Romans 5:3-4- … suffering produces character, character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our heart through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
You can take this entry for what it’s worth to you. There are ten pages of unpublished entries that I can’t post because they could potentially jeopardize our case. At the time I wrote them I wasn’t exactlyTeam USA! I typed them when I was angry. Although entertaining, they are not productive for us getting home, but I promise I will share them one day! However, after talking with Ryan, another adoptive father here at the B&B, I wanted to share with you our conversation about Submission.
Look, I’m not self-righteous, I’m not even a good person. I cuss, lust, lie, cheat, and steal. I dishonor God on a daily, check that, on an hourly basis. I am a sinner.
Why would anyone adopt a child only to face the uncertainty of the entire process? Many adoption social workers will tell you that adoption cases are like snowflakes; no two are alike. There is no learning curve; no way to study or prepare. That goes against who I am because I’m practical, a doer really. When I set out to accomplish a task, I identify the potential problems and formulate solutions. I am always ready for the challenges of uncertainty. I am a change junkie; to almost inefficient ends, just ask my boss. I guess this is one reason why I never wavered when the Lord called Carla and I to adopt internationally. No matter how hard the process could be, I could compensate for the difficulties with ingenuity and determination. As I’ve learned over the last seven weeks, an international adoption can’t be guided with novel thinking or any amount of self-motivation. The only way you can survive an international adoption is through Joyful Submission to Jesus Christ.
Carla introduced the term Joyful Submission to me. I’m not sure if it’s a heavily documented phrase or one that Carla just made up. What I do know is that the phrase is counterintuitive to the ten-thousandth degree.
I believe I’ve mentioned my Uncle Clark before. He is my father’s baby brother and was a state champion wrestler in high school. Even at forty years old he could man handle me like he did when I was a child. The toughest he ever got with me was when I was about sixteen years old. I wanted to give him a real shot at me. Naturally, at sixteen I was relatively invincible and surely no old man would stand a chance at defeating me in an athletic event!
During my teenage years we lived in a split level house in Northport. The main floor had a large kitchen, a dining room, and, what we called, the bonus room. The bonus room was really a formal living room, but with two teenage boys, unfortunately, nothing could be formal. It didn’t take long to push back the couch and wooden coffee table to make room for our make shift wrestling mat. Now that the venue was all ready to go, I offered for Clark to choose which position that he preferred to start in. He chose to start on top. I had wrestled with Clark since I was old enough to remember so I know that he would try to knock my arms out from under me right at the start. He made his first move as predicted and I was able to escape. The rest of the match only lasted about two seconds because immediately after I eluded his arm sweep I was on my back with my legs wrapped around my neck. As quickly as I challenged Clark to the match up, I was helplessly submitting to his position over me in half breathes and moans.
Suffering always leads to submission; it’s our decision to choose how we submit.
There is nothing joyous about submitting to anything. Submission in a term that describes what happens when someone gives up because the burden or the pain has become too great to continue. Submission’s best friend is Helplessness and Helplessness is the son of Sorrow. When you decide to submit to your troubles, you can guarantee that sorrow will be soon arriving to pay you a visit. But sorrow is not near as hard to face when you understand the promises of our Savior.
So consider this. What if you were able to trudge through the valleys of your life by overcoming submission through pure joy? Where would the joy come from in the pits of despair? My proposal is that through Christ alone can you rejoice in your weakest moment. Through Christ, our eternal security is in Faith by Grace. We as Christians rejoice in that fact each time we pray or worship our Savior. With a widescreen lens we understand and prosper in that simple fact. But when the lens is adjusted, and we begin to use a worldly focus on the things that beat us down, we make the suffering something difficult and quickly forget how easy we were able to rejoice in our salvation by Faith. Without our faith, and the gracious love of Christ, we are deserving of nothing short of Hell. If we come to grips that we are putrid, reeking, useless matter bound for Hell without our salvation and we rejoice in our eternal security, why then is it so hard to submit to Christ joyfully during our temporary times of trouble and doubt?
Have I completely joyfully submitted to God in the suffering and trials of, not only our adoption process, but in my life? I don’t think so, not yet, but it’s because I haven’t learned why Christians suffer. The obstacles that are keeping me from receiving peace and joy in submitting my inabilities to Christ revolve around a lack of depth in my relationship with Him. Yesterday morning, Ryan and I had a long conversation about this idea of joyful submission through adversity and why, as sinners, we can’t seem to “buy-in”. Pardon my scriptural references and interpretations. Ryan is super smart and talks almost as fast as Jeremy Burrage when he gets going on the BibleTrain!
In short, getting to a place of being able to joyously submit to our Heavenly Father starts with Building Trust in God, Understanding God’s Character, and our Misconception of the Word Good.
Lack of Trust in God
Using the word Trust instead of Faith here is important to understand when battling against joyful submission. Who isn’t a doubter when it comes to their Faith? We all have doubt in our Faith during good times and bad during our lives; we are sinners, it just happens. Doubt in our Faith will frequently show up in our lives, but Trust in our Faith and our God MUST always be present under any circumstance. Trusting that God’s Word is timeless and infallible and, even in suffering, God has Good planned for us, is what gets us to a the point of true reliance. Trust is damaged when we doubt the one protecting us. We can’t be the drowning swimmer who almost sinks his lifeguard because they are kicking and pulling on them during the rescue. Trust, a strong trust, for things that we can’t control will start the transformation in us to be able to submit joyfully in adversity.
Understanding the Character of God
This is a complicated concept to begin to understand. I am not nearly equipped to begin to tell you who God is at His core. I don’t even know who He is at the crust! But let’s use the example of a father and his young son. A stubborn baby boy is hungry and cranky. The father sits him down at the table and walks into the kitchen to fix the hungry child’s meal. After he leaves the room the boy begins to scream. He has no clue if he will eat because he doesn’t believe that his father is concerned about his needs. The baby boy is upside down with anger while the father is making his food. When the father walks back into the room with the portion the boy is still inconsolable. Even as the father tries to feed him the tears continue to stream down his face. After his meal the boy is happy; until he gets hungry again. The inability of the boy to see the father’s concern for him is the way that we act during personal struggles. By this time in our adversity, the struggle can’t be joyfully submitted to because we don’t understand the Good that God has in store for us.
Misconception of the word Good
In the fallen world we live in, the word good is almost always inwardly focused. When someone asks, “How are you doing today”? Our response is inwardly motivated, “I’m GOOD”. What about that movie that you saw last week? The answer of, “It was GOOD”, is our reaction or opinion of the quality of the film. As self-centered creatures, whether or not something is Good is most always based on our inward view of the circumstances at hand. So how can we learn that the things that God has in store for us during our deepest struggles are supposedly ordained to be Good. What if I were to tell you that the promise of Good during suffering isn’t even about us? Romans 8:26-30 tells us that the Holy Spirit will intercede for us to make all things work together for the GOOD! Verses 29-30 go on to explain to us that the Good that is proclaimed are things done in the image of Christ, by Christ. When the idea of things being worked out for the Good shifts from self-centeredness to Christ-centeredness, submitting to His plan becomes more honorable and, in turn, joyfully done.
Friends, please pray that no matter the circumstances that we encounter in our lives that we Trust that God has Good in store for us and we continue to learn who He is. Pray that we can see Christ in things and proclaim it to be Good.
Pardon Our Progress,