Monday, January 3, 2011

Considering it Pure Joy, or Not?

Several years ago, I had the privilege of leading women in Bible Study on a mission trip to the favelas(urban slums) of Rio de Janeiro. I met a young woman on that trip who expressed a desire to have the same ministry as a well-known Bible teacher.

Having sat under that Bible teacher myself, I was pretty sure if she’d been there, she would've said, “You can’t be like me. You have to be the person God has called you to be.” But I think she also might have added, “You have no idea the cost.”

A couple of days ago, as I gathered with a group of friends to welcome the gift of another year, someone mentioned a quote by Dr. Robert Tuttle, long time seminary professor and author, recently retired from Asbury Theological School. The quote went something like, “The breadth of your ministry equals the depth of your pain.” When I emailed Dr. Tuttle this morning to make sure I was quoting him accurately, he said that statement is connected to another which I’d like to write about tomorrow—"Our greatest strengths are anointed weaknesses."

As my life seems to be moving to more of a public arena with a screenplay under option, a book forthcoming this year and of course this blog, it’s not a particularly welcome insight to realize most public ministry figures have experienced much pain to stand in their calling. Nonetheless, I believe it’s true. But conversely, when I’ve encountered heart-rending seasons in my own life as I am even now, I’ve tried to take courage, as I’ve hoped that God is preparing me for a future in which he intends to use the pain of those experiences for His glory.

I don’t know if the young woman I met in Brazil is any closer to the realization of her goal, but I know if she surrendered her dream to God, he’s refined it, and purified it. Today, she’d probably say that she’s been through some pain because of it.

If the breadth of our ministry equals the depth of our pain, we can agree with James, “Consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds…so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything"(James 1:2). I’m thankful that we can choose to not waste our suffering.

I’m thankful God doesn’t waste it, either.

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