Genesis 16-21

She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”

Sermon Transcript:

Good morning, it’s great to be here with you. This is the last installment on, the series we’re in about Christian suffering. As Pastor Mark mentioned, I realized that doing a three week series means I’m the suffering guy. So, as I see people in the lobby, like Matt Howard, he’s like, Oh, again. More suffering.

I won’t preach on suffering the other times I’m preaching upcoming, but, we are going through this series, and we’re trying to end this series, even here, with final thoughts on Christian suffering, and we have some notes for you to follow along, but as a part of the series, we first talked about the weight of Christian suffering, and the purpose of Christian suffering, and last week we talked about the stewardship of Christian suffering.

And if you’re keeping along, there’s three left, all of which are called today. So we’re going to move quick today. The treasures of Christian suffering, the partnership in Christian suffering, and lastly, the end of Christian suffering. When I was about eight years old in Marlton, New Jersey, I was bored.

And I went outside of Cam in the Cambridge Park House, 21 Concord Drive. And, I went out with a shovel that was just like this one. Probably having to do weeding because my parents just love making their children weed and so And not wanting to weed because their children hated to weed but I was out there with this shovel and thinking I’m bored.

I have a shovel And so being the ever creative type, I thought, I’m going to try to shove this shovel as far into this Marlton soil as I possibly can. And I didn’t really, couldn’t really get it in because this is not a spade, which cuts in deeper when you like step on it. So this particular shovel, I thought I could get the furthest in.

By lifting up the shovel and smashing it down and I did it but this particular shovel wasn’t as sharp as I wanted it to be and I was rather discouraged my eight year old self that I couldn’t put the shovel as far into the dirt as I wanted and I remember thinking I am going to do it one more time.

And I’m going to do it as hard as I can. I literally had this thought and so I lifted up the shovel. One detail I haven’t mentioned is I was barefoot at the time. Yep, it’s exactly going there. And I lifted up shovel came right down, bam, right on the nail of my big toe. And I didn’t know what happened and I’m like, I thought nothing happened and then I grabbed my foot And then the blood started leaking through a new crack in my big toenail And then I started, you know handling like a man Or screaming like a small child.

However, you want to interpret that my fear. With what we’re doing and suffering as I enter come to the pulpit each week Is that I’m the shovel and you’re the big toe and I realize that this is asking you to go through a lot And I’m very thankful for the chance to go through the text that we’ve gone through and to finish up this week We’re gonna be in Genesis 16 in Genesis 21 Two different stories of a woman named Hagar, a single mom named Hagar.

What we’re going to do is go through the stories and then we’re going to rocket through the remaining principles as we look at this story. Hagar is, is was a servant of Sarah and Abram. They were going to be called Abraham and Sarah. Sarah, and we’ll just call them that for now. Even as we go through the stories, even though in Genesis 16 they didn’t technically get that name yet, but what happened was Abraham and Sarah, Abraham was given a promise.

And the promise was through you, all nations will be blessed. And we know that from the seed of Abraham ultimately came this, the coming of Christ, all nations, all these promises were given for major promises given through the era of Abraham. But Abraham and Sarah realized we, this is not happening.

And it didn’t happen after a few months after getting the promise, they weren’t able to have a child then, then wasn’t able to happen after a few years. And then decades went by and God did not come through. On the promise that he made and those days and months and years and decades began to add up And eventually Sarah and Abraham got to talking that if God is not going to come through on his word Perhaps we will have to find another way and Sarah said well I do have a servant her name is Hagar as you know Abraham Why don’t you take her, have a child with her, and so at least through your line, then we can have a child.

An incredibly painful decision for Sarah, which would ultimately become an incredibly abusive decision for Hagar. The trust muscles that we see Abraham and Sarah wrestle with throughout Genesis, we’re, we’re developing. But they weren’t quite there yet to believe that Sarah could have a child. So what happens is, Abraham and Hagar have a child.

And Hagar now is with child and is becoming a major part of the story. Becoming the one through which the line will continue. And the other people, because they travel with a lot of people. Abraham and Sarah had a lot of people with them. They were looking and seeing towards, how is she feeling? What’s going on today?

Did the new line kick in your stomach? Did this new line of descendants that is going to start with this child and Hagar, who was a, a servant girl is now thrust to center stage, but Sarah was having trouble backing up from the mic. It was difficult for her to realize that her part was becoming less in the story.

And eventually Sarah deals so harshly with Hagar. That Hagar runs away, and runs away not to someone, runs away not to somewhere, but just runs away. And ends up in the wilderness. Says this in Genesis 16. Saradette harshly with Hagar, and she fled from her. The angel of the Lord, and we talked about this like a month and a half ago, so I’m sure you all remember.

The angel of the Lord, the angel of Yahweh, is actually a Christophany. It is actually a coming of Christ in the Old Testament. And there’s a lot of theological reasons that we looked into of why this phrase, the angel of the Lord, was a particular manifestation of Jesus himself coming in the Old Testament.

So Jesus comes to her. By a spring of water in the wilderness the spring on the way to sure and then this happens the The angel of the lord said to her behold you are pregnant shall bear a son You shall call his name ishmael because the lord has listened to you in your affliction. She’s like, okay, I got that So she called him the name of the lord and god spoke that he would fulfill and look after Her and eventually says she responds with this statement So she called the name of the Lord again Christ himself who spoke to her.

You are a God of seeing Anybody know the Hebrew word for that El Roy you are the God of seeing Because you have seen me What’s interesting is this is now not the God of Abraham and Sarah Right even further descendants would say you are the God of Abraham Isaac and Jacob be by identification point But not for Hagar.

Hagar was running from all of that God thing out into the wilderness. She did not run to God. God ran to her. And now this God did not just become an idea put on her by Abraham. And Sarah, this was the God who saw her. The story continues. And after Hagar gave birth to Ishmael, who is now the heir to the new nation, the child begins to grow.

And now, what happens with Abraham and Sarah. Is that now Sarah gets pregnant because God was going to fulfill his promise all along because God doesn’t promise something that he doesn’t fulfill. And so now Sarah is pregnant with the rightful heir to the nation as promised by God. Well that does not mean good things for Hagar and Ishmael.

And this single mom who has this child who everyone thought would be the center of the story. Now Sarah goes to Abraham again and eventually has her removed and Abraham gives her a donkey, a skin of water, and a piece of bread. For her and the child says this, When the water in the skin was gone, she put the child under one of the bushes.

Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off about the distance of a bow shot. For she said, let me not look on the death of the child. And she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice, and in a sound only a mother could know, she wept. Not even able to see her child die of starvation. But God does not quit on Hagar, like his people did.

He shows himself again and the text continues. Sorry. I have the clicker So like I get happy with the clicker, but I don’t think I put the text in there says and God heard the voice of the boy and the angel of God called the Hagar from heaven and said to her What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is.

And the story goes on of how God provides and gives provision and looks after Hagar and Ishmael. Hagar and God is the God, if you hear in the text, He is the God who sees the El Roy. And He is the God who hears the child crying. The God who sees and the God who hears in the midst of suffering. Pray with me this morning.

The worship team led us this morning. There will be a day when the burdens of this life will be no more.

It’s a lot of burdens represented in this room.

We thank you that there’s an end. We give you ourself this morning and pray for wisdom. We thank you that the story of suffering isn’t just bad news. And what we can relax a little bit into today is some of the joy and treasures That are found in the dark in jesus name. Amen Okay, so some treasures found in Christian suffering.

We’re going to go through nine points this morning, okay? So we’re going to be rifling through what I intended to do shorter, but based upon like some, some of the responses and conversations had just wanted to add a few in there about how to partner with people who suffer because so many of you. are doing that right now.

So, first thing about the treasures of Christian suffering is, is, is, is this statement, is found in this statement in Isaiah 45, 3, I will give you the treasures. Of darkness the hordes and secret places that you may know that it is I the lord the god of israel who calls you by name Number 12 because we’re doing this in a full list of 20 What you’re starting with today is number 12 is he is the primary Treasure of christian suffering that there’s suffering is not unique to christianity Suffering is not is something that’s not during this time or just bible times suffering is a universal human experience the difference between christian suffering and just Normal suffering is not the suffering.

It’s the Christian part and the part that’s unique and the part That’s the primary treasure of Christian suffering is Christ himself. I love what God did with with Hagar, right? So Hagar is there and and it doesn’t just you she’s not just given a well although she would be given a well where she could get water she wasn’t just given more bread or traveler a passing by companion to relieve her who comes who comes to this single mom who’s now so little a part of the story of the rest of the Bible you Jesus himself.

Jesus himself comes to this woman. She needs more than just provision. She needed more than just a bailout of an impossibly difficult situation. Hagar needed a God who sees. She needed a God who hears. And for the rest of Hagar’s life, for whatever she faced, she knew she faced it with one who saw. And heard her needs, J.

I. Packer says this communion between God and man is the end To which both creation and redemption are the means it is the goal to which both theology and preaching must ever point It is the essence of true religion. It is indeed the definition Of christianity union with god is literally the definition of what it means to be a christian So seasons of blessing and seasons of suffering Are all serving the same purpose serving to unite us to companion us with this god He is the primary treasure of christian suffering Second second treasure another treasure of christian suffering is the freedom from the illusion of control Hagar is whipped around in this story between chapters.

She is promoted, she is greatly demoted, and she is eventually abandoned. She has all of these things happening to her where she feels powerless and is in a powerless position. That’s a dreadful spot to be. There’s no formula to predict the future. God’s never done this with a nation. All the things being told to her can’t be like, Oh, I remember, that’s This is totally unheard of.

Her life is whipped around and now she and her child are in an impossible situation. So, so what does she gain from that? Not control. But she gains an incredible gift. The gift that she is free from the illusion of control that the rest of us pretend like we have. All of us, no matter what your profession or what you’re doing, whether you’re a parent, a teacher, a preacher, a plumber, an engineer.

A nutritionist, we’re used to setting up systems. One of the remarkable things about being a person, we can set up systems and rhythms. And within that, there is some sense of imago Dei, God’s image control, right? If you do A, you get B. If you do B, then you do C, and you do C and D, and then eventually you’ll get through.

But suffering has this way of blowing up that alphabet. Suffering has this way of saying, hey, you know what? I’m trying to do the right things at the right time, but i’m not always getting the thing. I thought I would get C. s lewis says this god has been trying to experiment God has not been trying to experiment on My faith or love in order to find out their quality.

He knew it already. It was I who didn’t In this trial, he makes us occupy the dock, the witness box, and the bench all at once. He always knew that my temple was a house of cards. His only way of making me realize the fact Was to knock it down and as he talked about in the problem of pain He also says this the creature’s illusion of sufficiency Must for the creature’s sake be shattered No one feels good when their house comes crushing down when their image of what life should or could be Gets destroyed Or damaged but those who sit in some of the rubble No, they need a foundation that is someone bigger than themselves.

Being freed from the illusion of control is terrifying and it’s a gift. Third thing I just want to mention in Treasures, an aversion to depersonalized religion. That might be the most big words I’ve ever tried to put in a sentence right there. Hagar is run over by the machine, right? This whole idea and this whole movement that we have in Genesis 12 That will take us right to the manger this whole promise that’s been made and this is a beautiful promise full of incredible fulfillment And and full of incredible stories of redemption But thanks to abraham and sarah it Did not start out that way for Hagar.

That beautiful movement of God through the nation of Israel begins by running over this woman. It begins by one of the most textbook examples of spiritual abuse that we have in all of history. of Christianity and when Christ himself comes to her, the language that she uses is different than many people will use in the story.

It’s not depersonalized language. It’s actually a unique name that she gives. She is titling and seeing senses of God, the sight and the sound. That she will be the first to chronicle. Christ, for her, was not a banner to be raised, a story to be told, a cause to be won. He wasn’t a brand. And since forever, we have been trying to make Jesus about a cause we think should be won.

And what we, what people did with Jesus, what we still do with Jesus, is say, you know what? Jesus must be on this side of the argument. Because I actually heard someone, they were having a political argument, and they said, You know what? If Jesus were here, he would do this. They’re like, well that’s a Trump card right there, you know what I mean?

Like, that’s, can’t argue with that one, if you have Jesus on your side. But that’s what we do, right? We get in an argument, you know what? If he were here, he would do this. But what are we really about? We’re probably much more about our argument than we are about the living. Person of Jesus, Jesus must be on this side of this movement.

Why? Because what I really care about is this movement Jesus must be cornered into to blessing my church or my nation Why? Because I really care about my church and my nation. We can Depersonalize Christ and it marked so much of Jesus’s ministry People were like, hey, it’s cool you did that miracle for that one guy over there.

What are you gonna do with Rome? Hey, it’s really cool you let the little kids come to you and you bless them. That’s a nice story. Let’s get some important things done for the whole nation here. We’re about to enter into election cycle. It’s gonna be super fun. We’re all looking forward to it. You know, it’s gonna be easy.

It’s just like, you know, Jesus is on this political party side. And, and, and, and if the wrong person gets into office and does the wrong thing, boom! Everything’s destroyed. All down at, well, we’ve all said since for like, I’ve heard this for every election in a million years, well, I’m just going to go to Canada.

You know, like that’s what everyone says, and then they’re not in Canada. Why? But we have this thing of like, oh, if the wrong things happen, it all falls apart. And we can talk more about America than what Jesus is doing in our own lives. Right? We’re going through different seasons as a church. We want to know what it, okay, well, Jesus wants this, or Jesus wants that, and we can get all wrapped in, but now we’re more talking about church than we are about Him.

We can be so preoccupied with what the church in America, with the church universal, what the church in South Jersey should do and be, and focus less about what Jesus Himself Is doing and being in me a general cause movement or organization is not enough for the one who suffers. We need more than an army general or a celebrity.

We need direct contacts with contact with Christ himself. We need him to be personally involved in our lives. A depersonalized religion says that Jesus is heading up this thing and I’m going to line up underneath him. The one who suffer knows, My God, I need you now. Be whoever you actually are. Suffering teaches us eternal life.

Is about knowing him and letting him be himself 15 resiliency suffering brings us resiliency produces resiliency that comes one revolution At a time, the next chapter is Genesis 22 and in the story of Abraham and Sarah, you see Sarah’s particularly loud and Abraham goes along with it, but you could see before that in stories where Abraham was more the coward and he would be loud and Sarah went along with him.

And then you can see other stories in Abraham and Sarah’s life where they showed tremendous trust and tremendous faith. But through their faith development for Abraham and Sarah, eventually Abraham comes to a place where God says, Okay, now Isaac is full grown. Take your boy and sacrifice him a bigger request than he has ever made in all the times Leading up to it, but God had taught Abraham through some of the failings Some of the times of trust that eventually Abraham gets to this place where it says in Hebrews 11 looking back on this story Abraham’s like I’ll do it because I believe that God can even raise the dead which is amazing because God Never had until that point But eventually, Abraham’s faith grew to that point.

One of the things I believe about spiritual formation, God’s life being formed inside of us, is that it’s slow and it’s downward. My favorite image of it is the, screw going into a piece of wood. We are the screw, the piece of wood is God himself. And we eventually, more and more, rotate and go deeper in.

Now in my life and yours we face the same seasons the same man I’ve been in these insecurities before I hit some of these sufferings before and we face some of the similar Things of our life some of the things I journaled about when I was 16 I still face those but by God’s grace a little bit deeper in a little bit closer When I do pre marriage counseling and what we’re able to identify.

Okay, this is an issue We say you know what? This will probably be an issue if you’re both 80 together Because this is identifying an issue, but the goal is to face this issue, this, this crosses you carry, these things that you’re facing, a little bit deeper in, into the love of God. Resiliency comes through suffering, it does.

Resiliency, if you have suffered, and you have suffered with Christ, the next time it doesn’t free you from suffering, and the suffering looks a lot the same as it did before, but the treasure of, of Christian suffering, is that each time we go through it, We know a little bit more. He is love. This will end In him all is well, those are some of the treasures and many of you Are are going through different times of suffering and have shared your journey such Such an honor for me.

In fact I I said this to someone last week like hey, we’re supposed to talk about the treasures of christian suffering all I want to do is put an open mic in that sanctuary and say Where has anyone seen God in suffering? Because that’s, a lot of those responses have come to me. And, and, and then just sit down afterwards and say, That, that is the treasure.

Because, in such a real way, you. You are the treasure of christian suffering and you live it out better than we can quickly in a sermon But many of you are are walking alongside of people who are suffering trying to make sense From the outside of someone going through a difficult time. And so I just wanted to share a few points on that as we go.

So the partnership of christian suffering number six or sixteen And for those of you dealing with people in pain, don’t belittle pain. This is exactly what Abraham and Sarah did. You know why? Because Abraham and Sarah, they knew pain. They knew barrenness. They knew what it was like to leave, like, like, their whole nation, their family.

And to tell everyone at every party they ever went to, Well, God’s gonna give us, there’s a blessing, you just need to believe it. And then people will watch Sarah turn 30, and 40, and 50, and 60. And, and they knew that the pain of those days, and never having a child, they knew pain. But what can happen when we know our version of pain?

is we become hurt people who hurt other people. And we don’t see that Hagar can be hurt too. It’s very easy when people share our type of pain to be like, hey, I get that. Right? It is for me. But when they have a different type, for me, sometimes I’m jealous. I was talking to somebody, one of the pastors this week, he’s like, oh man, I just wish I had a different cross.

And I’m like, dude, I’ve wished I’ve had your cross. Guess what? They’re both pretty rough. But, what we can do is belittle pain if we’re not careful. This is something that Jesus did not do. Christ’s pain identifies him with us, not preoccupies him with himself. Dane Ortlund said this, The cumulative testimony of the four gospels is that when Jesus Christ sees the falseness in the world about him, his deepest impulse, his most natural instinct, Is to move toward that sin and suffering, not away from it.

Spurgeon said it this way. Especially judge not the sons and daughters of sorrow. Also no ungenerous suspicions of the one afflicted, the poor and the despondent. Do not hastily say they ought to be more brave and exhibit a greater faith. Ask not why are they so nervous and so absurdly fearful. No, I beseech you, remember you understand not your fellow man.

Seventeen. Because suffering is unique, loving someone, is always a journey into complexity. This is the problem with suffering is we want it to be simple and it’s just not. It’s like, hey, tell me, tell me about your suffering. How long do you have? Because it’s complicated and it, and it ties into relational and it ties into, to physical and it ties into emotional.

And when we go through suffering, it inevitably is something that’s so confusing and complex. And if we think we have all the right answers, we’re probably at the most dangerous we could be. 14 says this, We urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the faint hearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.

Okay, here’s, here’s the deal. Where’d it go? It’s not on that one. Okay, over here. I can’t reach that. We urge you, brothers, admonish the idle. That’s right. That’s what we do with those who are idle, encourage the faint hearted when we’re talking about spiritual abuse and where we can cause great harm is when we mix these up.

We admonish the faint hearted or instead of helping the weak, we’re admonishing them. And I, and I know sometimes when we’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail, right? And we’re like, well, there’s a problem and the God doesn’t like problems. Let’s just, you know, you should confess or whatever you need to do.

And we, we jump into suffering with simple answers. When we realize, you know what? This might not be a sin issue. You know what? God hasn’t answered this question yet. Maybe you shouldn’t try either. To embrace complexity, Proverbs 18, 13 says, if one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.

And lastly, just, I’ll just say this. Curiosity and compassion make far better friends than lessons to those who suffer. This word curiosity, I’ve shared, I’ve struggled with obsessive compulsive disorder, and most of my friends don’t. So if you struggle with obsessive compulsive disorder, I need friends, so.

But most of my friends do not. But curiosity means the most to me. There are some people like, hey, I read this article, and I saw this here, and you know, if the obsessive compulsive disorder, and this is actually this. Or they see a therapist for two weeks, and they’re like, my therapist one time said this about obsessive compulsive, have you applied this to your life?

And I’m like, thank you so much. Let’s not talk for a while, you know. But my friends who’ve come and said, hey, I have no idea what that’s like. Honestly, it sounds a little weird to me. What’s that like? And I get to tell them. That means the world to me. People don’t have to identify with my type of suffering.

But they probably shouldn’t act like they’re an expert in it. We’re not experts in each other’s type of pain. We need to listen, ask honest questions. Curiosity and compassion are far better friends than lessons to the sufferer. Eighteen. We’re almost there. What changes someone’s life during suffering is love.

And if you love someone who suffers, and I mean this phrasing intentionally, You become, and you are, the power of God. 1 Corinthians 13 collects all kinds of virtues, all kinds of things of the faith, and says, but let me tell you what matters the most. It’s love. Love for someone who suffers. My wife is a therapist, and we were talking, and she said, You know what, Ben?

Like, psychology has helped us so much to identify problems. To categorize problems, to help explain complexity of pain. But she said, you look even at modern psychology theories. What changes a person’s life is love. It’s relational. That’s what creates change in a life. It can be a love from others. It can be learning to, in a godly way, love yourself.

And she said this to me and she said, But there’s no love like the love of God. If you can become and love someone and become a part of God’s love fitting into the life of a sufferer, you are. The power of God in a life and you think if I only had the right things to say as soon as you think that Say this probably shouldn’t say it, right?

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard people say like I I don’t know what to say and I just want to say Thank you. Just don’t say it. Just be present be a non anxious presence in Suffering you won’t solve the suffering but guess what if God hasn’t solved it. You’re probably not going to either Just be there, and your non anxious presence, Jane Davison Hunter, wrote a book on how to change the world.

How do you change the world? How do you actually create change? And this whole premise is this, by faithful presence.

When you love someone who suffers, you are the power of God. Lastly, oh wait, this is a great quote. Eugene Peterson said this, spiritual formation not only should not be, but also cannot be professionalized. It takes place essentially in the company of friends and peers. And if Jesus had his whole story go into the hands of the church through the Holy Spirit, which is his miracle, he didn’t just say, hey, pastors, counselors, you guys have to figure it all out.

He gives the power, all of us, to be the very agents of his formation of love into a sufferer’s life. The end of Christian suffering. Oh man, I’ve looked forward to seeing those words. Couple of things as we close. Christian suffering normally has relief this side of heaven. Nowhere in scripture do I believe that is fully promised.

It is often spoken of, and it is the normative thing that happens to sufferers in scripture. I don’t think we can say, hey, we know that this suffering will always be lifted, but suffering normally finds relief. It normally has at least somewhat of an exp exp expiration date that is not just eternal. It is normally here.

Suffering is often, as we mentioned, the screw going into wood. Something we go through cyclically. But I do not believe that misery is the normative state of a Christian. God will bring you through. Almost always on this side of heaven. But lastly Number 20, even if it is in heaven or not till heaven, suffering is a very brief part of the Christian experience.

Of following Christ, being with Christ, even if the suffering lasts far longer, even if it’s not as it normally is, relieved on this side of heaven, healing is promised, ultimate healing, in paradise forever, in union with Him forever. And in those days, and in those years, and in those decades, and in those centuries, and in those millennium, we’ll be able to look back and say, you know what, that suffering was so painful.

But it was brief compared to what we get to have.

I’m gonna do something that literally could not be more narcissistic. I’m gonna read a part of my book to you. I just want to tell you what happened as I, as I wrote. And I’m just gonna conclude with a couple of paragraphs. I started writing about, Spurgeon, Nowin, Mother Teresa, C. S. Lewis, and I dove somewhat deep into their stories and understanding a lot of their pain, and it is dark.

It is really intense. It was more intense than I was ready for. I thought, hey, this is going to be an easier chapter when I did this. And then it became my longest and most difficult chapter because of the amount of sorrow that they had in their own lives, these heroes of the faith. And, and when I did this, we were in Columbia, we were seeing a lot of poverty.

There was, there was a lot of. Things that we were facing that just felt really painful and and as I was writing this book on Christian suffering I just became Overtaken is the way it felt on three levels. The first I felt this personal sense of fear. I Don’t want to suffer. I Use the words of C. S. Lewis.

I’m a coward when it comes to suffering I don’t want to suffer the extent of some of the worst times that I have had in my past I never want that again. I also felt as I was reading of these saints, the sense of like, injustice, of like, how come they had to suffer? Like, these people led us to the foot of, feet of God, told us about His love.

Why did they have to go to hell to find it? And then third, as I got like, universal and pretty dark, I like, just felt the sufferings of other people. Part of that was being in Columbia and seeing some real poverty and hearing about some dark, dark things. Part of that is just being a pastor of you all and, and having walked through some different stories.

Don’t want anymore. I don’t have the stomach for it. It’s too much. And in that moment, like, I almost didn’t want hope. As I was writing this chapter, like, you know what? Hope is too painful. Let’s just turn off all the lights and call it a day. But what held me through was this image of heaven. And I’m just going to read you this little bit as we conclude.

I felt close to Spurgeon, Lewis, Mother Teresa, and now, and I felt close to those who know the suffering that they knew. I felt close to you, the Fellowship of the Tormented. I do mean this. You are heroes of mine. We make up a hobbled army. At times we feel like we’re just like every other person. At times we feel like we are blessed to know our way of Christ, even in the dark.

At other times, we are begging that Christ would take this cross from us. We know lots of times, but we keep going. With plenty of limping, second guessing, laughing at ourselves and crying when it is just too much. I want to end this chapter with a view of heaven. In that place, Spurgeon knows no more physical or mental torture.

He no longer gazes into the abyss of the English Channel, clinging to his last bits of weathered hope. He now stares into the glory of Christ, eyes lit with joy and mirth. I think of Louis who’s no longer reduced to the feelings of a coward in the face of his grief and anxiety. He doesn’t have to wrestle with pain, theologically or philosophically, for himself or for us anymore.

He’s reunited with his wife. Mother Teresa knows unbroken fellowship with the Christ she married on earth. There are no more lessons to be taught or learned by the teacher of silence. She’s fully with him and he with her. Think about you and me who are not yet there yet our questions are not resolved.

Our uncertainties remain uncertain. Our timeline of the seasons of pain do not have an end date that we can see. We travel this world of faith and suffering on its precarious path, and don’t always know how much more we can take. I cannot wait for heaven with you. I can’t wait to see what we will gain there and what we shall leave behind.

I long to speak to you there of how he got us through the very times we thought were too deep, too wide, too long, and too high for us to endure. I long to hear how he showed us then, and for forever, that his love was deeper, wider, longer, and higher still. Dear weary traveler, You won’t be weary long.