There are some people in our lives who test our sanctification. They hide barbs in their conversations, they open their mouths and pour out contempt on you. Most of the time, smart people will back away from toxic relationships like this, but sometimes you can’t cut off all connections…sometimes you are related by blood.
I have one such person in my life, and every time there is interaction, I wonder what it will cost me later on…I voiced this thought to a friend of mine and she suggested I take a look at Job.
I was wondering what Job had to do with irritating people, but then Alistair Begg connected the dots for me. He was talking about suffering and the fact that God is Sovereign–which means that He allows suffering but He is not the author of evil.
There’s an interesting distinction there: He created the world and it was good….but sin entered and it became imperfect. He gave us choice to love Him freely—and that’s what this whole story is about. Do good because you love to do good, not just follow the rules. It’s a choice to obey. It’s a choice to disobey. Obedience has great rewards, and disobedience carries natural consequence…but God is not the author of evil.
When we choose to love God in the midst of suffering (especially when it’s at someone else’s hands), we experience love that is more like Christ’s love–it’s richer, deeper and much more fulfilling…it fills your countenance…there are people I know who have born the consequences of someone else’s sin…and they do it wearing the sweet aroma of Christ…it makes a HUGE impact on everyone around them. You know who I’m talking about, right? They’re the people who are so sweet, you could never imagine them any other way. When they share their testimony, you hear about alot of things that would break most people, shatter most families, and yet, here they are, praising God for His hand in their lives….thanking Him for the sorrow.
I’ll admit I was filled with skepticism when I first met a woman like this. I was unwilling to believe that she was so content with all the stuff that she had experienced. The longer I knew her, the more I wanted to reflect Christ like she did…and the more I talked with her, the more of Christ she shared with me. Before she died, she told me ‘Nothing comes easily in this life. But the struggle is part of the blessing. It’s the real test of the light of Christ. The more you succumb to bitterness, the more your heart closes off to the hope that is in Christ.’
Her words came back to me over and over again when I began walking a difficult path seven years ago. Grace is never cheap. Suffering gives us the opportunity to experience intimacy with Him, that transformative power of His sufficiency and His presence that can only come when we love Him and trust Him in all circumstances.
It doesn’t mean it won’t hurt. Pain is like black paint in a Vermeer painting. It’s dark, but it highlights the Light–these are opportunities He uses to draw us into Christ-likeness. These people who test your sanctification? Let them. Let God. Bring it!