This week's 'thought' comes from John Benton, and is found in his book "Christians in a Consumer Culture." It has to do with what we treasure most highly and thus derive the most strenght from in those times when we must bear hardship, pain and loss. Our ability to endure and grow through the earthly struggles (and even find the blessedness of joy in or beyond them) is determined by what our soul finds its ultimate value in and is anchored to.
"Some of you may have read the missionary biography of John G. Paton from Dumfries in Scotland. In March 1858 he married Mary Ann Robson and in April they sailed together for the cannibal island of Tanna in the New Hebrides to take the Gospel of the Lord Jesus to its inhabitants.
In a little time they built a house, and within the first year of their marriage Mary had given birth to a son. Then, on March 3, 1859, a year after their wedding, Mary died of fever, and three weeks later their infant son died too. John Patton buried them alone, in unimaginable grief, far from friends and far from home.
What sustained him in this terrible tragedy? He wrote: 'But for Jesus, I would have gone mad and died beside that lonely grave.' His hope was in Jesus... He was in effect sayng, 'I would have gone mad had not my hope, ultimately, been somewhere else. My hope was in Jesus'...
One of the gifts that the Lord had given him to sustain him in that time were words that his wife spoke shortly before her death. She did not murmur against God or resent her husband's calling to be a missionary. Rather, she said, 'I do not regret leaving home and friends. If I had to do it again, I would do it with more pleasure, yes, with all my heart.' How could she say that? It was because her heart belonged to Jesus. Her heart was in the things of God. She was an outsider, different from this world. Do you see what is going on here? The source of their joy was Christ (which sustained both of them in the face of hardship, suffering and excruciating grief and loss).
We can find another similar example in the apostle Paul's life. Remember how he puts it so vividly: 'Whatever was profit to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ (Phil. 3:7-9)."
Our ability to withstand severe trauma owes itself more to the sufficiency and strength of the One we look to in faith, than it does to any inner strength of character which finds its source in us. When the wounded stagger and find themselves about to fall, it is the strength of the post they lean upon, and not their depleted resources, which holds them up.
"Our sufficiency comes from God" (II Cor. 3:5),