“Look upon my affliction and rescue me,
For I do not forget Your law.
Plead my cause and redeem me;
Revive me according to Your word.”
Psalm 119:153-154 [NASB]
Since the moments immediately following Sarah’s earthly death I have clung to the hope that God would use both her death and our indescribable pain to further His kingdom. The pain of Sarah’s absence drives an urgency within my spirit, a longing to “do” something, a desperation to be used by God in a way I can see. I hoped and believed that this deep pain would surely be met with “big redemption.” “Big redemption” being something of broad, tangible, visible, powerful, and ongoing impact.
I’ve prayed over and over again with hands open before Him and tears flowing, pleading with Him to show me what He would have me do. If led by Him, I would be willing to move around the globe to share His name, to go to school for broader ministry opportunities, or to pour myself into ministry locally. I am willing to follow Him wherever and however He leads. I’ve offered it all up to Him, the pain and my life as a whole, but all He has spoken in response is “wait.” Over and over again, both through prayer and His Word He repeatedly says only “wait.”
“I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living. Wait for the LORD;
Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD.”
Psalm 27:13-14 [NASB]
For months “wait” was the only response He gave my petitions, until a couple of weeks ago. A couple of weeks ago through His Word and prayer He gently spoke another word to my heart, and what He whispered was not what I wanted to hear. In the stillness of my quiet time He asked me if I would be content if the only redemption I ever saw was the refining of my own heart. He prodded my heart asking if I will be satisfied if the only lasting change to come from all my pain associated with Sarah’s death, as well as some excruciating circumstances surrounding it, is my own personal sanctification.
My transparent response was one of great disappointment. The Holy Spirit within me boldly testifies that personal sanctification is more than enough redemption for the agony I bear. But my aching heart resists that notion as it longs instead for what it perceives as “big redemption.” My flesh cries out for redemption that it deems more worthy of the excruciating pain being redeemed. Others who bear the same or similar pain get to see redemption in the form of foundations and ministries that have tremendous ongoing impact for His kingdom. Yet, the Lord is speaking to my shattered heart that it must be willing to be content with the possibility of its only redemption being its own refining?
The truth is, I deeply longed for the big redemption to be the sparking of heart transforming revival in our church and community. We as a family, Sarah included, had prayed for revival in our church and community throughout the year preceding her death. How can I possibly be content if instead my heart is the only one impacted?
“Sow with a view to righteousness,
Reap in accordance with kindness;
Break up your fallow ground,
For it is time to seek the LORD
Until He comes to rain righteousness on you.”
Hosea 10:12 [NASB]
As I wrestled with the Spirit through scripture and prayer, I was confronted with the reality of my misplaced focus. I recognized the sanctifying work the Lord was doing in my heart through the pain, but I failed to appreciate the immeasurable worth of it. I was so focused on a desire for external redemption, being called to “go” or “do,” or seeing others impacted, that I failed to rightly appreciate the big redemption He had already provided; His ongoing sanctifying work in my heart in the midst of the flames.
Progressive personal sanctification is “big redemption.” Sanctification turns the soil of our hearts, rips out the weeds of fleshly tendencies and desires, and enables the fruit of the Spirit to flourish in abundance. Priceless fruit, both visible and tangible redemption. Through the sanctifying flames of adversity “the proof of our faith” is found (1 Peter 1:6-7). This sanctified faith that emerges, forged and fortified through the flames, is “more precious than gold.” Precious redemption. Powerful, imperishable, lasting redemption.
“In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;” 1 Peter 1:6-7 [NASB]
I am still in the flames. He is still refining and sanctifying me through the relentless pain. He is still saying “wait,” but He is also saying “be content” in the wait. He is specifically challenging me to be content to “lead a quiet life” as I wait on Him (1 Thess. 4:7-12). In the midst of the pain, He is gently calling me to choose to joyfully embrace and celebrate His ongoing transforming work in my heart as “big redemption.”
Perhaps one day soon He will no longer say “wait,” but will instead say “go” or “do.” If He does, I will rejoice in that day knowing that He has prepared my heart for “such a time” through His sanctifying work in the flames. Whatever my calling may be, whether “wait,” “go” or “do,” may my obedience to it, and my sanctification through it “result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
“For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity,
but in sanctification.
So, he who rejects this is not rejecting man
but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you.
Now as to the love of the brethren,
you have no need for anyone to write to you,
for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another;
for indeed you do practice it toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia.
But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more,
and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life
and attend to your own business and work with your hands,
just as we commanded you,
so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need.
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep,
so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope.
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again,
even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.”
1 Thessalonians 4:7-14 [NASB]
Christmas 2016: My last Christmas with Sarah, with the last gift she made me
13 thoughts on “Redeem My Pain, O God.”
The writing of your blog is definitely what God is calling you to do right now, Karen. The sharing of your great sorrow helps many who feel the way that you do, but cannot put it into writing. I have found the waiting rooms of life to be some of the most spiritually enriching times of my own life. It is during that time that you feel utterly dependent on Him. Keep writing.
Thanks so much for your encouragement, Tina. ❤
Oh, how I identify with your feelings, Karen. As I began to read this post I knew His response would be “wait.” I am a doer and know how difficult it is to wait. I also have experienced the refining fire of grief and distress that I needed in order to be transformed and sanctified for serving God and others. It is so humbling, but also where grace is found. James 4: 7-10.
I have a hard time viewing my daughters death like this. But thank you.
I should clarify I do not believe in any way that Sarah’s death was purposed for my sanctification. I believe her death was the result of Satan asking to “silence her” and sift our family through the taking of her life. Praise God, Satan accomplished neither with her earthly death. She still Lives and her testimony continues to speak in her absence, and we as a family cling tighter to Christ than ever before. I view the “redemption” as being in the context of His promise to use “all things” for the good of those who love Him.
I too believe Satan took my daughter thinking I would curse God. I sometimes wonder if it is a test for me or has nothing to do with me at all. Is it all to do with my daughter. I prefer the other translation of that verse, “God works for the good of those who love him.”
I have had those same thoughts. I have come to believe her life and death was about her and in most ways independent of me, just as her vibrant faith and strong witness was/ is her own and independent of me.
But I do believe that God desires to use the “fiery ordeal” of her painful departure for our sanctification.
So many heavy things to process through on this journey. I’m thankful for you and others the Lord has connected us with to journey together. ❤
Karen, I always benefit spiritually from your inspirational blogs – thank you! I’m reading a book, Through The Eyes of a Lion by Levi Lusko which reminds me so much of you and your family. Pastor Lusko, after losing one of his 4 daughters, describes the heart-wrenching, impossible pain that his family has experienced. But also how through it all, the incredible power in Christ that they have found to continue their journey. Again, thank you!
Someone gave us a copy of Levi Lusko’s book. I read it – it was very good.
I concur it is a very good book. Thank you so much for your encouragement, Mrs. Polk. ❤
I too have felt such an urgency to know and understand what I am supposed to do with the hardships that the Lord has allowed in my life. My youngest son Jordan took his life in August of 2017. A few years before Jordan went to heaven, I married a man who I thought was God’s gift to me but he turned out to be someone completely different to who he lead me to believe. Several years of tremendous verbal, mental, emotional and some physical abuse followed. During this time I also found out that my other son was addicted to prescription drugs. Oh. My. Word. I finally left the abusive marriage and my son got into a wonderful treatment program. I was just getting my life back together when Jordan took his life. Yes, God has certainly sanctified and refined me through all of this. Sometimes I wonder which book to write first. I too long desperately for some mission or purpose to come from this. What I’m realizing is that for now my mission and purpose is to testify to God’s sufficiency and goodness before the people in my own life. My children are watching, the non Christians in my hiking group are watching, my sister who turned away from God many years ago is watching. If my Anchor is holding firm in all of these storms and that alone influences someone to put their trust in Him too then that is surely enough. Also please don’t underestimate the value of your writing, you are able to so eloquently express the thoughts that those struggling with great loss are feeling. Thank you for that.
Janie, My heart aches for you as I read this, I am so sorry.
I give a hearty “amen!” to what you acknowledge as your (and my) purpose and mission. Another critical purpose/ mission God has recently reminded me of is fervent prayer on behalf of my remaining family in particular.
Thank you so much for your encouragement. Praying for you right now as you continue to persevere. Much love to you in Him! ❤