The Treasures of the Gospel
by Sharon Betters
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.
2 Corinthians 4:7-9
For many of my younger years, I was not interested in theology. Instead, I was drawn to Bible studies on personal application. However, each time life took a sudden turn into a place of fear or loss, I began to better understand the critical need for sound theology as the grid through which I viewed life.
As the wife of a pastor, I was often taken into the inner sanctum of the personal pain and tragedy of others. Their questions about God’s love and purposes repeatedly confronted me with my own faith. Rather than responding to theology with a yawn, I began to understand my life choices flowed from my belief system. Theology mattered.
Because theology matters, I was drawn to this week’s guest writer, Barbaranne Kelly and her passion for sharing the rich truths of Scripture that shine even more brightly when life falls apart. I met Barbaranne through her blog, and in particular a letter she wrote to her friend, Lisa, who took her own life after a decades-long battle with illness and chronic pain. Throughout her letter, Barbaranne shares some of the treasures of the Gospel that carry her when confronted by unspeakable pain and sorrow. Barbaranne explains some of those precious treasures in this week’s devotionals, some of the key doctrines of our faith that carried me through the darkest days of my own life. If you are in a sunny season of life or a period of sorrow, clasp tightly the priceless scriptural truths Barbaranne describes.
Treasured by Him,
Read Barbaranne’s letter to Lisa to get a glimpse of the priceless treasures of the Gospel we will hear about this week.
To My Lisa,
We were young mommies together, you and I… During the years of mothering small children and feeding our own infant faith we supported one another as together we laughed, cried, questioned, searched, and longed for strong families and stronger faith. Together we shared meals, watched movies, worshipped, read all the books, dissected the Word, and pondered the Word as we talked on the phone, in our homes, and our backyards…
And then, right when your health took a turn, the Lord took my family to live in Florida, too far away to share daily life with you. Through email, IM, and still, the phone, we held on. As your questions sharpened through growing desperation, the Lord graciously led our family to a church which taught us the truth of God’s word in a way we’d never heard it before. I eagerly shared with you everything I learned... I wanted you to know that God doesn’t send trials to punish his beloved children, but to shape and fashion them through sanctification, to teach them that he is all they need and that he has provided for our deepest need through the death and resurrection of his Son. In him alone and not in the strength of our own faith is where we must anchor our hope. Did you see that hope? Even a glimmer?
As your suffering grew, your pain drowned out the voice of truth, your deepening depression overshadowed the light of God’s invincible love, and the lies of the enemy twisted the words of Scripture. When we’d talk, or text, your questions sharpened my own focus and motivated me to be precise in my language. I learned from you how harmful a trite answer can be. When I considered doctrine, it was your suffering that taught me sensitivity when applying the truth which I wouldn’t have otherwise learned... Because of your suffering, I read the promises of Scripture differently. Because of your suffering, I treasure the covenant of grace. Because of your suffering, I know that this world is not only, not my home, but it can’t be where we will find all of the promises of God fulfilled. It can’t be…
We shared books, you and I, so many good books. We shared the lives of our children; those babies we carried are adults now—grown, independent, beautiful, perplexing, frustrating, cherished, beloved adults... We laughed, deeply, when we weren’t weeping, deeply. You had a wicked-sharp sense of humor. Your laugh, with the sparkle in your eyes, I will treasure always. When you sang, before the cruel illness took your voice, you sang like an angel. And now, you sing with the angels. You were so beautiful, so very beautiful…
I grieve at the pain and darkness you endured for so, so very long. When you expressed your fears and your doubts, I wished that I could take away even some of your pain, that I could give you more faith, that you could only see God’s love for you as clearly as I saw it. How I longed for you to see! I prayed for you, I wept for you, I searched the Scriptures for you. Lisa, you were always with me when I studied. I cannot fathom the ways of God, nor why he marked out your path to pass through such affliction and darkness. I cannot imagine enduring the suffering you have these last 20 years. That you chose to leave does not surprise me, really, even though it grieves me so deeply.
Lisa, I love you, and of course, I forgive you. You will always be my Lisa, and I will miss you terribly. But now you know the truth, you have been set free, delivered from all of your many afflictions, and you behold with unveiled face the beauty of our Savior. Now you see! You stand in the presence of the thrice-holy God, cleansed by the washing of water with the Word, presented to Christ in splendor, without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, holy and without blemish. You now dwell with God, and you know beyond all shadow of a doubt that you are his. You were thirsty, oh, so thirsty, and now you may drink from the spring of the water of life. Your darkness is banished forever, and you walk in the light of the glory of God and of the Lamb…
First published in Grateful, Barbaranne Kelly’s blog.