Give God Glory Amid Despair

John Perkins  and Karen Waddles
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We can count it all joy when He shows up in all His glory at our moments of great despair. The fact that we have not lost our minds, or destroyed ourselves, or utterly given up is proof of His awesome power to keep us! We don’t serve a dead God. He is real! Real in the world. Real in my soul.

There’s a story of a man who was searching for the perfect picture of peace. Artists from across the globe submitted their masterpieces to the contest. The day came for the winning submission to be revealed. They gasped at the sight of the chosen drawing. In it a waterfall roared over the side of a rocky mountain. Storm clouds filled the sky and lightning shot across the horizon. Yet one spindly tiny tree stuck out from the side of the mountain through the falls. And perched on one of its branches was a bird. Her arms were spread to shelter her little ones, and her eyes were closed in sweet contentment.[1]

That, my friend, is a picture of the kind of peace that He provides in the midst of the storm. Our suffering is His opportunity to show His power to keep us. Only God can give His child that kind of peace amid pandemics, unrest, chaos, and confusion. He’s bigger than all of it. My friend David Kinnaman, president of Barna Research, lost his wife, Jill, to brain cancer not long ago. At her memorial service, person after person spoke of her strength and resolve through the four-year journey. When David, or one of the children, or a friend would be at the point of despair, she was the encourager, always reminding them that God had the power to step in at any moment and miraculously heal her. But if He chose not to do so, she was ready to be with Him. And her testimony of faith pointed everyone who saw her to Him. They saw Him in her suffering. So I would encourage you to ask yourself: how is He showing up in my suffering right now? Is His power on display? Is His comfort on display?

It’s something to be able to say, “After all I’ve been through, I still have joy.” I pray that you are able to say that. That’s a testimony to God’s faithfulness and goodness. When it is all said and done, I am grateful for my sufferings. I have been blessed to live long enough to be able to look back and see how the Lord was able to use the very things that the enemy intended to cripple me and make me useless for the kingdom. Instead of being the end of me, the Lord used those things to open doors of service and strengthen my faith. And oh, the doors that He has opened over the course of my lifetime!

“We are not limited by what we can do or by who we know.”

We are not limited by what we can do or by who we know. His sufficiency becomes more than enough. That’s joy! The apostle Paul said it best: “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:9b–10).

I believe that God redeems our suffering. He reclaims it for His purposes. He uses the things that set us apart and make us unique to prepare us for the work He intends for us to do. And especially, He uses the ways in which we are broken. He can use that brokenness to develop a tender heart for others who are suffering like we are. And in that I do rejoice! There is no waste of tears or suffering. He brings it all together in service to His purposes, because of His great love for us. And there is no greater joy in this life than knowing that every tear matters. Somehow He works it all together in His master plan to produce beauty and joy from ashes.

David, a 2-year old with leukemia, was taken by his mother, Deborah, to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, to see Dr. John Truman who specializes in treating children with cancer and various blood diseases. The prognosis was devastating: “He has a 50-50 chance.” . . . When he was three, he had to have a spinal tap—a painful procedure at any age. It was explained to him that, because he was sick, Dr. Truman had to do something to make him better. “If it hurts, remember it’s because he loves you,” Deborah said. The procedure was horrendous. It took three nurses to hold David still, while he yelled and sobbed and struggled. When it was almost over, the tiny boy, soaked in sweat and tears, looked up at the doctor and gasped, “Thank you, Dr. Tooman, for my hurting.”[2]

Like little David, the apostle Paul gloried in his tribulations because he knew they were all part of God’s good plan and would work out for His glory: “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance” (Rom. 5:3).

At ninety years of age I can finally say, like David and like the apostle Paul, “Thank You, Lord, for my suffering. Thank You for the storms You brought me through. Thank You for every tear that has been shed. Thank You for Your watchful eye that knew just how much I could bear. I rejoice in all that You have done. Thank You, Lord, for my hurting.”

[1] Berit Kjos, A Wardrobe from the King (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1988), 45–46.

[2] Monica Dickens, Miracles of Courage, 1985 .

For Further Reading:

Count It All Joy

by John Perkins with Karen Waddles

Can joy come from suffering? We think of suffering as the worst of all evils. Our culture tells us to avoid it at all costs. But can suffering...

book cover for Count It All Joy