July 19

“The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?” John 18:11

To have a sympathizing God we must have a suffering Saviour, and there is no true fellow-feeling with another save in the heart of him who has been afflicted like him. We cannot do good to others save at a cost to ourselves, and our afflictions are the price we pay for our ability to sympathize. He who would be a helper, must first be a sufferer. He who would be a saviour must somewhere and somehow have been upon a cross; and we cannot have the highest happiness of life in succoring others without tasting the cup which Jesus drank, and submitting to the baptism wherewith He was baptized.

The present circumstance, which presses so hard against you (if surrendered to Christ), is the best shaped tool in the Father’s hand to chisel you for eternity. Trust Him, then. Do not push away the instrument lest you lose its work. (Streams in the Desert)

My grandchildren have become interested in the game of chess to my great delight. I taught myself to play fifty two years earlier at age six by checking out a picture book from my elementary school library. I played each week at the Fire Station on Lewis Drive in Port Arthur, and although I have continued playing occasionally through the years, my grandson’s interest that emerged last fall led me back into enjoying the game on a daily basis. As a result, all the grandchildren want to play when they come to visit, and last night was no exception.

Five-year-old Hannah has recast the mold on the strong-willed child. The good news is that she will likely never know peer pressure; she marches to her own drumbeat. She burst through our front door last night announcing, “I want to play chest.” We attempt to teach her the correct way to pronounce it, but she invariably relapses into calling it “chest.” Hannah is bright and learns quickly, but her frustration threshold is quite low. Halfway through last night’s lesson her shoulders slumped and she gushed, “I want to win. When am I going to win?” My own childhood predates the receive-a-trophy-for-showing-up generation, so I told Hannah what I tell all the grandchildren: “I enjoy teaching and playing with you, but I will never just let you win. When you beat me, you will know that you earned it.”

All-too-frequently I brandish my own version of slumped shoulder resignation: “When am I going to win? I want to win!” I stoop to view hardship as divine collusion, and interpret difficult circumstance as disfavor—God could make my life easier, if only He wanted to do so. Suffering is a cruel joke with me as the punchline. Discipleship, on the other hand, demands I look beyond hurt and heartache to find someone else in the same boat who needs a helping hand up, or at the very least, a listening heart. Suffering is never a dead end street; it qualifies me for ministry on a deeper level. Setting our sights on others when dealt what some might deem a cruel hand delivers us from down spiraling into a perpetual pity party.

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