My Struggles Are About Him
By Max Lucado
Martin and Gracia Burnham married with mission work in their hearts.For
seventeen years they served God in the Philippines. With three children born
on the mission field and valuable skills in the ministry's aviation program,
they were acclimated and essential to the work. He, single-minded. She, gracious
Then why didn't God block the bullets? Why did he let her get shot? And why
did God let him die?
On May 27, 2001, while celebrating their eighteenth wedding anniversary at
a beachside resort, Martin and Gracia were taken hostage by a militant terrorist
organization with ties to Osama bin Laden. Captors chained the couple to guards,
marched them through jungles, and rationed their food. They endured seventeen
firefights and for over four hundred days and were either running for their
lives or bored. Their health deteriorated, but their faith remained sturdy.
"We might not leave this jungle alive," said Martin, "but at
least we can leave this world serving the Lord with gladness." A premonition
led Martin to write a farewell letter to his children.
The premonition proved accurate. On June 7, 2002, Philippine Rangers attacked
the terrorist camp, catching Martin and Gracia in the cross fire. One bullet
entered her leg. Another took his life. She was left a widow, and we are left
to wonder why. Is this how God honors his chosen? How do you explain such
And as you're thinking of theirs, how do you explain yours? The tension at
home. The demands at work. The bills on your desk or the tumor in your body.
You aren't taken hostage, but aren't you occasionally taken aback by God's
silence? He knows what you are facing. How do we explain this?
Maybe God messed up. Cancer cells crept into your DNA when he wasn't looking.
He was so occupied with the tornado in Kansas that he forgot the famine in
Uganda. He tried to change the stubborn streak in your spouse but just couldn't
get him to budge. Honestly. A bumbling Creator? An absent-minded Maker? What
evidence does Scripture provide to support such a view? What evidence does
creation offer? Can't the maker of heaven and earth handle bad traffic and
prevent bad marriages? Of course he can. Then why doesn't he?
Perhaps he is mad. Have we so exhausted the mercy of God's bank account that
every prayer bounces like a bad check? Did humanity cross the line millenniums
ago, and now we're getting what we deserve? Such an argument carries a dash
of merit. God does leave us to the consequences of our stupid decisions. Think
Egyptian soldiers in Red Sea, Hebrews in Babylon, Peter weeping with the sound
of a crowing rooster in his ears. Bang your head against the wall, and expect
a headache. God lets us endure the fruit of sin. But to label him peeved and
impatient? To do so you need to scissor from your Bible some tender passages
GOD is sheer mercy and grace;
not easily angered, he's rich in love.
He doesn't endlessly nag and scold,
nor hold grudges forever.
He doesn't treat us as our sins deserve,
nor pay us back in full for our wrongs.
As high as heaven is over the earth,
so strong is his love to those who fear him.
(Psalm 103:8-11 MSG)
Don't blame suffering in the world on the anger of God. He's not mad; he
didn't mess up. Follow our troubles to their headwaters, and you won't find
an angry or befuddled God. But you will find a sovereign God.
Your pain has a purpose. Your problems, struggles, heartaches, and hassles
cooperate toward one end-the glory of God. "Trust me in your times of
trouble, and I will rescue you, and you will give me glory" (Psalm 50:15
Not an easy assignment to swallow. Not for you. Not for me. Not for the blind
man on the side of the road. When Jesus and his followers passed him, the
disciples had a question.
As He [Jesus] passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples
asked Him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would
be born blind?" Jesus answered, "It was neither that this man sinned,
nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in
him." (John 9:1-3)
Born blind. A lifetime of darkness. Never saw a mother smile or a sunset fade.
Who did this? the disciples wondered, anxious to blame someone. Such
a bad plight can be traced back to a bad deed. Right?
Wrong, Jesus replied. Don't search the family tree. Don't request a copy
of the man's rap sheet. Blame this blindness on a call from God. Why was the
man sightless? So "the works of God might be displayed in him."
Odds are, he would have preferred another role in the human drama. Compared
to others, his assignment held little glamour.
"Mary, be a mother to my son."
"Peter, you'll be my first preacher."
"Matthew, the first gospel? It's all yours."
Then God turns to this man, "And you?"
"You'll be blind for my glory."
"I'll be blind?"
"For your glory?"
"But I don't understand."
The blind man wasn't the only candidate for a complaint. Consider the case
of Martha and Mary. Personal friends of Jesus. Confidantes. He stayed at their
house and ate at their table. And when their brother, Lazarus, became ill,
the sisters blitzed a message to Jesus. If the Nazarene would heal anyone,
it would be Lazarus.
Wrong again. "But when Jesus heard this, He said, 'This sickness is
not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may
be glorified by it'" (John 11:4).
Feverish, clammy, knocking on the door of death-why? Because he ate the wrong
food? Didn't guard his health? Drank too much? None of these. He was sick
for the sake of God. Call it the assignment of sickness. How else do you explain
the puzzle of the next two verses?
"Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when He heard
that he was sick, He then stayed two days longer in the place where He was
Talk about a left turn. You'd expect the verse to read: "Jesus loved
Martha and her sister and Lazarus
so he made a fast dash to their house
to heal Lazarus." Just the opposite occurred. Because Jesus loved the
trio, he lingered until Lazarus died.
Blindness displays the works of Christ? Death glorifies the power of Christ?
How can this be?
I'm looking around my office for an answer. A frame displays my favorite
picture of Denalyn. A metal stand displays an antique pot. My brother gave
me a stained-glass window from a country church. It is displayed by virtue
of two wires and two hooks. Picture frames and metal stands, wires and hooks-different
tools, same job. They display treasures.
What these do for artifacts, the blind man did for Christ. He was the frame
in which Jesus' power was seen, the stand upon which Jesus' miracle was placed.
Born sightless to display heaven's strength. Do you suppose the sight of his
sight showcased the work of Christ?
And the fading pulse and final breath of Lazarus? You think the news of a
three-day-dead man walking out of a tomb amplified God's power?
And you? Now it gets a bit sticky. What about your struggles? Is there any
chance, any possibility, that you have been selected to struggle for God's
glory? Have you "been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe
in Him, but also to suffer for His sake" (Philippians 1:29)?
Here is a clue. Do your prayers seem to be unanswered? What you request and
what you receive aren't matching up? Don't think God is not listening. Indeed
he is. He may have higher plans.
Here is another. Are people strengthened by your struggles? A friend of mine
can answer yes. His cancer was consuming more than his body; it was eating
away at his faith. Unanswered petitions perplexed him. Well-meaning Christians
confused him. "If you have faith," they said, "you will be
No healing came. Just more chemo, nausea, and questions. He assumed the fault
was a small faith. I suggested another answer. "It's not about you,"
I told him. "Your hospital room is a showcase for your Maker. Your faith
in the face of suffering cranks up the volume of God's song."
Oh, that you could have seen the relief on his face. To know that he hadn't
failed God and God hadn't failed him this made all the difference. Seeing
his sickness in the scope of God's sovereign plan gave his condition a sense
of dignity. He accepted his cancer as an assignment from heaven: a missionary
to the cancer ward. A week later I saw him again. "I reflected God,"
he said, smiling though a thin face, "to the nurses, the doctors, my
friends. Who knows who needed to see God, but I did my best to make him seen."
Bingo. His cancer paraded the power of Jesus down the Main Street of his
world. He, the blind man, Lazarus, and millions others form a unique society:
selected to suffer for God's glory. His light prisms through their aching
lives and spills forth in a cascade of colors. God-glimpses.
God will use whatever he wants to display his glory. Heavens and stars. History
and nations. People and problems. A kidnapped couple in the Philippines. My
dying dad in West Texas.
The last three years of his life were scarred by ALS. The disease took him
from a healthy mechanic to a bedbound paralytic. He lost his voice and his
muscles, but he never lost his faith. Visitors noticed. Not so much in what
he said but more in what he didn't say. Never outwardly angry or bitter, Jack
Lucado suffered stately.
His faith led one man to seek a like faith. After the funeral this man sought
me out and told me. Because of my dad's example, he became a Jesus follower.
Did God orchestrate my father's illness for that very reason? Knowing the
value he places on one soul, I wouldn't be surprised. And imagining the splendor
of heaven, I know my father's not complaining.
A season of suffering is a small assignment when compared to the reward.
Rather than begrudge your problem, explore it. Ponder it. And most of all,
use it. Use it to the glory of God.
Martin and Gracia did.
During their captivity, they not only spoke of Jesus, they lived Jesus. Didn't
complain. Did their work and volunteered for more. Chained every night to
a guard, Martin always wished his captors a good night and told them about
Jesus. The Burnhams allowed God to use their suffering for his glory.
Because of Martin's death, nations around the world heard the name of Christ.
I heard the report on a London, England, news channel. Millions saw the forbearing
figure of his wife and heard a moving interview with his father, who said
God would get them through this. Every major network gave priceless minutes
to the story of a man who loved Christ more than life.
Through the Burnhams' struggle, God was seen.
Through Martin's death, God was seen.
Through your problems and mine, may he be seen as well.
Excerpted from It's Not About
Me by Max Lucado,
copyright © 2004 Integrity Publishers.
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