This is a modified repost of a blog I first published in September of 2016. With all the darkness and pressure that surrounds us in these days, I thought it might be fitting to post it again. Be encouraged, my friends!
Have you ever seen images of novas, or of night eruptions from a volcano? There is a terrifying beauty that is often visible in things being crushed or destroyed. A disturbing thought is that we would never experience the beauty without the tragedy surrounding it. The crushing pressure that takes away all that they are is what transforms them into the thing of beauty we see.
I’ve heard similar things surrounding flowers, except in this case it is more about the fragrance rather than the beauty. At first glance we see the beauty and think it is absolutely perfect, who would want to destroy it? But it is said that a flower is most fragrant when it is crushed, as it is only then that the oils are released. In a similar way I think of seeds that must die before coming to life and sprouting into the wonderful trees that we see.
When my mom was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in 2011, she was given a year to live. Having never smoked a day in her life, she could have chosen to become hurt and angry, bitter at God for having to face such a trial. At the time the diagnosis came, she was reading a small book called “The Butterfly Effect”, by Andy Andrews.
Click here to watch a video clip of Andy Andrews talking about the Butterfly Effect
“How significant is my life”, the book asks? “Do I make a difference? Do I really matter”?
The book notes that in 1963, Edward Lorenz presented a hypothesis to the New York Academy of Science. In summary, his theory was that if a butterfly flapped its wings on one side of the earth, it would set into motion things capable of starting a hurricane on the other. He was literally laughed out of the conference, and for decades the so-called “butterfly effect” was the staple of science fiction. So imagine their surprise when more than 30 years later, Physics Professors world-wide came to the conclusion the butterfly effect was accurate!
The book goes on to address the questions I mentioned by relating several different stories. There is one in particular of how one man, Colonel Joshua Chamberlain, by one action, impacted the world as we know it. By choosing to take a stand on the hill he was commanded to do so during the battle of Gettysburg during the United States Civil War, he was able to turn the battle which in the end ultimately won the war. In conclusion, the message to the reader is that everything you do matters!
From the moment my mom read that book and then received the diagnosis, she fully understood that, although the Lord did not cause her to have cancer, as a result she would be placed in the path of people she may never have otherwise met. Cancer or not, she was prepared to make a difference, impacting those lives with the love of God, and it would not be the first time. Mom lived a full two years after her initial diagnosis. Our Lord knew the plans He had for her, and He knew all the days He had given her to accomplish them. And that she did!
My mom in 2013, singing and giving her testimony
a few months before she died.
Going through a crushing like this in our own lives, or watching a loved one experience this can be excruciatingly painful, hard to tolerate or watch. Our first impulse is to beg God to remove the bitter cup!
I think of Peter, and can only imagine the kind of devotion he must have had after walking with Jesus for nearly three years. Watching the many miracles take place at His hand, getting to eat with Him daily, asking questions and getting answers no one else was given, knowing he was blessed to be caught up in the middle of THE MESSIAH come to earth. It must have been amazing!
It was no small wonder then that when Peter heard Jesus tell them He had to suffer and be killed, he instantly reacted out of his emotions – emotions he confused with love and devotion – when he asked for God to forbid it and insisted it should never be! He could not imagine or understand how the crushing of One so perfect could ever be part of God’s plan or used for His glory! Where is the possibility of beauty or fragrance in that? Jesus reply was direct.
“But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.””Matthew 16:23 NASB
I can only imagine how such a rebuke must have made Peter feel in the moment. But even then, Peter was being prepared for the next level of faith on his journey, and would learn soon that it was crucial for Christ to suffer and die on the cross, for it is only on the third day – after the resurrection – that we begin to understand the terrible beauty, and to smell the fragrance of salvation! The bridge to relationship with Father God had been restored, and fellowship with Him once again was possible!
When you are caught up in the emotional side of wanting to do everything in your power to prevent suffering and, realizing you cannot, are then crying out to God to stop the pain, remember Peter. You are not alone. If it happens that the mountain we are praying will be thrown into the sea does not move, then remember too, the beauty we would not have seen otherwise that comes about only in a result of the crushing. What if Peter had been successful at convincing God that His own Son should not suffer or be destroyed on that cross? Jesus may have been spared the cross, but where would you and I be now? It might be interesting to point out that Peter changed his perspective about suffering after that, and we can see this in 1 Peter 2:19-24.
Am I saying that God Himself causes the suffering in our lives? No, He does not. But long before you were ever born, He knew where your path in life would lead and what you would face as a result, and He already set a plan in motion to take the suffering we experience here and use it for His plan and for His glory. Know this: Although His ways appear mysterious to us (Isaiah 55:9), you and your loved ones are in the hands of Almighty God , a God who can be trusted to turn ashes into beauty (Isaiah 61:3).
Am I saying don’t pray? No. I am saying don’t use your prayers the way Peter intended to use his – to stand in the way of God being able to use that destruction, what the enemy meant for evil, for His greater purpose and glory instead. Don’t become hurt, angry, or offended at God and thereby miss out on the beauty and the fragrance!
Am I saying it is wrong to pray for miracles, healing, mercy, or blessing? No, of course not! We can and should be praying for any and all of those things. Pray, too, He will increase your faith and cause your trust in Him to be unwavering. Pray for His best in the situation. Pray for Heaven to come down and for God’s will to be done on earth. Pray for His grace to be given so you can endure with patience the trial that is set before you. He wants to prepare you for the next level of faith. Being in the center of God’s will no matter what chaos is around you is where Peter was when he walked on water. We can walk on water, too. Are you ready?
Whether you are reading this post as someone going through trials or someone who is learning how to effectively pray for another who is, I pray you are comforted by these words.
“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”1 Peter 1:6-7 (ESV)