Sometimes we wrestle with the thought, “If I really surrender all to God, what will He do to me?” Even if we have made that surrender before, that thought can come at odd moments. After all, Joni Eareckson Tada was paralyzed as a teen-ager and has been in a wheelchair for, I think, 30-some years. Elisabeth Elliot lost not one, but two husbands. A dear professor had Lou Gehrig’s disease for over 20 years…our minds can go on and on with other examples we know.
There have been whole books written about reasons for suffering, and we hear testimonies of God’s grace through those times. Yet that lurking fear or reluctance can still snake into our thoughts.
As I was pondering these things this morning, the thought came, “What’s the alternative, really?” Suffering will come to most of us in some form or another. We live in a fallen world and deal with its effects; we’re not in heaven yet, where there are no tears, sorrow, pain. We’re not going to stop these things from coming into our lives if we don’t surrender to God. We can’t somehow insulate ourselves or protect ourselves from any pain or trial.
But if we are the Lord’s, we can trust that He has a purpose in what He has allowed. We can trust Him for His presence, peace, grace, and help. If we’re surrendered to Him, we can face these things in a way that we can’t otherwise.
One comment that stayed with me from a forgotten article about a trial a lady faced was this: “I was glad, when this happened, that He was not a stranger to me.” It’s certainly better to face a trial with Him rather than apart from Him. Sometimes He does work through the trials of life to bring people to Himself from their position as a stranger to Him, or to bring His children back from a backslidden position, or draw His children closer. But after that, we can “glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:3-5).
We need not hold back our wills from the Lord for fear of what might happen. It’s futile to do so, really. But even aside from that, we can face whatever He sees fit to allow into our lives knowing that He will work all things together for good to them that love God (Romans 8:28) and by relying on His promises:
Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness (Isaiah 41:10).
Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16).
Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (II Corinthians 12:8-10).