the one who suffered well.

One of my favorite sermons: from Kevin Cawley at Redeemer Fellowship in Kansas City. It was about Psalm 73:1-28 and suffering. If you don't have 40 minutes, listen to the 3 short minutes between 37:0040:16 after which Kevin pointed out that our hope should not be in doing ______ better. Fill in the blank. Put your hope in Christ. This is such good news.

Let me tell you about a friend of ours in our church network. Because I want us to hear not only is hope for us, and God’s good for us not in the absence of suffering but in the presence of God, but what we need to realize as a church is your hope will never be in suffering well. Like I don’t want us to hear this psalm and go, “Oh, man. What I need to do is just kind of be satisfied in God; I just need to have a stiff upper lip. I just need to suffer well.” Because that will kill you too.

This is a guy in our network who has planted a church just like this one. And the last couple years of his life have been hell. Absolute hell. He’s had health problems. His wife had insomnia to the point that she literally went insane and he had to instituationalize her against her wishes, with her pleading for him not to do it. He institutionalized his wife, and now he’s got to deal with his kids who are sick, and he’s sick, and a growing church. And he said, “I got to the point where like, I just realized I wasn’t suffering well. Like what had been pitched at me was, aren’t we just supposed to say, ‘Oh God, You’re my strength and you’re my portion forever’?” And he said, “That was a fa├žade to me; I couldn’t say it anymore.”

And he hit the second round of doubt. And so he said, “I wasn’t suffering well. I’m supposed to be a pastor. I’m going to stand on the stage a preach this; if I can’t do it, what should I do?” And so he resolved to kill himself. He said, “I’m not stupid. I found a way that I could end my own life and maintain life insurance for my family.” And so he drives out in his truck on his way to do it—cleaned his house, did everything appropriate, had called his assistance and said he wouldn’t be in for the rest of the day. He’s on his way to kill himself, saying, “Why should I go on? I’m not suffering well. God, I’m not saying that you’re my portion well enough; something’s broken in me.”

And as he drives to end his life, he says God literally—in his truck—spoke to him. And said, “Dude, call somebody. Why don’t you just call and ask for help?” And he’s like, “God, I can’t. I’m ashamed.” “Just call somebody! Ask for help! Why don’t you tell them what you’re dealing with?” “I can’t, God! I’m ashamed! I’m not suffering well!”

And he said at that moment, the Spirit of God just spoke to him and said, “Don’t you understand? That’s why I sent my Son. Nobody suffers well. Your hope cannot be in you suffering well. Your hope can only be in Me suffering well on your behalf. That’s the gospel!”

So we hear this and we say, “God, you are my portion! You’re enough for me! And even when I don’t do that well, I find hope in the fact that you sent your Son because I don’t do it well. You’re enough.” I find my hope—not in how well I suffer, so that people look at me and go, “Man, how does Cawley do that? He must be really holy.”

No, the point is that none of us have anything. We don’t suffer well. Ashap didn’t suffer well, you don’t suffer well, no one suffers well. Our only hope is in finding our identity in the One who suffered well on our behalf. That is the gospel message.

Originally posted on 3/27/11


not shy; intentionally unobtrusive.

Little E (16 months!) was running around the office at the end of the day yesterday. Nate dropped him by on his way to work. He does great with strangers when he's in familiar settings (like our house) but like most toddlers, if you drop him in a new place with new people, he takes awhile to warm up. He's feeling it out. Making sure it's safe.

So I was maybe a little surprised when a (well-intentioned, I'm sure) coworker said, "Is he going to be shy like his Mama?"

I'm not sure why, but I blurted out, "I hope not!"

I wanted to take it back and defend myself: "I'm not shy." Or even defend Elijah. Who knows how his personality will shape over the next decade or two? What if he is like me? Is that such a bad thing?

I'll admit, I did use to be shy—"having or showing nervousness or timidity in the company of other people." That accurately describes middle school and much of high school and college. I was nervous. I was unsure of myself. I lacked confidence. Shyness was a problem because it hindered me. It held me back. It paralyzed me. For me, shyness is negative, but I think what a lot of people recognize as shyness isn't shyness at all.

The synonyms of the word shy—bashful, timid, sheepish, insecure, mousy, unconfident, self-conscious, embarrassed—do not describe who I am now.

In the years of growing up—the last 6 or 7 years—of becoming an adult and moving to a new city and getting married, becoming a mother, and through that all learning about and treasuring and being changed by Jesus—the shyness dissipated. I learned to avoid unhelpful quietness. I learned to contribute as needed. I learned to fake confidence until I actually was confident.

So to set the record straight, I am discreet. Reserved, but not in an anti-social way. It's not shyness. It's not anger or sadness or stuck-upness. It's a sitting back and observing. Deep thinking. Analyzing. Contentedness. Ever since Jesus saved me, I have had nothing to prove. It is a careful attentiveness, intentionally unobtrusive. I am usually careful about the words I choose to speak. I am confident and unembarrassed.

Will E be like his Mama? Maybe. I'll love him and encourage him and give him a safe place to be himself. And if he's loud and talkative, I'll love him and encourage him and give him a safe place to be himself. No matter what.

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