Bless the LORD, O my soul, and do not forget all his benefits– who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy… (Psalm 103:3
And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” (Revelation 21:5)
If you are engaged in making disciples then you are probably familiar with people’s pain. Disciple makers look for God’s activity in people’s lives. And if you do that you will hear a few stories about pain.
I suspect most of us believe that God can bring redemption to just about any tragedy. God loves to turn disaster into blessing, to turn the cross into an empty tomb. But when we find ourselves visiting with someone about their own disaster, it’s easy to bungle it, to handle such moments poorly. We can easily, foolishly rush through them, brush by them, offer to look at the bright side, or suggest a some-day-you’ll-look-back-at-this-and-be-thankful solutions. Don’t. The disasters, disappointments, frustrations, failures, – the “miry pits” – are the very likely the most fertile ground for spiritual growth. God guides us on these journeys of discipleship, and often those journeys lead directly to people’s painful places. God often takes us back to our own pain. He does so for a reason. The painful places where we have been stuck are the places we have to surrender to God’s rescue. Those are the very places we encounter God. At the miry pits we have to stop pretending to be okay. We have to admit that maybe our beliefs are off, that our world is off, that we don’t actually understand our Lord like we thought we did. We may have to admit to the situations we couldn’t handle that put us there – or to the sin that trapped us. God not only liberates us at the miry pits. God teaches us to surrender to His rescuing hand.
I’m kind of a fan of Donald Miller. There’s a lot to like about him. He’s a good writer. I laugh a good bit when I read his books. He’s very personal, self-deprecating, a bit provocative, insightful and laid back. I enjoy all of that in a writer. And over the years, his books have given me some new perspectives and plenty of preaching material. But what I really like about Donald Miller is how he deals with his pain. Psalm 103 says God redeems our lives from the pit. It seems to me that Mr. Miller knows how to speak some something helpful about “the pits.”
He did it again today. I heard him in a conversation in a video curriculum. (His ministry emailed me a sample). It’s about fifteen minutes long and worth the time if you can spare it.
If you can’t, here are a few gems from the talk.
- When we find a redemptive perspective on our suffering, it ceases to be suffering.(That’s a weighty quote from Victor Frankl).
- Trajedy is inherently isolating. When we suffer, we feel completely alone. But when we connect our own tragedy with those of others, we find value.
- We don’t declare a tragedy to be a blessing. It is still a tragedy. But when we find good things coming out of a tragedy. That’s the blessing
Today, I got to be a part of just such a story. Today, while filling the pulpit in a nearby church, I was invited to help with a baptism of a man named John. As part of the baptism, I asked John to share a bit of his story. It involved coming to terms with a need for recovery, meeting a friend named Doug who had found help in that ministry – a wounded disciple of Jesus who’d found help and healing. Doug walked with John for a season and eventually invited him to church activities. John heard the gospel and responded. He had ben in a miry pit. He called out to God and God heard his cry and rescued him.
Doug was there today. As the water poured over John, a outward and visible sign of what God was doing in John’s life, tears of joy flowed among many gathered in the room. People who had promised to help their brother walk with the Lord. People whom he had promised to help, too. A room of wounded disciples brought together by the grace of God.
And I was one of them – blessed to be a part of God’s amazing, grace-filled work!
May the Lord bless you and keep you!