, send your letter to Gateway To Joy, care of "My Gateway to Joy Story, Box 82500, Lincoln, Nebraska, 68501. Today's program has been a production of Back to the Bible. Our Internet address is gatewaytojoy.org.
Tomorrow we continue our celebration as Elisabeth talks about "Me? Obey Him?" It's all coming up next time on Gateway To Joy.