In Christ alone

March 20th, 2015

We human beings, in a vain attempt to keep suffering from touching our lives, search about for something or someone to blame when things seem to go wrong.  We think that if we can isolate the cause and control it, we can ensure it stays far away from us.  It is really in God’s hands from first to last, but how desperately we grasp for any illusion of control. 

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God called Jesus Christ to what seemed absolute disaster. And Jesus Christ called His disciples to see Him put to death, leading every one of them to the place where their hearts were broken. His life was an absolute failure from every standpoint except God’s. But what seemed to be failure from man’s standpoint was a triumph from God’s standpoint, because God’s purpose is never the same as man’s purpose.

~Oswald Chambers, The Bewildering Call of God

 

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January, 2015

Dear Lord Jesus,

Through the battlings and pourings-out and strippings-away of the past months, You have shown me that I was mixing You up with my own perception of ideal.

 

High ideals.

A commitment to excellence in every area of life.

 

These are good things, right?  Therefore Your will, right?  You wouldn’t call me to anything less than excellence.

So working toward the highest ideals I can is basically the same thing as following You.

Right?

 

Not only had I confused following You with seeking excellence, I was holding my high ideals in a death grip.

 

How excruciating, how devastating is the stripping away.

 

Does Susanna serve God for nothing?  Look at her!  You’ve been hovering over her, giving her every good thing from her earliest days.  Just let me bring some chaos and agony into the picture and then we’ll see what she really trusts in.

 

Was I really following You no matter what?  Or did I only have the courage to obey Your call because I’d never questioned my childish understanding of Psalm 91?  You are the God who can do anything and You have my back, so…no fear!  I’m resting in You!

 

I have it all researched.  It’s obvious where everything should ideally be.  You can set that family culture of truth, goodness, and beauty over there.  This educational plan goes over here with this child, and that one is ideal for those children.  I’m trusting You to make it all possible, because I know You can do anything and only the best will bring You glory.  

Oh, and could You drop a few things out in the trashcan for me?  Distress, deprivation, desolation, disaster.  None of this will be Your plan for me, because You always do what’s best and those are clearly not it.  How could they bring glory to You? 

 

Can I recognize Your will by judging its past or present success, or even its probable future success, using my own criteria?

Would You ever deliberately lead me into apparent disaster?

 

No evil will befall me.

 

You came to give me life, and that more abundantly.

 

But…last July thirty-first.

 

To You and to Tommy, his homecoming was all good.  But it wrought massive destruction at the core of who I was as a mother and human being.  It laid bare the very foundations and is forcing me to search through and face down every tear-stained, blood-stained, pulverized layer of wreckage that was left of me.

To look up from the devastation toward the Hand that sent it, forcing me to ask who You really are.

You knew it would.

You designed it down to the smallest detail to do exactly that.

 

A thousand may fall at my side,
And ten thousand at my right hand;
But it shall not come near me?

Abundant life?

I trusted You.

You gave me Your Word on it.

 

What does Your promise mean in the face of life-altering trauma, loss, and suffering?

 

It means that abundant life cannot consist of anything that can be taken away from me.

 

What You have taken from me was not bad.  It was excellent, lovely, heart-rejoicing and God-glorifying.  Worth working for and fighting for!

There is so much more You have left behind that You could take away at any moment.

 

But none of those things are Life, nor do they impart Life, because they are not You.

 

You will not take Yourself from me.

You gave me Your word on it.

If You have to take away more and more in order to give me more and more of Yourself, then pry open my death grip and take it, whatever it is.

 

…what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for You.  

Yet indeed I, Susanna, also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of You…and count them as rubbish…

That I may gain You and be found in You, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in You, the righteousness which is from God by faith…

That I may know You and the power of Your resurrection, and the fellowship of Your sufferings, being conformed to Your death.

Amen.

 

 

 

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9 Responses to “In Christ alone”

  1. I love your deep searching of God and of yourself, your place with Him. You remind me of myself oftentimes. Your post reminded me of how the Lord has recently showed me my desperate place for Him to sell this home so we can be in His will and be free of a mortgage to be able to farm and help others, was being put first (by me) over Him. His plan for us has been becoming greater to me than Him… even though we believe it’s His will! We cannot think that anything can make us more content or happier or fulfilled besides Him. Even His plans for us. What a realization. Yes, it’s hard to believe that even our children, our family and our substance down here can all be taken away so therefore it cannot amount to much compared to the Lord (though it does to us because we are human and needy). Thank you for sharing your thoughts Susanna.

  2. Dana says:

    Praying for you as you walk out of the valley of the shadow and hopefully, back into the light.

  3. MamaV says:

    When the twelve tribes got their inheritance, the Levites got no land, because God was their inheritance… And we are the royal priesthood! God is our inheritance! Whatever comes to us and goes from us in our life, God will never leave his people. Clinging to Jesus is the best thing to do!

  4. Tami C says:

    Susanna…THANK YOU – thank you for sharing these words. I am going to print this post out and keep it with my devotional items. I often forget the truths of this post and struggle at various times with feeling anger about the deep pain in my life. I want to be faithful like Job, who fell down and worshiped after learning all the disaster that befell him, and did not sin against God. I so often have railed that God, who has promised abundant life, seems to fall short of His promises. You have spelled it out so clearly here, Jesus IS our abundant life. Thank God! Truly, He is so faithful and precious to be so patient and work so slowly, carefully in our lives. That He can covenant with mankind, and call us friends… it’s amazing. His ways are so far beyond our understanding. Truly He deserves our worship in whatever He brings our way; may He strengthen us all to be able to be faithful.

    (((Much love)))

  5. Rachel says:

    Your writings on your blog are still such a blessing to me. I needed to read this today. This is not the first time you have been an encouragement to me. Thank you for sharing your heart with us. Many blessings on you and your family!

  6. Jocelyn Scott says:

    What makes you think that Tommy’s death was sent by God? What my husband learned at Theological College was “God doesn’t send evil; He allows it.” Which is quite different. Why He allows it we can only guess, though testing our will to serve Him no matter what is probably the reason sometimes. If any supernatural power was behind it, the Devil seems a more likely candidate than God. Read (or re-read) the Book of Job.

  7. Susanna says:

    Jocelyn, the devil could not trouble Job without God’s permission, and he wasn’t allowed to cross the limit God set for him. The devil doesn’t hold the trump card–never has and never will. He’s way out of his league trying to pit his wits against God. He’s BEATEN and he knows it. When I say that God determined the beginning and the ending of Tommy’s life, I do it because of passages like Psalm 139:16 and Psalm 90:3 and others. My wrestlings, as Job’s were, have been directly with God as the ultimate authority over life and death and everything else. And I don’t see Him saying to Job, or to me, “Your argument is with Satan. Go talk to him about it.”

    When the devil does his damnedest to get me to listen to him and believe his lies, I tell him his argument is with God and He’s already claimed me, so he may as well give up and leave me alone and go bother some herd of pigs or some such. Among other things. And turn my back on him, stop up my ears, and speak and sing praises to my Saviour as loudly as I can muster.

    Also, maybe it will help to clarify that I’m not accusing God of perpetrating evil. Evil is wickedness, depravity, rebellious action against the nature of God. My counselor has had to remind me more than once that our human vision is so short-sighted. Tommy’s death was not a bad thing in God’s eyes, nor was it a bad thing for Tommy. We can also see God using it to accomplish only good and not bad inside and outside our family. As impossible as this once seemed to me, He is even using the circumstances of Tommy’s death to do a good work in me, something I wrote about long ago. “There is nothing to lose but what needs to go.” http://theblessingofverity.com/2010/10/this-place-of-privilege/

    A very dear friend of mine has been severely physically disabled and wheelchair-bound for many years and wrote to me recently–

    I know it might sound absurd for you knowing your devastation by his death, but never forget – his life was in God’s palms and it didn’t come as a surprise for God. You gave him the love and everything a child deserves in this life, for as long as God had it planned at Creation. He now is whole, and complete, and free, and healthy, and happy. I am sorry to tell you this – but much happier than he was on this earth. I am sorry if it sounds painful, but you are hearing it from someone who’s craving for wholeness, and lack of pain, and peace. I am tired Susanna. Very tired. And…I’d much rather be with Tommy than here.

  8. Lauren S. says:

    Oh my. How much I still have to learn. I’ve read your prayer “Whatever it takes, Lord” many times now, and I continue to be amazed that you are praying it. After “watching” from afar what has gone on in your life, I have not summoned the courage to pray such a prayer.

    Please don’t misunderstand me. I think it is an awesome work in you that God is drawing you nearer and nearer, so much so that a devastating loss can only make you crave Him more. I do long for that, but I am terrified of what the Lord may bring to answer it.

    Jen Hatmaker once wrote on her blog about the final thing that we cling to, unwilling to give it to the Lord wholly and completely. It is for me, undoubtedly, my children’s lives. And the absolutely crazy thing is that I have no control over the beginning or ending of their lives anyway. It makes no rational sense to cling to my supposed “control” so tightly, but cling I do.

    I go back to what you wrote: asking “Who ARE You?” rather than “Why?” I KNOW He is good, a bringer of life and abundance. I’m learning, and wrestling with, the idea that the life and abundance does not mean THIS life, and abundance HERE.

    Anyway, thank you for continuing to witness to Him. Your writings often give me much to chew over for many days, and I often refer back to them when I need to process life.

  9. Susanna says:

    Lauren, I am right there with you. It is completely terrifying. All the more so now that I have experienced what has for me been the worst pain I have ever had to endure. This post was where I was two months ago, and the journey continues. My NO has been so slow to turn into a YES. But it has to, even though, as with me, it’s so humanly impossible to summon the courage that God must do it for me.

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