His Grace Is Sufficient by J R Miller
All the passages below are taken from J R Miller, “Intimate Letters on Personal Problems.”
The best help I can give you is to try to remove the wrong impression which you evidently have about the cause of your sufferings. Never for one moment, must you feel that they have come upon you, as you suggest in your letter, because of any lack in your own life. You remember that sweet promise which says, “Whom the Lord loves — he chastens.” You remember also that in the parable of the Vine and the Branches our Lord says that the branches which bear fruit are the ones which he prunes — that they may bring forth more fruit. If we interpret our sufferings and trials by this divine teaching, as we must do, our conclusion will be that the branches which have no pruning, which endure no cutting — are the ones which should raise the question whether they are indeed pleasing God. In the same parable, Jesus said, “My Father is the gardener.” This is to me a wonderfully sweet truth — that in all life’s disciplines, however severe they may be, it is our Father who is pruning. We are always safe when we are in his hands.
It is unwise to try to find out why God sends afflictions upon us or allows affliction to come upon us. In the first place, we must remember that there are physical causes, which God ordinarily works no miracles to prevent or set aside. There is a physical heredity which goes on. Our physical sufferings or diseases or weaknesses, or whatever they may be — may have come down to us, perhaps not from our immediate progenitors — but possibly farther back. Even this, however, must not be looked upon as in any sense a visiting of sin upon those who are afflicted. I wish to say that God does not ordinarily interfere with natural processes in the development of our lives. It is scarcely right, therefore, for us to say that God sends to us every suffering, every disease, every trouble which comes into our life. Indeed, it is better not to raise the question at all, of whence or why or how — but when we find ourselves in any experience of trial — to put our life with its burden into the hands of God and let him care for us and do for us that which is best.
For yourself, let me simply say this, that even your sufferings may become a great blessing to you. Indeed, I am sure they have become a blessing to you already in more ways than you can possibly understand. Take your reference Bible and find Psalm 55:22. You will see that in the margin the word “gift” is suggested as a substitute for the word “burden.” Instead of reading “Cast your burden upon the Lord,” it may mean “Cast your gift upon the Lord.” That is, your burden is God ‘s gift. No matter how it came, as it is now in your life it is a gift of God to you. The sufferings may be accepted by you as a part of God’s will. Being a gift of God — it is, therefore, something good. I do not mean that the disease in your limb is good — but that your suffering enfolds, wraps up, encloses, something good, a gift, a blessing from God. This blessing may be patience, or some other sweet lesson which God wants you to learn.
But suppose you would read 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. In these verses Paul tells of a wonderful experience which he had. He had some great suffering which he called “a thorn in the flesh.” He does not say what it was — but evidently it was some physical pain, some think epilepsy, some think a trouble with the eyes, some think a nervous affection. No matter what it was, it was very painful and seemed to interfere with the apostle’s usefulness. Three times, therefore, he besought the Lord that this thorn in the flesh might be taken away. But the answer was, “No — keep it. My grace is sufficient for you — for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” Then Paul learned this wonderful secret, that the physical suffering which was so hard to bear, if accepted by him, brought him a corresponding measure of the strength of Christ.
As you read on, you find the apostle saying that he now rejoiced in his infirmity, because the power of Christ thus rested upon him. That is, the suffering, as keen and terrible as it was, brought Christ nearer to him, brought more of Christ’s strength into his life, and thus fitted him for larger spiritual usefulness.
You can apply this to yourself. You have asked God to remove your thorn in the flesh — and he has not done it. But let me assure you that the words which the Lord spoke to Paul — he speaks to you also. His grace is sufficient for you. His strength is made perfect in your weakness. That is, you will get more of Christ’s help in your life, because of the suffering which you are enduring, than if the suffering were to be taken away — you receiving then less of Christ’s help because needing less.
It seems to me the secret of a happy life lies in two or three very simple things — perhaps in two. Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” This leaves us but one thing to do — our duty, the bit of God’s will that comes to us each day. Then, for the other things, we are to trust, simply to trust, not only for bread and clothing — but for everything. You have learned this lesson, and, as you say, the peace of God fills your heart.
You must not think that you are not doing any good while unable to take your place among the active forces of the world. I think very often those who think they are doing the least — may really be doing the most. It is a great thing to let one’s life witness to the power of God’s grace, in just such quietness and confidence as you have in your heart. All those who come near to you receive a benediction from your life. In place of complaining and murmuring, and showing discontent, as many people do even in time of health and with all physical environment of the happiest kind — you show in your quiet confidence and sweet trust that you are God’s child, and that God is supporting you, that you have food to eat that the world knows not of, that you have sources of blessing which men cannot see. This alone is a beautiful thing.
Then your prayers, rising to God day by day, are a power in the world. We underestimate altogether the influence of prayer. We think we can do good by working, by talking, by going restlessly everywhere. We forget that we can do yet more real good, often by keeping still and lifting up our hearts to God in prayer. I think that one reason why God calls some people apart, out of the busy field, into a quiet place — is that he wants them to be intercessors, helping by prayer, exercising the ministry of intercession.
I think you get the lesson. Don’t be afraid. Rest quietly and confidently in the hands of Christ. Leave everything with him. If you are still to bear this trouble, bear it quietly, patiently, submissively, trusting Christ.