John Piper and Justin Taylor are the general editors of this wonderful book, which is mostly a collection of now polished talks given at a certain conference by the other six contributors including Joni Eareckson Tada. I got this as a token from Logos Hope through my German brother in Christ and good friend when he invited me a couple of months back as one of the speakers in the CoH workshop. And I was so glad to have and read this book for it gave me a better and brighter view on suffering and God’s sovereignty not to mention that He has spoken to me through some few chapters, which truly touched my heart and brought me to tears, and led me to really pray. I am beginning to be convinced that book is the Lord’s favorite means when He wants to speak to me personally.
Whenever something terrible happens to us, more often than not, we ask ourselves or God Himself the question, “why me?” Well, I asked this question when I got infected with HIV and when I became a Christian, I asked the same question with my homosexual struggles. Why not ask the other way around like, “why not me?” Surely, nothing bad or evil can come from God but He can ordain or allow it to happen like what happened to Job. Somehow I am already aware of this fact but it was strengthen more by this book and see pains, suffering, sickness, poverty, child abuse of all forms and other difficulties in this world a new light. For obvious reason in my case, I got to know the Lord Jesus Christ through HIV but the tussle really came when I struggled about calling it a blessing or a gift so allow me to share some of the important knowledge I have learned from Piper and his colleagues.
In my five years and six months journey with Jesus, He has shown me God’s sovereignty on everything as in ALL things in this world including ALL the good and the bad things for such work altogether for good to those who believes in Him (Rom. 8:28). C.S. Lewis said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains; it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Clearly in my deafness, God used HIV to call me for His kingdom.
The reality and depth of pain are in the Bible but also we can find in it, hope, hope for the pain and suffering. Most importantly, we are all able to get through all these pain and hardships by and through the amazing grace of God. His grace is abounding and overflowing not during the good times but during suffering, pain and struggles. In my case, Lord’s grace is overflowing each time I fall and be able to get down on my knees, pray and ask for forgiveness and strength. God can raise us out of our hopelessness and meet suffering in His terms in the same way we can meet joy in His terms and not ours so that we can pass hope on to others like what I do in “channels of hope” ministry. Why? All these, HIV&AIDS, homosexual or SSA struggle, all other sins such as pride, selfishness, disobedience, hardships, calamities, sickness, and all the evil things in this world whether it is caused by our own sinfulness or it just happened despite of our obedience to Him, had happened so that you and I would rely not on (myself) but on God who raises the dead (2 Cor. 1:9).
Piper talked about not wasting a cancer for that was the suffering he experienced so I replaced this with HIV and homosexual struggle as I read it. I believe that God can heal me physically, by medicine or miracle, as well as my sexual brokenness so it is right to pray for both healing. HIV&AIDS is not wasted when God heals it for He gets the glory, that’s why HIV&AIDS exists. If not healed, God still gets the glory if we will only cling on to Him because by His grace He will sustain us.
HIV and SSA sharpen my awareness of how thoroughly God has already and always been at work in every detail of my life. If you are following this blog, you are a witness of this. In the testing ground of evils, our faith becomes deep and real, and our love becomes purposeful and wise (Powlison).
Satan designs to kill and destroy us, and our love for Christ but God designs to deepen our love for Christ. HIV&AIDS does not win if I die; it wins if I fail to cherish Christ. Satan meant it for evil but God meant it for good (Gen. 50:20, Piper). A great, life-threatening illness like HIV or life-threatening weakness can prove amazingly freeing. Nothing is left for me to do except to be loved by God and others, and to love God and others (Powlison).
My HIV is not a waste for I believe it was designed (or ordained) for me and led me to seek comfort from God, think about death, cherish Christ and deepen my relationship with Jesus, treat sin like never before, have hope, and use it as a means of witness to the truth and glory of Christ. Finally, therefore, I have fully accepted that HIV may seem to be a curse at first but now that God has turned it into a blessing, I am now okay to call it a gift. The blessing comes in what God does for us, with us, and through us. He brings His great and merciful redemption onto the stage of the curse (Powlison) like what He has done to me. I made my greatest advances in holiness on the hardest days of my life. It brings me to His presence, not to be sinless but to sin less, which makes suffering (like my SSA, sexual and other struggles in life) meant to wean me from sin and strengthen my faith. This thought made me most satisfied in Him where He is most glorified as Taylor said.
I was so blessed by Piper’s conclusion for it was my sentiment so allow me to end this entry with that.
“God, if you love your glory infinitely and you are more glorified in me when I am more satisfied in you, and my sin is being manifest by the slowness of my being satisfied in you totally, then it must be that the struggle that I am having with my own sin will somehow in someway cause me to be more satisfied in you. Someday, I’ll look back on my own sin when I’m in heaven and say, ‘How could such grace have carried on with me?’ and I’ll love His grace more than I ever would have, had I made progress more quickly.”
That’s terribly dangerous to say for it might lead us to sin more but the Bible has warned us to be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect. And everyday that we fail, be in our face giving thanks to the cross of Christ.
If someone will ask, “Why there are so much suffering and why the process of sanctification so slow?” It is because we (and the whole world) are so evil but God is sovereign. He can do whatever He wants for His glory for He is God.
If you want more, get and read this book and be blessed. Shalom!