Suffering; June 18, 2020

Isaiah 19:22 The Lord will strike Egypt with a plague; he will strike them and heal them. They will turn to the Lord, and he will respond to their pleas and heal them.

This prophecy is very interesting in light of the current pandemic! The Japanese doesn’t specify “a plague,” but with the repeated references to healing, that doesn’t seem an unreasonable translation. The most interesting thing about the whole passage is that it deals with Egypt and Assyria, Israel’s perennial enemies, and says that God will accept them as His people, His worshipers. This verse simply references what He will do to bring that about. Sometimes enemies turn into best friends, because at least they care. What is most difficult is when there is genuine indifference. I well remember one of my seminary professors talking about going door-to-door tracting/witnessing and having a man spit phlegm in his face. He didn’t give up, and later that man was not only saved, he became a deacon in the church! An adamant atheist could very well be just a step away from becoming a committed disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of the God they insisted didn’t exist. Their vehemence shows that they care about such things and think about them. God indeed uses such things as disease to get through to people, not at all because He’s mean, but because eternal life is far more important than physical life. If something, anything, causes you to repent and turn to God it’s a blessing, however horrible it might seem in the moment.

My mother had a frequent prayer that has stuck with me: “Keep them from unnecessary pain.” My mother had seen that sometimes pain is indeed necessary, to get our attention and cut us lose from what keeps us from God. Peter said, “He who has suffered in his body is done with sin.” (1 Peter 4:1) That’s a very desirable thing indeed! It’s not at all that we are to seek suffering, or fail to be good stewards of the body we’ve been given, but it is to say that we are to seek God for His purpose in allowing suffering, so that we won’t miss the blessing He intends. I’m reminded of Andrae Crouch’s beautiful song, Through it All. It deals with precisely this issue, and says, “If I’d never had a problem I wouldn’t know that He could solve them; I wouldn’t know what faith in God can do.” I have been accused of being uncaring because of having this perspective, but I don’t think that’s the case at all. I just see that God’s purposes are always higher than ours, and sometimes we really need some things we don’t want. That’s not to say that I don’t sometimes complain about my own circumstances! I’ve got to keep growing too, but along the way, I desire to help those around me recognize God’s love for what it is, and respond accordingly.

Father, thank You for this reminder. Looking back, You have been amazingly gentle and gracious with me! Help me communicate Your grace and love to all around me, so that they too may repent and believe, for their blessing and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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