Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
- Philippians 1:18b-21
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
- Romans 8:28-30
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
- James 1:2-4
“Helen Keller, who is a classic example of handling life’s handicaps, said, ‘I thank God for my handicaps, for through them, I have found myself, my work, and my God.’ Some people with handicaps drown themselves in self-pity, and thus limit their usefulness and service to mankind and to God. The Apostle Paul knew the pangs of suffering. He used his infirmity rather than allowing his infirmity to use him, and he used it for the glory of God. …”
“We might never have had the songs of Fanny Crosby had she not been afflicted with blindness. George Matheson would never have given the world the immortal song, ‘O Love, That Will Not Let Me Go’ had it not been for his passing through the furnace of affliction. The ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ was written by George Frederick Handel when he was poverty-stricken and suffering from a paralyzed right side and right arm. Affliction may be for our edification and Christian development. Sickness is one of the ‘all things’ which work together for good for them that love God. Don’t resent it. Don’t be embittered by it.”
- Billy Graham, Day by Day with Billy Graham, Devotions for 31 January and 1 February
I have written an open letter, of sorts, to Christian Blog Writers. It was my most viewed post of 2019, although not viewed in some time. I wrote it to encourage other writers to keep going. We have no idea who will read our posts, but God does. And maybe the pains and suffering that we talk about is exactly what they are facing. And they might need help. We each have a voice and we should use it. I extended the Scripture from the often-quoted Romans 8:28 to let each of us know that we are all called. We are not to sit by prettily and wait for death to take us to our glory in Heaven. We can have a bit of that glory here on earth.
Billy Graham just mentioned George Matheson who wrote “O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go,” and an offhand comment that he had “affliction.” I could not let that go. I looked for his story. George Matheson (1842-1906) was engaged to be married and was studying to become a minister when he learned that he was going blind. His fiancée left him, not wanting to take care of a blind man. He was totally blind by age 20 but was determined to finish his studies. He eventually earned the title of Reverend Doctor. He lived with his sister for twenty years, She took care of him, but then his sister was to be married. He knew that his life would change forever, having to fend for himself. Understand that this was long before people made allowances or adaptations for people who have handicaps, yet he fulfilled his requirements as a pastor, with help from his sister at home. On the night before his sister’s wedding, in intense sadness (and possibly a bit of fear), God inspired him to write his most famous hymn. He claimed to have written it in only five minutes, but then to sing it reverently, it nearly takes five minutes.
There are many of the great hymns that have similar stories. I might even start a series on those, although there are already videos out there for many. In the last Scripture, James may have sounded like a crazy person by counting suffering as all Joy, but in that suffering, we find that God is refining our faith, skimming the dross away, so that we might be useful. It may not feel good at that moment, but we can certainly have Joy through the suffering and grief. We will know that God has great plans for us, but we must respond to that calling.
Billy Graham also mentioned Fanny Crosby. Fanny Crosby was blinded as an infant, a medical procedure using poultices that went wrong. When asked if she was upset over being blind, she quipped that she was blessed. That the first face that she would remember gazing upon will be the face of Jesus.
She understood God’s promises. And as George Matheson wrote about God’s greatest promise.
“O Love, that wilt not let me go.”
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.