Thursday, December 5, 2019

My Own Response to a Trial--The Last Two Ways to Pray, Part 5

Tim, a good friend, a former missionary, a PhD, a professor of Christian Leadership, is suffering in a way that directly affects who he is. His diagnosis is a rare and usually aggressive cancer called Richter’s Transformation, in which chronic lymphocytic leukemia transforms to lymphoma of the central nervous system (in his case, centered in his brain). As a result of the disease and the treatment he has gradually lost word access, some cognitive facility, partial ability to see in one eye, complete ability to read, and finally, at times, the ability even to put together intelligible sentences. 

Recently, his wife wrote on their Caring Bridge page, "Over this whole process, thought so very frustrating, I've watched a very tender part of his heart emerge, along with a willingness to submit to the process God is taking him through. Perhaps it was best expressed in a prayer he offered spontaneously last evening: 'Father, may Debbie and I be a strong testimony to your love. Help me to walk according to your will.'" 

My faith: An example
This is the 9th way to pray to prepare for trials and during trials or persecution: That in all circumstances we would be an example of faith. I'll admit that I have often thought that Paul was a bit arrogant to say, "Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ." (1 Cor. 11:1) But we are called to be examples to our brothers and sisters in Christ. 

I remember a friend telling me about her cousin who had a very painful form of cancer of the mouth. She said, "She showed us how to live. Now she is showing us how to die." But I don't want to be that person and you probably don't either.

However, we have no idea how far our example of faith could reach. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, "having received the Word in much tribulation with joy of the Holy Spirit so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and Achai." (1:6-7) And we don't have to be examples in only huge problems. One of the young women my mom discipled was at her house for dinner when my mom's china platter shattered. The young woman told me "I was excited to learn how a godly woman handled that!" (My mom says she asked my dad, "Do you think we can replace it someday?")

My delight: God's power
Not too long ago I re-memorized 2 Corinthians 12:9. "And He has said to me, My grace is sufficient for you for power is perfected in weakness." I reveled in the strength of God through my weakness, because at times I feel so weak--physically, spiritually, or emotionally. I can't. But through the power of Christ dwelling in me, God can!

But as I ponder praying to prepare for trials, I don't like the next verse: Therefore, I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. 

Paul says he is "well content"--this word means more than putting up with. Paul is saying he takes delight in these trials, difficulties that are not delightful. And so we can be praying that we would delight in God's strength when we have tribulations. Madame Guyon, a French believer in the 17th century, who was persecuted for her faith by her husband, mother-in-law, and the official church, said, "Ah, if you knew what power there is in accepted sorrow." And beyond acceptance, delight in finding God working in and through us in ways we never could.

As I studied these ways to prepare for trials, I wondered if God was preparing me. Peter tells us to not be surprised by trials (1 Pet. 4:12). So I knew that I would experience them at times. I did not expect what came: a decision that crashed the long time plans, prayers, and dreams of someone very dear to us. I felt kicked in the stomach. I was angry. I was sad. I was frustrated. When I went to bed just a couple hours after learning of the decision, I took this list with me and prayed through it. Looking up the verses and asking, no begging, God to work these bits of faith into my life. Quite frankly, I'm still struggling. I asked my prayer partners to pray that I would respond to those who made the decision and the one hurt by it in a mature and godly way, because in my flesh, I don't want to. But God is working in me. He was preparing me to know how to pray and I believe that His power will be perfected in my weakness. 

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To remind myself and my friends of these ten ways to pray to prepare for and in trials and persecution I have created this printable bookmark.

To print it out click here. I would like to say you probably don't need to be prepared, but, "In this world you will have tribulation, but take courage, I have overcome the world." -- Jesus

I found these ten ways to be praying, and that seemed like a nice round number. But I know there are others I could have included. I encourage you to pray for one of these qualities each day and to search the scriptures for more ways to be praying for yourself, those around you, and those who are going through trials.

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