Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Summer Reading Update: A Path Through Suffering by Elisabeth Elliot

As I mentioned previously, Elisabeth Elliot is one of my favorite writers. Reading her writing has encouraged me in so many ways as I have grown in my walk with the Lord. Last week I finished book number 2 on my summer reading list. A Path Through Suffering is a book that I have wanted to read for a while, and it was worth my time. The chapters are really short. So if you don't have a lot of time on your hands, this would be a great book to read little snippets of each day. She uses the theme of the seasons and the process of nature to apply to our suffering. And as always, she challenges and encourages her readers to walk faithfully with God and delight only in him.

I leave you with a few quotes that I liked, though most of the book is quotable!

"Vines must be pruned. This looks like a cruel business. Perfectly good branches have to be lopped off in order for better branches to develop. It is necessary business, for only the well-pruned vine bears the best fruit. The life of the vine is strengthened in one part by another part's being cut away. The rank growth has to go and then the sun reaches places it could not reach before. Pruning increases yield."

"We are not often called to great sacrifice, but daily we are presented with the chance to make small ones--a chance to make someone cheerful, a chance to do some small thing to make someone comfortable or contented, a chance to lay down our petty preferences or cherished plans. This probably requires us to relinquish something--our own convenience or comfort, our own free evening, our warm fireside, or even our habitual shyness or reserve or pride. My liberty must be curtailed, bound down, ignored (oh, how the world hates this sort of thing! how our own sinful desires hate it!)--for the sake of the liberation of others."

She recognizes for many, and even in for herself, that there is suffering that is on a much more painful and grand scale then daily being kind to a hateful person. She speaks to those circumstances, too. One of the most helpful things I gleaned from the book was in the chapter on suffering as a parent. Though I am not a parent, her comments were very applicable and caused me to really think through her words.

She says:
"The deepest lessons come out of the deepest waters and the hottest fires. One of God's greatest gifts, parenthood, always includes the gift of suffering, that we may be humbled and our faith refined as gold in the fire. Again, we are not given explanations but, to hearts open to recieve it, a more precious revelation of the heart of our loving Lord...Occasions of desperation prepare the way for the recognition of Christ himself."

She then goes on to reference biblical passages where people were in great despair and suffering prior to a greater revelation of Christ.

Our culture tells us to flee from suffering. We do everything we can to skirt pain and discomfort. Yet, Elliot shows us that this is not the way of our Christ. He endured the shame of the Cross, the greatest suffering imaginable in order to do the will of the Father and "bring many sons to glory." This book is a reminder of that. It is not a call to stoicism, nor is it a call to self-pity. Neither of these reactions are the way of the Savior. But it is a call to embrace suffering, as Christ did. We should embrace it openly, grieve over it, and know that the story did not end with the Cross. He rose again, and so will we. And then, because of his work on our behalf, our suffering will be over.


2520 said...

Thanks Courtney! Your post was really encouraging for me to read this morning. It was what I needed! Andrea

p.s. So excited to see you next weekend!

debt said...

Yes, thanks Court. I needed it too. Not just for encouragement(although, it did that), but as a reminder to keep on in the struggle against my flesh. May I, may we all, suffer well. Only Christ can do that through me.

cdt said...

Thanks Mom and Andrea for your comments!

Andrea, I can't wait to see you either!