When I am hurting or needy, the Holy Spirit often brings one of two resources to mind: a verse of Scripture, or a heart-massaging quote from a book I’ve read or a message I’ve heard. Today, I am giving you seven remarks on trials that have comforted me or provided needed perspective, along with a few of my comments about each.
- “You will never know Jesus is all you need until He is all you have left.” late pastor Ron Dunn
You can go online and use his name, along with the title of his best known sermon series, “Strange Ministers,” and you’ll find some of the most meaningful messages I have ever heard. The series includes, but isn’t limited to, these titles: “The Ministry of Weakness,” “The Ministry of Depression,” “The Ministry of Failure,” and “The Ministry of Circumstances.” What you’ll pay for this set of CDs cannot begin to match their value to a hurting person.
I first heard part of this series in the late 1970s, when I was in-between ministry positions, with my wife facing major surgery, and with two preschoolers in tow. When Ron inserted into his messages a statement such as the one I cited above, I could tell by his passion and the timbre of his voice that he had experienced the truth of the maxim. Sure enough, years later I discovered that earlier in the 1970s, Ron found the body of his teen son in their home, after he had taken his own life due to bipolar disorder. He didn’t self-reveal about his son’s suicide in the messages I heard, nonetheless, I could sense that He had known the comfort of the Lord through affliction.
2. “Too many of us epect on earth what God only promised for heaven.” Theologian James I. Packer
Written decades ago, Packer’s best-selling book, Knowing God, consists primarily of a thorough biblical study of God’s attributes. But Packer included a chapter titled, “These Inward Trials.” There, he exposed erroneous, shallow thinking that marks many believers when they go through hard times. It is a significant contribution to a sorely-needed theology of suffering. Often, when I’m feeling downcast, I go back and reread the dog-eared, marked up pages of this chapter.
3. “God gets from us most glory when we get from Him much grace.” 19th century British pastor Charles Spurgeon
This statement is part of Spurgeon’s commentary on Psalm 50:15, where he emphasized that God, the Giver, gets the glory when we are put into a situation requiring His grace. The verse reads, “Call on Me in the day of trouble; I shall rescue you, and you will honor me.” In this verse, there is a direct grammatical link between God receiving honor, and our being so desperate that the only recourse is to call on Him.
Spurgeon battled recurring bouts of deep depression, and the older he got, the more he faced the pain of debilitating gout. (He actually wrote part of his classic volumes on the Psalms, The Treasury of David, while in bed, unable to walk due to the gout.) In his 2014 book, Spurgeon’s Sorrows, Zack Eswine describes Spurgeon’s suffering, and the grace of God that sustained him and kept him productive in ministry. Spurgeon’s own transparency about his depression, and how to battle it, are worth many times the cost of Eswine’s book. I think it should be required reading for all pastors.
4. “I learned a long time ago to stop asking God why, but I frequently ask Him how. How am I going to go forward? How can I endure this? How can I stay positive and productive as I battle chronic pain?” Joni Eareckson Tada
Most Christians have heard Joni’s story, paralyzed as a teen in a diving accident. And in later years, severe bodily pain haunts her daily. Yet she manages an influential ministry for the disabled and their caregivers, “Joni and Friends.” And her numerous books and speaking engagements offer hope to people with chronic illness or a disability.
Her book that ministered to my heart is a month-long devotional titled Beside Bethesda: 31 Days Toward A Deeper Healing.
5. “God sees our lowest moments as our spiritual highs because that’s when He is doing the deepest work in us.” Vaneetha Risner
Vaneetha, in The Scars That Have Shaped Me, shares the anguish of having polio as a child in India, and enduring twenty-one surgeries by the time she turned thirteen. After marriage, she had three miscarriages. A two-month old son died due to a physician’s mistake with medication. Then at 37, with a couple of young daughters, inexplicable limb pain and weakness resulted in a diagnosis of post-polio syndrome, a degenerative condition. Not long after that, her husband left her and sought a divorce that Vaneetha didn’t want.
When she writes about pain, she isn’t ivory-tower in her approach. She also conveys a deep grasp of biblical doctrine, and explains how the sovereignty of God sustains her through suffering. Vaneetha also owes a huge debt to the writings of Joni Tada.
6. “God never protects us from that which He will use to perfect us. He turns our biggest messes into our greatest messages.” Dr. Michelle Bengtson
In her highly-regarded, optimistic book, Hope Prevails, Michelle tells her own story of deep despondency, and emphasizes the necessity of applying Scripture–especially aspects of our identity in Christ–in the battle against depression.
7. “Love takes the pain out of sacrifice.” Robertson McQuilkin
The late missionary, Columbia International University president, and prolific author retired from full-time vocational ministry earlier than anticipated to take care of his wife, who had early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. At the urging of others, Robertson wrote the story of their relationship, where the reader learns what it means to love a spouse “for better or for worse.” A Promise Kept is a great book to give a couple as a wedding gift.
Which of these quotes resonates most with you right now? Why?
Which resource that I cited is the Holy Spirit nudging you to obtain?
What is one quote on suffering that you have read or heard that has special meaning for you? (I’d love to receive this quote from you.)
**I have reviewed four books from which four of these quotes were retrieved. But I did not want to break up the copy of this post by putting the links into the copy. If you go to READ MY BLOG on the home page of penetratingthedarkness.com, you can find these in the archives. In a couple of cases, the precise date isn’t shown.
“The Outrageously Fruitful Ministry of a Depression-Prone Spiritual Giant” Review of Zack Eswine’s Spurgeon’s Sorrows, July 4, 2018.
“Hope Prevails” My review of Michelle Bengtson’s book by the same title, May 15, 2018.
Beside Bethesda: 31 Days Toward A Deeper Healing My review of Joni Tada’s devotional book from February, 2018.
“Suffering Seen Through the Lens of Scripture” My review of Risner’s The Scars That Have Shaped Me.