Link back to index.html
He who Suffers most has most to Give
All the passages below are taken from Elisabeth Elliot’s book “A Path Through Suffering.” It was published in 1990.
The principle [of the cross] is pictured in the plant. As it develops there comes a fresh stage of yielding. At first it was only the dead, disfigured leaves that had to go. Now it is the fair new petals. They must fall, and for no visible reason---no one seems enriched by this stripping.
A YOUNG MOTHER CALLED TO ASK FOR "something that will help me to trust in the Lord." She explained that she has several small children, she herself is thirty years old, and she has cancer. Chemotherapy has done its hideous work of making her totally bald. The prognosis is not good. Could I say to her, "Don't worry. God will heal you?' I could not.
When Jesus was speaking with His disciples before His crucifixion, He gave them His parting gift: peace such as the world can never give. Is that gift not for us also? Could I perhaps show her this?
"Set your troubled hearts at rest and banish your fears," He went on to say---but not because nothing "bad" would happen. He knew exactly what He was about to endure. "I shall not talk much longer with you, for the Prince of this world approaches. He has no rights over me; but the world must be shown that I love the Father, and do exactly as He commands" (John 14:27, 30-31 NEB).
The peace of the Lord was not contingent upon His escaping death. I could not promise this dear woman physical healing. I could, however, remind her that He would never let go of her, that His love enfolded her and her precious children every minute of every day and every night, and that underneath are the Everlasting Arms.
But is that enough? Was I serving up mere platitudes? Think of the "stripping" she was facing---not only the loss of her beauty but of her health, her powers, perhaps her life, which would mean a terrible stripping of her children. Who was to be enriched by this?
The disciples' worst fears were about to be realized, yet Jesus commanded (yes, commanded) them to be at peace. All would be well, all manner of things would be well---in the end. In a short time, however, the prince of this world was to have his hour of power. Not that Satan had any rights over Jesus. Far from it. Nor has he rights over any of God's children. But it has to be proven from time to time (to the underworld, as in job's case, as well as to this world) that there is such a thing as obedient faith, faith which is not dependent on receiving benefits only. Jesus had to show the world that He loved the Father and would, no matter what happened, do what He said.
Was my caller comforted and helped by realizing that Jesus had been over the course, that He would lead her through no darker rooms than He went through before? I don't know. Did I answer her plea for something that would help her to trust Him? I hope so. I prayed that the Comforter Himself would speak to her, and as I lay in bed that night I went over in my mind the things that have transfigured my own thinking, things learned very slowly, very imperfectly, and over many years.
Suffering was indispensable for the world's salvation.
There was no other way but the cross.
The servant is not greater than his Lord.
If we suffer with Him we shall also reign with Him.
Shall we not follow the Master in suffering as in everything else, sharing with Him in His work, that the world and the devils themselves may be shown in this last decade of the millennium that we love the Father and will do just what He says? The world does not want to be told. The world must be shown---shown the very guts of faith.
Does our faith rest on having prayers answered as we think they should be answered, or does it rest on that mighty love that went down into death for us? We can't really tell where it rests, can we, until we're in real trouble. I prayed for that mother, prayed of course for healing of the cancer (we are told to make our requests known to God), but prayed above all for her peace. In His will alone, as Dante wrote, is our peace.
"True, he died on the cross in weakness, but he lives by the power of God; and we who share his weakness shall by the power of God live with him in your service" (2 Corinthians 13:4 NEB).
Staggering promise, realized only in the cross. We in our miseries may share His weakness, and therefore live with Him in the service of others.
All that is given is meant to be poured forth. The flower pours forth its sweetness, the tree its blossom and fruit, its powers of purification, its shade, its wood. In the words of Ugo Bassi, "Measure thy life by loss and not by gain; not by the wine drunk but by the wine poured forth, for love's strength standeth in love's sacrifice, and he that suffereth most hath most to give." Bassi was another of those whose words ministered to Lilias Trotter. She made them the caption for her watercolor of the dandelion seed-globe, which has "long ago surrendered its golden petals, and has reached its crowning stage of dying---the delicate seed-globe must break up now---it gives and gives until it has nothing left:"
The story of Joseph, so rich with spiritual instruction for all of us, shows Bassi's principle. Joseph suffered much for many long years at the hands of evil people, and through those hard years of being hated by his brothers, sold into slavery, lied about and imprisoned, he was faithful. The outcome of what must have seemed senseless suffering when he was in the midst of it was that he had much to give. Through the sovereign working of God behind the scenes, he gained a position of power which enabled him to save the lives of his father and brothers. "He that suffereth most hath most to give." He could not in any other way have had it to give.
Haven't we seen this demonstrated time and again in our own experience? Those who speak most deeply to our hearts in times of trouble are invariably those who have suffered. They have much to give. We recognize its authenticity and willingly receive it. They testify to the truth of Solomon's wisdom, "He who refreshes others will himself be refreshed" (Proverb 11:25 NEB). So the cycle continues---love's sacrifice (not only of the disfigured leaves, but even of the fair, new petals), then the fruit of that sacrifice in the blessing of others, and that blessing rebounding to the refreshment of the one who sacrificed. "If a man will let himself be lost for my sake, that man is safe" (Luke 9:24 NEB).
The sacrifice we speak of here ought not to be a morbid and gloomy sort of thing, with emphasis on our losses and deprivations, but a glad offering of love. A friend told me she had seen her husband's travel as her own inconvenience and suffering, but now was learning to make it an offering of love.
Lilias Trotter had to face the misunderstanding of friends and family in turning her back on things they valued highly, but she learned that there was not only the pain of renunciation but sweetness and peace, "the bliss of a yielded heart."
"You can only obey God," she wrote to a friend who faced the breaking of human ties to follow Christ. "Let us give ourselves away to Him for His world---away down to the deepest depths of our being, time, influence---and home if He calls us to it; but our heart of hearts first. Separation has nothing austere or narrow about it when it is unto Him. To bear His Name with all that is wrapped up in it of fragrance and healing and power, to enter into His life and share His eternal purpose, is a calling for which it is well worth counting all things but loss" (LR. Govan Stewart: The Love That Was Stronger, p. 19).
We are not often called to great sacrifice, but daily we are presented with the chance to make small ones---a chance to make someone cheerful, a chance to do some small thing to make someone comfortable or contented, a chance to lay down our petty preferences or cherished plans. This probably requires us to relinquish something---our own convenience or comfort, our own free evening, our warm fireside, or even our habitual shyness or reserve or pride. My liberty must be curtailed, bound down, ignored (oh, how the world hates this sort of thing! how our own sinful natures hate it!)---for the sake of the liberation of others.
"Every day we experience something of the death of Jesus, so that we may also show the power of the life of Jesus in these bodies of ours' (2 Corinthians 4:10, JBP). (63-68)
Link back to index.html