Most of the direct exhortations were to the pastors in attendance -- which was fitting and appropriate, but this morning during the panel discussion, John Piper briefly addressed the women present with a word about the need for women who are "sages". By this he described women who walked with God, dug deep into theology, experienced the fellowship of Christ's suffering over the course of their lives as they experienced unbelieving husbands, wayward children, medical conditions, etc. and as a result have emerged into their 40s, 50s and 6os as profoundly wise women. It would be fitting for younger generations of men and women to go to these females sages and ask for their insight. Piper described women who on the exterior were gentle, loving, sweet and kind but had a rod of steel down their back -- built in there by the experience of suffering for Christ's name sake. I automatically thought of women who fit this bill -- the "sages" of my life, if you will. Perhaps you can think of them as well. (Here is a picture of my favorite sage -- Elisabeth Elliot -- whose words have influenced and guided me more than any other woman's. I commend to you her books, especially The Path of Suffering. If you never again read a book I recommend, please read this one). Just being older does not make you a sage -- but clinging to the supremacy of Christ through all the battles that a Christian must endure, saturating yourself and your mind in the Word, will in time, make you just such a person.
I was challenged. I want to be a woman like this. I sat there, listening to Piper describing these honorable women, and feeling closer and closer to that age than ever. Thinking about all the silly things in my life that I have made more important than they are. What do those things matter -- at all -- in the light of the glorious reward awaiting us? Can I, by His unlimited grace, choose to endure suffering for His name's sake? Can I look at life with new eyes, not asking "why me?" but "Why NOT me?" when I see suffering taking place? Can I choose to take every cough, every late night with an ill family member, every rough day on the job, every misunderstanding with someone I love, every hurt, every slight, every death and disappointment, and lay them on the divine altar as a sacrifice of praise to the honor and glory of Christ? By His grace -- YES. And so can you.
Dear female reader: ask yourself what you are holding onto that keeps you from loving Christ supremely. He is Supremely Valuable. Do I see Him as such? He is Altogether Good. Do I question His goodness when I experience discomfort? Friends, though we live in a society that is always all about comfort, I know that many times your trials and pains are true and real. It is not their reality that keeps us from rejoicing in the midst of them. If the trials were all joy, no pain at all, then what would be glorious about rejoicing? No, it is in this real suffering that you will know the sweetest and closest fellowship with Christ -- the fellowship of His suffering! "Therefore, let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek a city that is to come."
Sister -- consider the reward! And count it all joy!