Tuesday, May 10, 2011

God uses Suffering to Shape our Lives: Reflections by Johannes Tauler

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sister, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” -James 1:2-4 (TNIV)

Every day has its trials—big ones, little ones, petty and irritating ones! And every day I need to remind myself to embrace the circumstances that come my way. Indeed, I must remember to consider these things as pure joy!

The preacher who has affected my life more than any other has much to say on this topic. His name is Johannes Tauler, and he lived 700 years ago. In one of his powerful sermons he states:

“Oh, whoever indeed lovingly embraces in the depths of their hearts the bitter circumstances that God gives them, what glorious life blossoms in such people! What joy, what peace, what a noble thing that would be! Yes, the smallest as well as the greatest suffering that God ever sends you, he gives you out of the depths of his inexpressibly great love, as the highest and best gift that he even could, or ever has given you. If only you embrace it, it would be so helpful to you!”

“Yes, all suffering—the smallest hair that falls from your head and you don’t even notice, about which our Lord said that not even a hair will go unnumbered—all suffering that comes upon you, as small as it may be, God has seen from eternity and loved it and had it in mind in order to send it to you.”

Tauler continues, “So it is with the loss of joy or possession or honor or comfort or whatever God sends you—such losses form you and serve to guide you to true peace, if only you can embrace them. . . . All the suffering that God gives us to taste is justified, for through suffering he will lead us to great things. Thus he has set everything as hardship for us. Had he wanted, he easily could have made loaves of bread grow in the field like grain.

Nothing that happens to us is by accident. In God’s sovereign knowledge and absolute love, he allows everything that comes our way—and has a plan how he will use it! Tauler concludes:

“Just as the artist foresees in his mind how he will make each stroke of the brush on the canvas—how short or long or wide,—and there is no other way if the painting is to become a masterpiece—where he should use red or blue—so God does the same, and a thousand times more, in our lives with through much suffering and many strokes of color. He does so in order to achieve in us the masterpiece that pleases him the most, so long as we truly embrace these gifts—these bitter circumstances—from him.”[1]

God specifically chooses the circumstances that I need in my life to transform me. Just like an artist skillfully selects each dab of paint to make a masterpiece, God is making a masterpiece out of your life and mine. When I truly see this, I can indeed count it all joy when circumstances go awry, knowing that God is going to use it to make me mature and complete—his work of art!

1. Johannes Tauler Predigten: Vollständige Ausgabe, edited by Georg Hofmann (Freiburg: Herder, 1961), sermon 3, pp. 30-31. The translation is my own.

© 2011 Glenn E. Myers

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