|The Necessity of Storms|
Lisa Barry: Have you ever wondered why God allows some people to endure such tumultuous storms in their lives? Why is it necessary for some to suffer such devastating setbacks? Elisabeth Elliot is a woman who has experienced those kinds of events, but she has a surprising perspective on them. Find out more on today's edition of Gateway To Joy. Here she is.
Elisabeth Elliot: "You are loved with an everlasting love." That's what the Bible says. Did you know that? The Bible does say that. "You are loved with an everlasting love," and that means you. It also says, "The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms." This is your friend Elisabeth Elliot, talking today about the necessity of storms in our lives. Storms are necessary.
You know, the people that have had the biggest influence in my life without exception are people who have weathered storms--people who know what suffering is, people who have had great cause to fear, people who have been in situations that you and I would have considered impossible. But they've proved the faithfulness of God and they have been strengthened by the storms.
I'm sure many of you have seen those sturdy little pine trees that grow along the ocean shore. They are so tough that you can hardly break a twig. Very often you notice that they lean in one particular direction--the direction of the prevailing winds. They can be bent way over, and yet their roots are so strong and they have been strengthened by the storms. I think that the faithfulness of God has been most unforgettably demonstrated to me in the storms of my own life.
I have four things to say about this. The first thing is that storms are one of God's forms of discipline. Discipline is not a word that many people find easy to take. They think of it as punishment. Hear what the writer to the Hebrews says in his chapter 12: "We have had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live? Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best, but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness." God disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness. That has not been nearly so difficult for me to learn as it might be for you, because I had a godly father--a father who took very seriously his responsibility to discipline six children. He disciplined us not because he hated us, not to get back at us, not in retribution, but in love.
The Bible says, "The father who fails to discipline his son hates him." Did you get that? A father who fails to discipline his son hates him. In this same chapter we just read from, Hebrews 12, God says, "My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline and do not lose heart when He rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those He loves and He punishes every one He accepts as a son. Endure hardship as discipline. God is treating you as sons."
The second thing I want to do is to ask you a question. Are there some events in your life for which you have found no explanation? Of course there are. I can remember many years ago sitting in a little jungle house, a thatched-roof palm hut, talking with a man named Gikita. Gikita was putting on tape his story of his own spearing of my husband and four other men.
Some of you remember the story that happened way back in Ecuador in 1956. Five American missionaries were speared to death by a people who were then called Aucas. Gikita was one of those Aucas. He happened to be the oldest man in the tribe, and I was asking him to tell me what had happened on that day and why. Well, I found out that Gikita and the rest of the people in that tribe had suspected that these five white men that were probably coming into their territory soon, because they had been dropping gifts to them from a small plane--they thought that these white men were coming to eat them.
Gikita told me how a young girl named Gimari, who had gone out to the camp where the five white men were, had come back to her people and had said, "Yes, they are cannibals." I knew Gimari by that time. This was several years after that event. But when I got to know Gimari, I said to her, "Why did you say that?" She giggled and she laughed and she said, "For nothing. For nothing."
I thought of the irony of the fact that God would allow five dedicated young missionary men to be speared to death because of a misconception, because of the ignorance of a jungle people. Perhaps the straw that broke the camel's back or the straw that weighed the decision in favor of killing them was the result of Gimari's thoughtless remark, "Yes, they are cannibals."
That reminded me of a Bible story of a faithful servant of God who had his head chopped off because of a silly dancing girl and her evil, scheming mother. That man was John the Baptist. There are always events in our lives for which we find no explanation. But events are God's messengers. They are all under His control, and He has something to say to us through them.
The third thing. There is a reason for the storms. There is a reason for God's discipline. He wants to bring us into conformity to the image of Christ. What does it take to change Elisabeth Elliot into a holy woman? What does it take for God to change you into a holier man or a holier woman? It's a lifetime process, isn't it? In order to make an image, you have to use the blows of a hammer, the chippings of a chisel, and the raspings of a file.
As I look back over my life, I see that there have been a number of hammer blows. Stunning disasters. I've lost two husbands, the first by spearing and the second by cancer. There have been a number of other things that certainly were not on my hoped-for agenda. But I realize that God is not concerned primarily with the storm. He's concerned with my holiness.
The Bible says that we are being shaped into the image of His Son. So I'm mixing metaphors here. There's the metaphor of the storm and what it does to strengthen that tree, and the metaphor of the hammer and the chisel and the file--that it takes to re-shape this woman. But the One who is doing the reshaping is the One who is in charge of the storms. He's the One who is engineering a universe. What He wants to bring about is righteousness and peace.
Therefore--and this brings me to the fourth thing--I'm learning that I need the storms. I need the floods. I need the fire. When I was engaged to Jim Elliot, the station on which he had been working was demolished by a flood. He had worked very hard for all of that first year as a missionary in restoring three buildings that had been damaged by termites and in building two new buildings. He had to stand there and watch all five of those buildings go down the river in the flood.
Jim wrote to me right after that, and he said, "I have heard the voice of the Lord in the sound of many waters. " I don't know what your storm may be right now. Maybe you're in the midst of a horrible divorce. Maybe you're the husband who has been abandoned by the wife and you've been left with the children. Or maybe it's the other way around. Maybe you've lost a job. Maybe you've just got a very bad piece of medical news. Maybe someone you love is suffering.
Whatever the storm may be, remember those great stories of the heroes of the Bible--every single one of them had to weather storms. Paul was put in prison. Abraham was made to go out into a wilderness. He didn't even know where he was supposed to go. He was asked to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, the son of the promise. Daniel had to go into a lions' den. John the Baptist was put in prison and ended up with his head chopped off. Then think of this amazing verse: "Ought not Christ to have suffered?" Ought not Christ to have suffered?
It seems as though it should have been an option. But if He was going to save you and me, He couldn't save Himself. That's exactly what the mockers around the cross flung at Him with scorn and derision. I can just imagine the towering scorn, the sarcasm, the flashing anger in their eyes as they said, "Come down from the cross." Then they turned to each other with derision and said, "He saved others; He can't save Himself " Neither can you and I.
Now of course, the truth is we have to go through the storms and the floods and the fires, whether we like it or not. My question to you today is, "Would you rather go through it alone or would you go through it with Him who loves you, who surrounds you with His love?" Underneath are the everlasting arms. The One who loves you with an everlasting love, He wants to talk to you in the midst of your storm. He wants to comfort you. Faith lays hold of the lovingkindness of God in the smallest inconvenience, in the disappointments, the hurts, the losses, and in God's roughest forms of discipline.
Never forget that the storm is doing God's work, necessary work, and afterwards there will be sunshine.
Lisa Barry: As we bring this series to a close, if there's any resource that we've mentioned that you'd like to know more about, feel free to get in touch with us by phone. I'd also want to take a minute to encourage you to think about the book A Girl of Beauty. It's the kind of book that I've been searching for for years. The book is designed to be completed by mother and daughter together. And there's ample opportunities for discussion and application. The cost of the book is $14.50, and you can send that along with a note to:
Gateway to Joy, Box 82500, Lincoln, Nebraska, 68501. Or you can call toll free 1-800-759-4JOY. That number again is 1-800-759-4569.
Today's program has been a production of Back to the Bible. Be with us again on Monday when Elisabeth begins a new series that asks the question, "Whose are you?" Be ready to answer that the next time we meet for Gateway To Joy.