I started some daily reading with this verse: "Unto you it is given ... to suffer." (Philippians 1:29) It ticked me off a little bit.
I was having a hard week, unable to see my future -- even in part -- and fatigued by my boys constantly challenging my motherhood.
I wanted to open up some devotional time and be told in a verse how much God loved me and to trust that He’ll work everything for good. That was the kind of message I was hoping for. Not one about suffering. I get life’s suffering. 10-4, God.
Now, the context of this verse was suffering experienced for belonging to Christ, written by Bible rock star Paul from prison. It wasn’t in reference to having an angry ex-husband, confused children and a seemingly tanking career you’re trying to sort out.
I had to look that context up, and I only really did because I am always bothered by ellipses in verses. I wonder what’s missing and why an author is deciding it isn’t important for me to see the verse in its entirety.
I like to see the whole verse as I embark on a devotional message. Consider me anti-ellipse in devotionals. It's already too hard to understand a verse’s context outside of the whole chapter or book.
Back to the point: The context made the suffering theme of my morning’s message far more palatable. After all, I’m good with suffering for Christ. I’m not good with suffering at the hands of angry people or because of other earthly forces. And after looking at the verse in context, I felt a little silly.
All-too-often when I seek out Scripture or a devotional message for the day, I make the mistake of treating what I find like a daily horoscope or fortune cookie message. Bzzzz! Wrong approach. After getting the context and me out of the way, I read on and was reminded why I love this Streams in the Desert entry I read yearly. A thought from Cortland Myers, a respected pastor from the early 1900s, is included in it. He says this:
“The finest china in the world is burned at least three times, some of it more than three times. Dresden china is always burned three times. Why does it go through that intense fire?
“Once ought to be enough; twice ought to be enough. No, three times are necessary to burn that china so that the gold and the crimson are brought out more beautiful and then fastened there to stay.
“We are fashioned after the same principle in human life. Our trials are burned into us once, twice, thrice; and by God's grace these beautiful colors are there and they are there to stay forever.”
China. I am like china. I liked that. I smiled.
My morning reading did give me the message that God loved me and that I should trust that He’ll work everything for good, after all.
I love Jesus. I think my two daughters can change the world. I think you can too.
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