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Suffering Love

Elisabeth Elliot: And those of you who are not in the midst of some kind of suffering right now and you're thinking, "Oh well, you know, another program on suffering. I think we've had about enough of them now." Maybe there's some word here that the Lord will bring to your mind later on when you find yourself in some sort of a dark place.

Lisa Barry: I'm glad Elisabeth said that today, because I think some of you might conclude that unless you've lost someone you love or are in the midst of a tragedy that this program is not for you. Quite the contrary, because the goal of this program is not to Band-Aid the crisis in our lives, but to teach us how to make Jesus Christ the focal point of our existence. Stay tuned for Gateway To Joy coming up next.

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 today about that deep subject of suffering.

But I want to talk about a higher plane. There are so many joyful things that we can learn from people who have suffered very deeply. It's my purpose always to try to interpret life here in terms of a radically different sort of a life-the new life, the Christ life. This is a supernatural life that we're talking about on Gateway To Joy. Not just the humdrum, ordinary.

Yes, we live in the humdrum and the ordinary, but we can live a different kind of a life. If this world were all that we had, these few trouble-filled years in this fast wearing-out world, we'd have good reason to despair, wouldn't we? To feel that we'd been dealt a very poor hand of cards. But the reason for this daily broadcast is to lift your sights, to call you to a higher plane, another quality of life.

I get many letters telling of people's problems, many people asking me to sort out their problems, which I can't very often do. Certainly not finally. And this letter that I have to read today illustrates so beautifully the radical difference in the quality of life that Jesus Christ wants to give us.

And one reason that I read these letters is because I know that I have not begun to suffer all the things, or even one millionth, of the things that my listeners suffer. And they can always discount what I say. And they say, "Oh, well, Elisabeth Elliot-you know she comes from a wonderful Christian background and things have gone well in her life. What does she know about this particular kind of pain?" And the answer is of course I don't know anything about most kinds of pain.

And here's one that I know nothing about. Listen to what this woman learned from God. She said, "You've been starting your program with this verse." She quotes Deuteronomy 31:8: "'The Lord Himself goes before you. He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged.'

When I first heard that verse, it caught my attention. I decided I needed to memorize it, and it has become very special to me over the past few months. Four months ago our fourth child was born. She has been diagnosed as having Down's syndrome. As I look back over the pregnancy, I see how God has prepared me for this precious addition to our family. The verse above helped me a great deal through the final weeks of waiting.

Pregnancy has never been easy. All four of mine have been a constant nine months of nausea, never hungry, forcing myself to eat for the baby's health and my own, and then often losing what I just worked so hard to consume. Along with that was constant discouragement and depression, as even the smallest, easiest tasks of taking care of my family took such great determination and effort.

During that time I argued with God, fought with Him, pleaded with Him, and at times just gave up. Through this pregnancy I have felt further from God than I have for several years, yet I know now how closely He was there.

I had the privilege of seeing you the two times you recently came to Baltimore, Maryland. In all that you said, the stories you told, and the questions you answered, I was struck by the constancy of your belief that all God does is done in love for my good. It wasn't just something that you claimed to believe. You believe it and it shows. Actually seeing your example made a big impact on me. Romans 8:28 took on a new meaning: 'In all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.'

Deuteronomy 31:8 and Romans 8:28 were the two verses I repeated and clung to after Hannah was born. I decided making a deliberate choice to believe that God had a good purpose in sending her to us.

The past four months have flown by. I've been aware of God's closeness and His many gifts of encouragement. One big one came through sharing day in a Bible study I attend. I felt Him asking me to share, and prayed a lot about what He wanted me to say. The realizations that came out of that were wonderful. I'd like to share my final paragraph of that with you.

'As I prayed about what to share today, it was wonderful to reflect on the growth that God has taken me through. I've been a person who has always said, 'Lord, I want to follow You, but I'm afraid of what You'll ask of me.' The parable of the rich young ruler haunted me. I couldn't quite give up my riches and follow completely, but now I'm beginning to see how God has been lovingly and gently changing my attitude. Instead of fear for what He might ask of me, I'm feeling more peace.

In learning what it's like to have Him walking with me, I'm becoming more willing and open to His leading. I'm even noticing some small sparks of excitement for what is coming next. I'm beginning to understand a song I learned awhile ago based on Psalm 63:3. 'His lovingkindness is better than life.'

I have an idea that this glimpse of what life can be like walking closely with the Lord, of the joy His presence brings, is something that only can be experienced. No one could have described this to me in a way I would have fully comprehended. But I am thankful to people like you that God has put in my path. People whose witness has helped lead me to this point.' Thank you for your ministry and your willingness to share of yourself. I listen on WRBS in Baltimore." Her name is Jan Salzmann. And it is my prayer that someone may be helped by her testimony who perhaps has never been helped by mine.

And those of you who are not in the midst of some kind of suffering right now and you're thinking, "Oh, well, another program on suffering. I think we've had about enough of them now," maybe there's some word here that the Lord will bring to your mind later on when you find yourself in some sort of a dark place.

As Jan says, "No one could have described this to me." I'm sure Jan knows I tried and probably other people have tried. But we ourselves have to go through the deep water and the hot fire and the dark valley.

You know, I had no idea when I was ten years old what actually being born again would entail. I thought it was very simple. I took God at His word and I received Him and I was given, the Bible tells me, the power to become a child of God. That's what you can do. Receive Him. Take Him at His word. And you will be given the power to become a child of God.

I sang songs like, "At the cross, at the cross, where I first saw the light and the burden of my heart rolled away, it was there by faith I received my sight and now I am happy all the day."

I can't claim that overnight I became happy all the day. But the Spirit of God did actually begin to work in my ten-year-old heart and to show me that my once-in-a-lifetime choice must be followed by moment-by-moment choices to do things His way instead of mine. I must accept not just salvation, meaning a free ticket to heaven, but His sovereign lordship of my life, His will, which very often cuts across mine.

More than half a century later, I'm still learning the acquiescence of the vetch leaves that Lillias Trotter described in her book, PARABLES OF THE CROSS-how submission to the life and death cycle brings new life. Now I assure you that I haven't found these lessons a piece of cake. In some ways it does get harder.

But as the old hymn says, "We never can prove the delights of His love until all on the altar we lay. For the favor He shows and the joy He bestows are for them who will trust and obey."

What are you withholding from God? Perhaps you've said to God, "Lord, You can have this and that and the other thing. You can have almost all of my life, but don't ask me to give up this. This is a perfectly good thing. This is a legitimate thing."

If that's your argument, what was it that was offered to the Heavenly Father in Gethsemane? It was a very good thing. It was a pure thing. It was a human thing. It was a human will. Remember, Jesus offered His will to the Father. What was it that was offered as a sacrifice on the cross? Was it something bad? It was the spotless, sinless Son of God. So let's not use that argument. Let's just give it all to Jesus and let Him give back whatever He knows we need. "For we never can prove the delights of His love until all on the altar we lay. For the favor He shows and the joy He bestows are for them who will trust and obey."

Lisa Barry: I hope you've been enjoying this series on suffering even if you're not suffering at the present time. I guess I see these programs as depositing into my life the truths I may need to call upon at a later date. Maybe you feel the same way but are afraid that everything Elisabeth has said will drift from your memory too quickly.

Well, one way to hold onto these gems of truth is to have your own copy of this series on suffering. You can tuck it away for now and take it out when you want to refresh your memory or even lend it to someone you know. This series title is SUFFERING IS NOT FOR NOTHING. Ask for it by name when you write or call us. The cost of the series is $13.00 and that price includes shipping and handling. Then get in touch with us at this address Gateway To Joy, Box 82500, Lincoln, Nebraska, 68501. Or call toll-free: 1-800-759-4JOY. Today's program has been a production of Back to the Bible. This is Lisa Barry and I want to take a minute to thank you on behalf of Elisabeth and the Gateway To Joy staff for your continued support of this broadcast. Those of you who can support us financially are not only helping us, but you're helping those listeners who can't give a gift right now. Gateway To Joy can only continue in those areas where the listeners voice their support. So consider yours extremely valuable. Be with us again tomorrow when Elisabeth offers encouragement to stay-at-home mothers. That's right here on Gateway To Joy.

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