“As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 4:10-11 [NASB]
I periodically wrestle with feelings of insecurity about continuing to share our family’s painful journey. I realize that there are varying views regarding the appropriateness of speaking so openly about the intimate details of the deep heartache of grief. I also recognize that some say there are limits to how long it is appropriate to discuss the pain of the death of a loved one, that doing so may reflect a lack of desire to “move on.” I am confident those who say the latter have not had the experience of walking this path or they would recognize the grotesque fallacy of that line of thinking. None the less, these realizations trigger insecurity by causing me to think perhaps continuing to acknowledge our pain will only serve to weary those around us, and in so doing will alienate us as well. As I’ve recently taken a short break from social media and blogging this has been one of my primary focuses of prayer.
We all know as believers we are called to steward our finances, material resources, gifts, abilities and skills for the glory of God. But as I have been praying over how God desires me to walk through this painful valley, I am convicted He is calling me to wisely steward my pain and suffering as well. The most costly experience we can ever have or offer is that of suffering. I would give every dollar and possession I have ever had or ever will have, along with my very life to have Sarah back in my arms, even for just one moment. The pain I bear because of her absence is the most expensive possession I have to offer my Lord. I am confident I am called to be a wise steward of it. I am to prayerfully seek His face and counsel to understand how He is calling me to offer it up to Him, or “invest” it, so that He may multiply it for His glory.
In 1 Peter 4:10 we are called to be “good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” According to Strong’s the word translated “manifold” here can also be understood to mean divers or various in character. It is through His manifold grace that we as His children are beckoned, comforted, convicted, chastened, rebuked, exhorted, forgiven, restored and healed, just to name a few. The same grace both carries us through the refining flames of fiery tribulation and binds our wounds on the other side. The same grace that provides new mercies each morning to soothe our aching hearts, also opens our eyes to sin and convicts and chastens our wandering hearts. Recognizing this, I hold my open hands before Him and plead with Him to continue to use my pain as an investment to be multiplied through teaching and refining me personally, to continue the process of purifying my heart that I may be increasingly used for His glory.
In addition to stewarding the pain and suffering by requesting and allowing God to refine me personally through it, I am also to steward His grace that has been given to me through sharing our pain and suffering. As I pull back my flesh revealing my shattered heart to others, it affords me the opportunity to boldly testify of His manifold grace. It is His abundant, amazing grace alone that sustains us and enables us to persevere through the heartache. Our pain and suffering is a stage upon which His grace can be boldly displayed as we testify of His faithfulness to meet our every need. We share our pain and suffering as a means to testify of His provision “so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
I am also realizing that the ability to find the words to communicate both the pain and the provision is “a special gift” from Him to be stewarded as well. In the middle of the time I had set apart to pray over how God would have me steward this painful journey, our pastor preached a sermon on the account of Paul and Silas in Acts (16:16-40). After they had been beaten with many blows and shackled in a dingy prison cell they were praying and singing hymns at midnight. Every time I’ve read that account I’ve been amazed by their faith and God’s sustaining grace in their lives, but it wasn’t until this week that I was struck by the last part of verse 25, “and the prisoners were listening to them.” From the very first post after Sarah’s death, my intent has consistently been to glorify God through sharing His provision and all that He is teaching us through this valley. I will continue to acknowledge the cold metal bars of earthly death that now separate my family, and the open wounds of the attacks of the enemy, and the weight of the shackles of grief because through acknowledging them the power of God’s grace in our lives is magnified. I will tell of the pain and then sing of His grace because the prisoners are listening.
Sarah’s death was not a gift of God, but Sarah’s life and the outpouring of His marvelous grace that sustains us are His gifts. The tremendous Hope of the knowledge of Sarah’s present ongoing eternal life and our promise of joining Him and her in His presence is the pinnacle promise of His grace about which we are called to testify. I will continue to pull back my flesh and expose my shattered heart because in so doing I am able to expose the grace of God that is greater than all my pain. I will join with Paul and Silas as I sing in this prison cell because as He said to Paul, He also says to me, “‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).