I have learned from experience about a grace that many of you have wondered about. I know because I have talked with so many people over the years. Having touched it, I want to testify about it.
The grace I’m talking about is the grace of martyrdom.
I heard a story once about two women in the dungeons awaiting execution by fire the next day. One woman burned her finger on a candle that night, and she began to despair. “Just my finger burning is so painful,” she cried, “how will I endure the burning of my whole body tomorrow?”
The other replied, “God didn’t ask you to burn your finger, so there’s no grace for it. Tomorrow, you will do the will of God and have his grace.”
I have not been tortured, and obviously I have not been put to death. I have, however, been called and commissioned by God to go through an intense treatment for a rare, dangerous, and super-aggressive type of leukemia with joy. I believe that to have been as much a commission from God as anything I’ve ever done.
I’m sure I will never be able to describe the grace. I could lay in a bed in pain and discomfort, and the pain was completely “other.” It was there, I could feel it, it hurt, but it didn’t seem real or part of me.
Depression came on me. Fits of worry. They swirled around, over my head, hiding the people around me from me. They made it hard to interact with those around me as their voices were filtered through the crowd of sadness and strange thoughts, but they didn’t seem to be my thoughts. I hunkered down, deep inside, and I rested in the presence of God. I mourned that I could not comfort those around me because of the cloud, but I rested at peace, comforted by God.
It is surprisingly easy to do what I know to be the will of God when his grace is present, no matter the pain, no matter the confusion, no matter the gloomy prognosis of my condition.
Two years after my transplant, God gave me the opposite gift. I got pneumonia … out of the blue, unexpected, no rhyme or reason for it. I had recently gotten a pneumonia vaccine. I had started an anti-pneumonia antibiotic regimen just a month earlier.
Nonetheless, wham! In one day I went from “Dear, I think I’d like to go to the emergency room; something’s wrong” to wrestling to roll over in bed in less than 12 hours.
Air was hard to come by, even with the oxygen they gave me. The discomfort was awful. I was in a constant haze of pain. My thoughts went from a comfortable acceptance that I might die to a longing for death to deliver me from the terrible discomfort.
There was no grace, and all I could pray for is that God would let me forget the horror as fast as possible.
I don’t doubt that pneumonia was the gift of God because in two weeks I was completely better. The doctors were astounded at my lung capacity just days after barely being able to breathe. A month later, I couldn’t remember the feelings that had prompted my prayers that I would forget the trauma.
I caught the lesson, though. It’s a lesson I’ve always wanted to know about, and I know many others have, too.
There is a grace from God for suffering that is beyond our comprehension. It is sufficient.
It’s still hard for me to believe that a martyr can watch his skin being peeled off, separated from the pain, thanking his tormentors for delivering him from the evils of the flesh. That was a real story I read.
It’s hard for me to believe, but it is no longer impossible for me to believe.
Preparing for Suffering
I rarely pass on the promises of God publicly without also passing on the call of God. I have lots of friends who are wholeheartedly given to the will of King Jesus. I know of many others, and I know that means there are even more others that I don’t know and have never heard of who want God’s will in everything.
Those people don’t need anything added to the message above.
I have other friends who think the will of Jesus is a nice thing. I have met hundreds of Christians with a favorable impression of the commands of King Jesus.
The promises of God are for those who do more than think favorably of the apostles’ message. They are for those who kiss the hand of our Master, mourn for their failings, and get up every day excited about every word that proceed from his mouth, grateful that yesterday’s failings are drowned in the sea of forgetfulness. What does he have for me today that I am not going to fail in? (Ruth, I’m hoping this helps answer your question from yesterday!)
One of the discussions I’ve had several times over the years is with people scared that if martyrdom ever came, they could not bear the suffering. Others would tell them, “When the time comes, God will give you grace.”
After the others walked away, I would tell the person, “You better practice now. If you’re not embracing suffering now and thanking God for the troubles he sends you way, then you’re not going to know the grace of God when real persecution comes.”
That’s not a thrilling message for those that want God to do everything for them. It is, however, a thrilling message for those that are going forward, climbing higher, and delving deeper into the knowledge of God. “Oh, he’s going to send things my way for me to bear, supplied by his grace! Hallelujah! Already! Today! Bring it on!”
Give God that, and he will give you everything you need when the time of suffering come, whether it’s worry, heartbreak, temptation, sickness, famine, persecution, etc. Nothing will be able to separate you from the love of God if you’ll get inside it every day.