SURVIVING WHEN YOUR WORST FEAR BECOMES A REALITY (TWO WEEKS)
WHEN YOUR SOUL IS KNIT TO ANOTHER SOUL
A HUSBAND, A CHILD — YOU THINK,
IF ANYTHING WOULD HAPPEN TO HIM OR HER
I COULD NOT SURVIVE
THAT’S WHAT JUDAH TOLD JOSEPH WHEN
JOSEPH DEMANDED THEY BRING BENJAMIN.
JUDAH ASKED TO STAY IN HIS PLACE.
“MY FATHER IS KNIT TO BENJAMIN,” HE SAID,
“AND IF ANYTHING HAPPENED TO THIS SON TOO,
MY FATHER WOULD DIE.”
THAT’S HOW WE FEEL ABOUT THOSE
TO WHOM WE ARE KNIT
YET SOMEHOW, IF IT HAPPENS
WE DO SURVIVE,
THOUGH WE MAY WONDER IF WE WANT TO
AND THEN, HOW WE CAN
WE HAVE FELT THE GRIEF OF A MOTHER HERE
A MOTHER WHO LOST HER BELOVED SEVENTEEN YEAR OLD SON
DANIEL, THE CHILD OF HER HEART,
A SEVERE BRAIN INJURY.
A MONTH OF ROLLER COASTER HOPES.
AND THEN THEY HAD TO SAY GOOD-BYE.
CHRIS HAS BEEN THROUGH THE FURNACE OF SUFFERING
AND THE PICTURE AND VERSES SHE SUBMITTED
GIVES US A GLIMPSE OF HER PAIN
YET IT ALSO REMINDS ME OF ANOTHER FURNACE
AND OF A “MAN” WHO WAS IN THE FURNACE WITH
SHADRACH, MESHACH, AND ABENEGO
HOW DO YOU MAKE IT THROUGH THE FURNACE OF PAIN?
Chris has said “I do not do grief well.” I so disagree. Do you think grieving well means being a stoic? Denying the pain? No. No. No.
In fact, Chris, though still in the midst of the fire (It has been less than two years) is doing it right — so right I want to take two weeks with this. It is too rich to hurry.
I told her:
- You are being honest with God. That’s what He asks. He hates pretense.
- You are not backing away from Him. That’s key — for to back away is to let go of your only lifeline.
- You are remembering Who He is and His promises.
WHEN MY GREAT FISH SWALLOWED ME
When my great fish swallowed me, I wanted my old world back, my world in which my spiritual understanding was enough, My safe world, in our safe community where I am insulated from really awful things, and I was satisfied with earthy things. I desperately glanced about for more immediate relief.
It is painful to tear away the faulty foundations of trust, the weak and insufficient ones, and anchor deeper into the Rock.
The incredible pain that demands to be attended to finds its only answer in the Cross. I don’t know the whys of suffering, but I can see the love of Jesus, the price He paid to make it right, the promise of eternity.
God is bigger to me now than He was then, my pride and confidence in myself is smashed. Being in the furnace has caused me to look more intently into the costly grace that is mine. I did feel abandoned there in the fire, I know though that I was not, He is filled with care and knows just how much I need & can stand.
I trust Him more than before, my eyes are much more fixed on eternity now, my treasures are sure & certain there.
Week One (July 1-7)
1. What stands out to you from the above and why?
2. What do you see Chris doing right in the midst of her fiery furnace?
Monday-Friday (This is the week of the 4th of July — and I know many of you will be vacationing — so sermon will wait until next week.) But I want you to contemplate these verses that Chris submitted and answer the questions I pose following them.)
In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire —may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:6-9)
1. What do trials prove according to the above?
2. If you back away from God in the midst of suffering, what does it show?
3. What have your trials revealed about your faith?
4. Has God shown you anything else in the above passage? If so, what?
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 1:2-3)
4. Why should we consider it joy when we face trials?
5. Why should we persevere through suffering?
6. How do you see perseverance in Chris? In yourself?
I have refined you, but not as silver is refined. Rather, I have refined you in the furnace of suffering! (Isaiah 48:10)
7. Suffering does not refine everyone — only those who persevere, who, because of genuine faith, do not back away from God. How have you been refined in the furnace of suffering?
8. What is your take-a-way and why?
Week 2 (July 7-13)
Before we look at how Jonah’s prayer parallels the response Chris has to suffering, I want to give you a glimpse of the videotaping Ben Eisner did a few weeks ago at my Wisconsin home. Though he forgot to press the button he said would make me look young, it is AMAZING. I am overflowing with gratitude that God moved this young talent to help us — never could we have afforded him.
I hope the link will work for you. This is the fruit of your prayers!
I am also asking you to buy a new Keller sermon on Jonah — one I did not ask you to buy previously. But it has been so helpful to me as a new way to pray — and it parallels what I see in Chris — and how she is surviving. Link
1. If you were able to see the above video — what do you think?
2. Share one way you “spied” God over the 4th of July week.
Monday-Wednesday Bible Study Read Jonah 2:1-10
I want to make it clear how Chris and Jonah’s situation are different. Chris suffered, not because of personal sin, but because of sin in the world. Jonah suffered because of personal sin.
But they both responded in a godly way.
3. In the following verses, you will find a new and helpful way to pray.
A. Crying out: Find it in verses 1-2
B. Looking toward “the temple” (Christ) and remembering Who He is: Find it in verses 4-7)
C. Committing yourself to Him in sacrifice and thanksiving (Find it in verse 9)
4. Now you follow these three steps with something you are facing.
Thursday-Friday: Listen to the sermon
(If you cannot afford this, Elizabeth’s notes are below. I think you would be very blessed by both listening to Keller and reading Elizabeth’s notes. I asked Elizabeth to do it when she was very busy, her computer had crashed, and it was her birthday. But oblige she did!)
5. What stood out to you from the sermon and why?
6. What’s your take-a-way and why?
Jonah 2:1-10; Your Own Grace
In the belly of the deep, Jonah prays a prayer of faith and grasps the grace of God. The
subject of the prayer is the grace of God.
The phenomenon of the prayer itself is that Jonah is in utter despair, cowering fear,
rebellion and is transformed to a posture of triumph and faith. Jonah is a man literally at
the bottom, deep in his problem.
Example, the movie The Abyss-the terror and alienation of knowing you are dying far
from the place you need to be in order to live.
Jonah represents the spiritual condition of being at the bottom-buried deep. Buried far
away from where we need to be. Jonah was in that position and we see him begin to
rise, defy gravity. “You have brought my life UP out of the pit…my prayer rose to You”
Jonah is rising. How? What enabled him was faith.
How do we have that kind of faith? Faith is not a talent. Faith is being controlled by
the promises of God rather than your own impressions.
Jonah’s faith comes in three stages—he calls, then remembers (gazes, looks, ponders), he
Jonah yells to God. The first step of faith is to say—‘God, are You there?…show
me’. The first step is to seek Him.
Some may say they don’t believe enough to seek Him—but to seek God means
all you have to do is doubt your doubts enough to seek Him. Some say they had
faith but have lost it. Jonah, like Job, calls to God in his distress. Job never stops
The way back to faith is the same as the first step of faith—call to Him.
Jonah begins to think. He looks to Him, He gazes, ponders God. Verses 4 and 7,
tell us he is looking to the Temple. He is thinking about the Gospel. The Temple
is the concrete picture of how God is going to reconcile us to Himself—it is the
picture of the Gospel. The Temple shows us both the Bad News, and the Good
The Bad News: The Law. In the center of the Temple is the Holy of Holies—with
the Ark of the Covenant, the 10 Commandments, the Law of God.
The Law of God is an outline of God’s character that calls us to build our lives on
the model of His greatness. The Law of God is in the Ark of the Covenant in the
Holy of Holies—this is where God lives. He is saying He will only relate to us
over the Law, only if we live in accordance with the Law.
Example—a conductor before his symphony. He begins to conduct, and one
instrumentalist plays his own thing. What does this do to the relationship between
the musician and conductor? The conductor says, ‘unless you obey the score, we
cannot have a working relationship’. If the artist refuses, the conductor would
have to say, ‘I’m sorry—the nature of music requires you to obey the score for
there to be beauty.’
We must meet over the score to have fellowship. The Bible says the same thing—
God says, to have a relationship with me, you must fulfill the Law, I’m holy, you
must be holy. The musician must repent not for being a musician, but for trying to
be the conductor.
Without obedience there is no beauty. This is the bad news—because we cannot
possibly be perfectly obedient.
The Temple also shows us the Good News. Over the Ark is a golden slab–the
Place of Propitiation, the Mercy Seat. Propitiation is to turn aside the wrath
of someone through a payment. The Temple tells us that God will accept the
fulfillment of the Law through the payment of a substitute. When Jonah looked
to the Temple, he was actually looking, without knowing, to Jesus Christ. Jesus
is the propitiation, the mercy seat, the Good News. For us, to look to the Temple,
means to look to Jesus. Anyone that comes to the Father, trusting what Jesus did,
can talk to God. Jesus covers the sins.
Faith is talking to yourself and faith is thinking. Faith is not automatic. It doesn’t
just turn on when you’re in a dark time. Faith is getting a hold of the truth,
looking at the Gospel, looking at the facts,–and work it in, act on it. Jonah
feels banished from God’s sight, yet, he looks to the Temple. Though he felt
totally abandoned by God—he thinks it out, he works out the faith in spite of his
circumstance and feelings. Jonah is speaking truth to his soul.
Faith is telling the truth to your heart. Doubt is listening to your heart and
everything it says. In a wilderness, our heart may say-‘you brought me here to
die’. But we have a choice—we can talk to our heart or listen to it.
Faith is not just talking to yourself, faith is thinking. Build a truth-centered life.
Faith is looking at all the facts at once.
Jonah says ‘I will sacrifice to You’. Jonah is not out of the deep, but he gives up
everything to God.
Two ways to grow in your faith—to study, and to commit. Faith is an ongoing
process of preaching the Gospel to yourself. Look to the Holy Temple. When life
looks out of control, go to the Father. Don’t act scared, like an orphan, forgetting
He is your Father. Preach the Gospel to yourself and then we can become a
Apart from the Gospel you can be ethical or compassionate, but never both. But
if we are constantly preaching the Gospel to ourselves, we will be approachable;
we will be both ethical and compassionate. We will have integrity, patience,
endurance. Preaching the Gospel gets ride of pride and laxity. We will see that our
growth is a gift and we will be a healing community.
Are you singing to your heart, or listening to your heart? Doubt your doubts.
Call when you haven’t been praying. Think out the Gospel. And do not wait for
the dry land. While still in the belly, commit.