Not So Sad Suffering

I mentioned in my first post that I am currently out of school this semester due to a medical withdrawal. Some of you reading this will know this story, but others of you will not, and for those of you who do know, consider this an update. I want to begin with this: this is not a sad story. At the beginning, it will seem that way, but please read this to the end and allow me to explain.

Here’s the situation. In August, I drove back up to Columbia, SC where I attend college at Columbia International University. I love my school, and I was excited about this semester for several different reasons: starting a field ed teaching Bible to 5th graders, getting back to my prison ministry, etc. Most of all though, I was excited about being an RA on a freshman men’s hall. Residence life means ministry at CIU, and I was excited to have the opportunity to work with an awesome team and to minister to a bunch of new freshman guys. I had gotten my floor chart that summer and me and my team had been praying for these men for months. In mid August, these guys moved onto the hall and they were awesome. I loved getting to hang out with them, and they were seriously encouraging to me in my ministry. In just a few short weeks, we were already seeing growth. School was going well, and I was just starting to get settled into new classes. Early September is when things got weird.

One Wednesday, I had just gotten out of a Greek class. I was feeling tired and a little bit dizzy, so I went back to my dorm and laid on a friend’s couch. Pretty soon, I had passed out on the floor. I went to an urgent care that evening and was sent home later. Fast forward, I passed out again, and I ended up having to come back home to have some tests run. I came back home, and I eventually ended up in the hospital to be tested for meningitis. That was a pretty scary time for me because I had never heard of a type of meningitis that wasn’t fatal, and I was really unsure of what was going to happen to me. By God’s grace, it was not bacterial, and therefore it was only a virus. Whether it was meningitis or not, we knew it was a virus, and I would get over it. For about a week I was home, resting and getting better. As I was getting ready to go back to school, I was still feeling very tired, so I went back to my doctor for a follow up. I got my blood tested for what felt like the thousandth time, this time for mono and Lyme’s disease. To be honest, I really thought that my fatigue was just natural from my recovery, and that I would get back to school, start feeling better, and finish my semester. So I went back. The night I got back, I found out that I had both mono and Lyme’s disease, and it became very apparent to me that I was not nearly as well as I thought I was.

In the grand scheme of things, the things that I am sick with are not a big deal. Nothing that I have is life threatening, nor will it be in the future, The hard part was making a decision to leave school. After a few days back, I knew that I was not going to be able to continue at school this semester. I knew pretty soon after I got back, but I didn’t admit that to myself until later. I was disappointed and angry, and most of all, I didn’t understand. After making the decision, I had lots and lots of hard conversations with people that I love, the most difficult being the conversation with the guys on my hall, It really pained me to have to tell them that I wouldn’t be on the hall as their RA this semester. Not to mention the fact that missing a semester of school would really throw a kink into plans I had for the future. All the plans I had for graduation and a career and marriage didn’t seem so secure anymore. So the question was this: why? Why was I suffering? What was the point? This brings us to the reason that this is not a sad story.

Isn’t God’s desire for me to be happy? If God loves us. why would he allow us to suffer? This is important. Scripture does not tell us that Christians are immune to suffering. In fact, it says quite the opposite. Scripture tells us that as Christians we will most surely suffer, and get this, it’s a good thing. There are so many passages that I’d like to unpack, but for the sake of keeping this post readable, I will unpack just one. Check out 2 Corinthians 4:16-18:

16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

I absolutely love this passage, and it has been beyond encouraging to me in this season. I love how Paul describes the affliction (light and momentary) compared to the weight of glory (eternal and beyond all comparison). Friends, our suffering is not in vain. It is refining us for something that is so much bigger than ourselves. As Paul writes here, the things that we see here will end, but the things that we do not yet see will last forever. Our suffering is so brief in the scope of eternity! Isn’t it such good news that one day, the Father will wipe away the tears of the Christian, and death will be no more (Revelation 21:4)? It’s true! The trials that we go through now are building up towards an eternal weight, that will never fade away. Our suffering has an end. The life of the Christian does not.

The story has a happy ending friends. If you are a follower of Jesus, your suffering is for a reason, and the reason is so, so good. Dwell on the teachings of the Scriptures. It is so clear that the Lord uses our suffering for our good, and more importantly, His glory. What would the non-believer say if they saw the Church suffering biblically? We have an opportunity to show the world the grace of God in Christ through the trials in our life. Let’s pray that when people see us suffer, they would ultimately see the grace of God in our own lives.

Presently, I still don’t know why the Lord has me at home this semester. And that’s okay. What I do know is that the Lord has a plan, and His plan is good. If nothing else, the Lord is teaching me how to suffer well. Please pray that God would be glorified in my situation. Perhaps as you read this, you are suffering as well. Please be encouraged by the fact that if you are a follower of Jesus, you are not suffering in vain. If you are reading this and you are not a follower of Christ, please contact me. When we submit our lives to Jesus, our suffering is momentary and good.

In conclusion, I need to make a clarification. Our suffering will not be easy. It is much easier said than done to say “Hey, let’s suffer biblically and it’ll all be okay, alright guys?” Of course it’s not easy. But another great aspect of the Church is that we do not suffer alone. The body of Christ is intended to be a buffer for the suffering Christian. Together, because we have a great High Priest, we can bring our trials before the throne of God. Thank you, Lord.

Thank you for reading! Please contact me if you’d like to discuss this further!

Also, I wanted to post this sermon that John Piper preached at the Legacy Conference earlier this year. It’s so good, and has been very helpful to me.

Grace,

Mitch

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On Three Reasons for Writing a Blog

My name is Mitch. If you’re reading this, you most likely already know that. I’ve always wanted to do this (start a blog, I mean) but I’ve always thought that I didn’t have time, or that I wouldn’t be able to keep it up. However, if you know me well you probably know that this semester I have taken a medical withdrawal from school (that story will come later, in a later post), which, for now at least, gives me ample time to read and write and interact with you via this blog. That being said, almost every blog that I have ever read has begun with a post about why the person blogging wants to blog, what they’ll be writing about, etc. So, in keeping with tradition, I will do just that.

There are a few different reasons for my writing this blog, but I will do my best to keep this inaugural post brief so that I don’t lose you immediately. So, without further ado, here are my top three reasons for writing this blog.

1.    I really enjoy writing. This reason comes with an explanation. When I was in high school, I almost always dreaded writing assignments and essays. When I graduated high school, I went to a gap year program called IMPACT 360 (you can visit their website here, and you should because they’re awesome) and it was there that I started to develop a love for writing. Why? I didn’t quite know the answer to that question until recently, but I think I do now. It’s because as I got into studying things that I’m passionate about and things that I enjoy, I started to love thinking through them by writing. I’d tell you what I’m passionate about, but that would totally ruin points 2 and 3, so I won’t do that just yet. I will however, give you an example.

When I was sixteen, I had to write a book report on a book called Ethan Frome. I like novels a lot. I enjoy reading fiction. That being said, I absolutely hated Ethan Frome. I don’t remember what my book report on Ethan Frome said, but I’m sure it was absolutely dreadful. To be fair, Ethan Frome might be a fine novel, and maybe I just didn’t appreciate it as a sixteen year old kid. Either way, my report on it was not good, because I wasn’t passionate about it. On the other hand, earlier this year I wrote a paper for a course called “History of the Christian Church.” I wrote that essay on John Calvin’s ecclesiology (or, doctrine of the Church). Because the Church is something that I am passionate about (spoiler alert, that’s point 3), that piece of writing was better than my report on Ethan Frome. I enjoyed writing it, my professor enjoyed reading it, and it was a far better situation than the one I mentioned previously.

C.S. Lewis wrote something awesome on the subject, and he wrote it far more eloquently than I can. Lewis is the author of a ton of great stuff, but some of his most highly regarded works are children’s fiction (namely, The Chronicles of Narnia series). I recently read this essay (one of his more well known ones) on why these works appeal so much to both children and adults. You should really read it, but in short, it gets at the point that we write best when we’re writing about things that we enjoy, or would enjoy reading. That doesn’t even begin to do the essay justice though, so give it a read if you have time. I also wanted to include it because it inspired the title of this post, and I would not want to rip off a great. So there you have it, point one.

2.    I love to learn and teach the Bible. When I had to withdraw from school this semester, one of the greatest sources of disappointment came from the fact that I would not be in my Bible classes, nor would I be teaching the Bible to anyone. I feel at home in teaching and preaching, and going months without being able to do that was a really terrible thought to me. When I’m at school in Columbia, SC, I have the privilege of preaching on Wednesday nights at Kirkland Correctional Institution. I have learned more from the men there than I have from almost anyone else, and you will hear more and more about them in later posts. Because the Lord has given me a heart for that place, I was naturally grieved by the thought that I would not be able to be there for a while. So far, point number two sounds like a sob story so I will get to the good news. The good news is this: our learning of the Bible is not confined to a classroom, or even a church building. Nor is teaching it! One of the most wonderful things about the Church is that the Lord uses the body to build one another up. God uses His people to encourage His people. I am constantly encouraged by those who are passionate about God and his Word, and my prayer is that He would use this blog to encourage you. As I study the Scriptures, I want to be able to discuss those with you. So, as I post things of that nature, please, interact with it. Let’s get after the Word together.

3.    I love the Church. The Lord has given me a passion for this. This blog is not about my writing, or my desires. It’s about Christ’s desire for the Church to come together. We see it all throughout the Gospels. In Matthew 6, Jesus prays “Our Father” and he continues to pray in that fashion (give us today our daily bread, etc.). Perhaps one of my favorite verses about church unity comes from another one of Christ’s prayers, specifically the one known as “the High Priestly prayer” in John 17. Jesus prays that the Church would come together as one. Look at John 17:20-22. Jesus has just prayed that the believers of that time would be sanctified by the truth as they go into the world. Now, he turns his attention to future believers (which is where you and I come in!):

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one.”

The fact of the matter is that Christ has a deep desire for the Church to be one. Isn’t it amazing that in this prayer so many years ago, Christ actually prayed for you and me? That you and I, as part of the same body would come together as one? Jesus desires for us to come together and contend for the Gospel. By his grace, and only by his grace, we can do so.

Thank you for reading. Please, continue to do so. Interact with the things that I write. Feel free to contact me through the contact information in the “Contact” page. Through our faith in Jesus, and a true love for the Gospel, we can truly be the undivided Church, as it was designed.

Grace,

Mitchell Aldridge