It’s been said that “true wisdom consists in two things: knowledge of God and knowledge of self.” I think John Calvin was right when he penned these words. I’m also learning that God in His grace blesses and gifts us when He forces us into knowing Him and knowing ourselves. When we don’t receive that blessing, we do what we do so well. . . look for wholeness, peace, satisfaction, and redemption in all the wrong places. . . beginning with looking to ourselves. That’s what got us in trouble in the first place, isn’t it (Genesis 3)?
I’ve also learned that wisdom comes with age for those who seek to know God and to know themselves. When God adds to that desire the gift of suffering, beautiful things begin to happen. Not fun things. . . but beautiful things. I was reminded of this yesterday as I sat at the kitchen table talking with my 90-year-old mother-in-law. It was just the two of us, and it was a beautiful time. She has suffered greatly over the course of her years on this earth. At the age of 90, she is battling a multitude of physical issues that are too many to mention. That’s on top of a life-time of all kinds of difficulties. But the older she’s gotten, the more settled she’s become in her dependence and reliance on her Lord.
As we chatted yesterday, she talked about some of the things she’s been through, how the Lord has carried her through it all, and what a blessing it’s been. Never once did she say, “I wish _____ hadn’t happened.” That’s significant. And from the perspective of her 90 years on earth, she voiced her desire for those younger than her to learn to get their eyes off themselves and on to Jesus. She was expressing a desire to see idol worship cease. Sadly, we live in a culture that promotes the worship, propagation, curation, and propagation of self.
Today, I’m thinking about our conversation. I am reminded of the words of the Psalmist: “My suffering was good for me, for it taught me to pay attention to your decrees” (Psalm 119:71). My mother-in-law has been blessed with a gift that has pushed her away from her self and towards God.
The words of the Psalmist are also meaningful and true for me. I’m thinking about that today as five years ago this afternoon I was launched over the handlebars of my bicycle and into an experience of physical brokenness that God used to bring me a little further out of myself and into Him. What happened that day five years ago was just one part of God’s larger work to bring me closer to Him and out of myself. . . a process which, by the way, is certainly far from complete.
So as I think about the physical brokenness that I experienced five years ago today, I wonder. . . dare we ask the Lord to give us and our kids the needed measure of suffering to take us out of ourselves and into Him? Sounds like a crazy prayer to pray, I know. But in these days of trumpeting ourselves, our kids, and our accomplishments, perhaps the best thing for us is what we fear most and avoid like the plague.
Consider these words from Joni Erickson Tada: “The greatest good suffering can do for me is increase my capacity for God.” True. . . so true.