“Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face…” 1 Cor 13:12
JB Philips, the great NT scholar was no stranger to sufferings. Perhaps due to overworking and his numerous commitments as Vicar, writer, etc, he suffered from clinical depression for many years.
Once he wrote “..when I meet suffering, as I often do, I truly believe that God is in that suffering, and is trying to transform it to fit His ultimate purpose for mankind.”
Pain (and suffering) is not necessarily a bad thing. God, our Master Craftsman sometimes uses it as a tool. We are all His workmanship, a painful work in process and will not finish till we see Him face to face. Allow me to use the analogy of building a reflector telescope.
All the largest telescopes in the world that enable men to peer into deepest Space are reflector telescopes laboriously and precisely made by skilled craftsman and machines. The centre of a reflector telescope is the parabolic reflector mirror.
To build a reflector telescope boils down to making an excellent parabolic – shaped mirror which collects the parallel light from the distant stars and bring them to a focus. The more perfect the parabolic mirror, the sharper the images of the stars we can see from outer space. Otherwise we see blur images, double images etc.
When young, I tried to build a simple reflector telescope. It is a painstaking slow process. There are handbooks of instructions. For a simple telescope, purchase two 4”circular 1’’ thick blank glass block. Two basic processes are involved: Grinding and Polishing. Place one on top of the other and Grind the bottom one into parabolic shape. Grind first with coarse sand, followed by fine sand then polish. Next coat the parabolic mirror with shiny metallic silver to reflect light. But having a guide book does not guarantee success! How I learn the hard way, purchasing more and more manuals and books.. still..
We are God’s workmanship. God our Master Craftsman is also building each one of us patiently and laboriously into individual spiritual telescope in order to know and see Him spiritually, the bright Morning Star (Rev 22:16) better. He grinds and polishes us. It’s painful for Him as well as for us!
Having the Bible (instructions manual) is not enough. We must be prepared for Our Lord to grind us down through tough testing and even sufferings. These help to remove our rough edges, surfaces, bit by bit, through the years until we can see Him spiritually more clearly!
Job (an upright and blameless man affirmed by God Himself) at the end of sufferings and testing allowed by the Sovereign God can say:
“My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.” (Job 42:5) Job can see God now with eyes of faith and spiritual understanding. He can now accept God’s plan for him, come what may.
Certainly then, suffering and testing are at once a sanctifying process as well as a badge of our faith. At the end of it all we share glory with our dear Lord Jesus!
“Therefore we do not lose heart… For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Cor 4:16,17)
“Now if we are children, then we heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory.” (Rom 8:17)
Finally, the following penned by Amy Carmichael strikes a chord with me:
Hast thou no wound? No wound? No scar?
Yet, as the Master shall the servant be,
And pierced are the feet that follow Me;
But thine are whole: can he have followed far
Who has no wound nor scar?
By Dr Leong Chee Lu (YCKC Bulletin 30&31 July 2016)