Saturday, May 31, 2008

Failing for the Glory of God

I just polished off the second of Dr. Helen Roseveare's autobiographical books, and the message in He Gave Us a Valley hit my heart like a ton of bricks. Let me explain.

Dr. Roseveare worked for 20 tumultuous years in the Congo, through the frightening time of independence and the Simba uprising. Beside the violence and near death experience of that time, she sacrificially used her doctoring to not only minister to the poverty stricken people of the jungle, but also to train young men and women to do medical work and become midwives, traveling far and wide with the gospel. For 20 years, she sought for the government to recognize their medical college, pouring her own funds into the day to day expenses and doggedly filing paperwork, visiting dignitaries, and preparing the school and students for inspection. At long last, the government recognized the school, gave their stamp of approval on the diplomas, and arranged for subsidizing scholarships for 2nd and 3rd year students. At this moment of triumph, when Dr. Roseveare prepared to retire from jungle living and humbly hand her ministry over to younger doctors, she met with total rejection and humiliation.

Her students turned against her. Those she loved as sons, championed for, and poured her life and resources into refused to sign for the pocket money they were being given out of the scholarship money. It was not enough, they insisted. They accused her of stealing from the ministry for months. She was put on trial, and had to bear to hear those sons accuse her spitefully, and knowing her own innocence was not balm enough for a soul enduring such wounds. She resigned from the school so that others might work out the strike (the students refused to do their volunteer work in the wards) and come to an agreement. She ended her time serving in Christ's name in the Congo, wondering if it was worthwhile.

Only after she turned away, like Jonah tossed from the storm-driven ship, was she able to consider what the Lord was saying to her. "'These are not your sufferings: they are Mine. All I ask of you is the loan of your body. . . You went home and told everyone that I was sufficient. Isn't that true now, in today's circumstances?'

"I tried to say: 'But of course, Lord. You know it's true.'

"'No' He quietly rebuked me. 'No. You no longer want Jesus only, but Jesus plus. . . plus respect, popularity, public opinion, success and pride. You wanted to go out with all the trumpets blaring. . . You wanted to feel needed and respected. You wanted the other missionaries to be worried about how ever they'll carry on after you've gone. You'd like letters when you got home to tell you how much they realize they owe to you, how much they miss you. All this and more. Jesus plus . . No, you can't have it. Either it must be 'Jesus Only' or you'll find you've no Jesus. You'll substitute Helen Roseveare.'"

Doesn't that ring a bell in your heart? I was pointedly reminded of the end of my teaching internship when one particular class chanted "Down with Miss B" -- even the wonderful Christian kids that I'd loved -- because I didn't give extra credit for classroom behavior to a student who'd threatened to kill me. I was totally innocent, and right. And it was so painful to have them all turn on me so. I can still feel twinges of that if I call up those memories -- how much I wanted good for those kids, and how much evil they returned me. Why does it hurt so much? My body is just on loan from the Lamb Who was led to the slaughter. Any suffering endured while living in obedience to Christ is for His glory, and part of His good plan.

Consider the lesson Dr. Roseveare learned when she faced what felt like complete failure. What else do you want in addition to Jesus? Are you able to fail in all your strivings -- for the glory of God? Can you say, at a time of rejection, that Christ is sufficient? Perhaps you look back, as I can, to a twinging hurt from the past -- will you take that, as from the Father's hand, a "failure" for your good and His glory?

12 comments:

mummymac said...

Wow - thanks for this Gretchen.

I'm searching for various books for our church's reading roundabout at the minute I think I'll add this to the ever growing list of possibles!

Thanks for your book lists - sorry I don't comment much.

Blessings from Northern Ireland.

....t said...

Gret, your post leaves me speechless. My heart is moved....t

jillybean said...

Gretchen, Wow! I needed to hear this! Very powerful! Thank you!

Beth said...

What a powerful post. I may just have to read her autobiography. You really inspire me, Gretchen, to read more and be more selective about what I read.

Have you ever read "Stepping Heavenward"?

Gretchen said...

Beth -- yes! Are you reading that? I love Elizabeth Prentiss!

mummymac said...

Just to say that if you ladies appreciate Stepping Heavenward you will love

"More love to thee" by Sharon James - it's Elizabeth Prentiss Biography.

James is a British Author and I've found that my American friends don't hear of this book the same.

Just thought you may like to know.....

Sandy said...

wow Gretchen..I am going through something right now that hurts so much..maybe I need to learn from it instead of stewing and worrying about how others will react to my actions, just be concerned about how God thinks I should respond in the situation. What a great story!

Smoothie King said...

Amen sister! Nancy Lee DeMoss has nothing on you! Though you don't need encouragement and Jesus..sometimes He let's you have both when you can handle it properly I guess ;-) Odd too, I miss you guys and I'm only across town! Are you and Josh able to come over for a visit anytime in the next few weeks?

Donette said...

I echo everyone else. I needed to read this, Gretchen. Thanks for being brave and posting a "not so easy read."

Anonymous said...

very good Gret. Now I want to read the book, especially since I am currently reading the book "digging ditches" by Helen Roseveare. Hmmmm who gave that to me? Her digging ditches principle was that each small thing that she did, whether it be working at this small job that might not feel like it was doing much for God, but as long as she obeyed daily, God would fill her ditch with water. But if she didn't bother to work and dig the ditch, the water (blessings) would fall on a dry "riverbed". I also like that she's british and calls things like gas "petrol". :)

Anonymous said...

oops--what an anonymous sister :) ! that was Anna

Anonymous said...

I am glad to have found a blog that encourages great reading! I also love to read. I with the recommendation to read E. Prentiss bio by Sharon James. Prentiss life was truly God-led. (A Titus 2 woman found in a book???)