Monday, August 5, 2013

Life Is Not a Piece of Cake


 
For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.” – 2 Corinthians 1:8-10

 
In cooking there is a rule regarding ingredients that says that if you want good food from your recipe, you have to use good ingredients.  For example, to make the very best cake you would use whole milk, not skim.  You would use butter, not margarine.  You would use fine, sifted flour.  And, fresh eggs do make a difference in your cake over those that have sit in your refrigerator for weeks.  But life is not a piece of cake!  Life is more like gold, which is purified by being thrown into the fire.

The best lived lives are often filled with events that are painful and bitter.  Such was the case with Horatio Spafford.  Although you may not know his name, you most likely know the words that he penned when he wrote the hymn, “It Is Well With My Soul”. 
Horatio was a successful Chicago lawyer with several business interests, an elder in the Presbyterian Church, and the father of four daughters.  But in 1871 when the Chicago Fire occurred, it ruined him financially.  Two years later, in 1873, he decided to take his family to Europe and start a new life.  But travel plans changed and he had to send his wife and four daughters on ahead of him.  While crossing the Atlantic Ocean, the ship collided with another and sank.  His wife sent him a two word telegram days later, “Saved alone”.  All four of his daughters had died at sea.  It was on the journey to meet his wife that he crossed the place where his daughters died, and wrote the lyrics to “It Is Well With My Soul”.  From his sorrow and grief came glory for God.  The song has lifted many heavy hearts as we sing the lyrics that he penned in pain.

But Horatio Stafford’s story doesn’t end there.  He later had two more daughters and a son.  At only four years old his only son died of scarlet fever.  Grieving the loss of his son, his wife and two surviving daughters moved to Israel.  There they founded a group called American Colony, which served the poor by opening hospitals, orphanages, and soup kitchens.  The group continued into the 1950’s, serving countless people in need.
Sometimes we question God’s design of our lives, and why bad things have to happen to good people.  But this is God’s perfect design to make us who He desires us to be.  In the end, it is evident that Horatio Stafford’s miseries lead to a life that had great worth to God and society.  His pain changed who he was, his very character. 

From each of us, God desires a certain heart to complete His plan.  That is the reason why bad things happen to good people.  God takes us through the events of our life to purify us, as fire purifies gold, and create in us the character and heart He desires.
The apostle Paul also suffered many grieves as he followed God’s will and spread the gospel of salvation.  In 1 Corinthians 1 he writes to the church of Corinth, telling them that while they were in Asia they suffered so much that they despaired even life itself, and felt they had received a sentence of death.  But he goes on to say that it was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead”. 

God is the purifying fire.  He knows what events to take us through to cause us to rely on Him.  His purpose in the pain is to not take away from us anything we need, but to bring us to a position with Him to see that He is all we need.  And with that comfort that He gives in our pain and suffering, we lose our self-sufficiency, and become reliant on God.  By relying on God we are then equipped to comfort others.  Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1:4 that God “comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  The comfort does not come from ourselves, but from God.  By taking us through the fire, God shares His comfort, and we become His pipelines of comfort.
No, life is not a piece of cake!  Good ingredients don’t make a perfect life!  In fact, in life, it’s the bad things that build our character.  Helen Keller, a woman born blind and deaf, facing odds that few of us will ever endure, perhaps said it best.  She said " Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet.  Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved."

Lord, thank you for the suffering you put in our lives, for even in the pain, we see your love for us that you provide comfort.  Purify us, and make us what you desire so that we can comfort others.  For we know your plan is the only perfect plan.  Amen.

 

 

 

 

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