One year ago, our son Joey was attacked while in India. His face was deeply sliced. His life was threatened – as were the lives of his team. He carries the scar on his face. You can read the initial story here.
Yesterday, Joey sent his reflections to his family. I share his letter with his permission.
Today is the one year anniversary of our mugging and my stabbing in India. Last year, I wrote this paper reflecting on what God had taught me through the whole incident. A couple months later, I preached this sermon further explaining what God has done in me since the attack.
I’ve moved on from the attack in India. I’m pressing on in ministry. But I have learned a few more things in the past year that I hope will sharpen you and prepare you for your day of suffering.
Physical trauma is always linked to emotional trauma. I’ve learned through this attack as well as the arthritis in my foot that daily plagues me that physical pain leads to emotional pain and emotional pain often leads to physical pain. The emotional pain of suffering is often more lasting than physical pain. By far, most of my temptation to unbelief in God since the attack has been due to emotional trauma and not physical trauma. My face feels fine now… my spirit is often racked with temptation to fear. Fear tempts me every day. The temptation is subtle and deep, but it is there.
The fear is mostly for my family. Fear is squarely grounded in unbelief, as is all sin. I’m thankful for emotional and physical trauma for revealing layers of unbelief of which I must daily repent. I repent and cling to the cross of Jesus. I cling to promises like Josh. 1:9: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” Amazingly, Josh. 1:9 was the ‘life verse’ that my parents have prayed for me since I was born.
I’ve learned that God uses broken people to lead broken people. As I shared with thousands of people what happened to us in India, I began to notice that the most encouraging thing that I could share with them was the stories of my weakness and struggles and God’s grace and power in helping me overcome those struggles. People are encouraged when they hear and follow leaders that are weak in themselves, but strong in Christ. It was said of the Messiah, “a smoldering wick he will not quench” (Matthew 12:20). While Jesus does not quench the wick, he blows his life giving breath on the smoldering flame so that it bursts into a conflagration!
Suffering really is, ultimately, good for us. It is good for our joy as we are forced to embrace God over and above the hollow and evanescent thrills that come from earthly activity.
It is good for our prayer life because we remember that, let’s face it, prayer is the most strategic and transformative activity in the world.
It is good for our humility because we are desperately and dependently thrust into the mercies of God for all our needs.
It is good for sharpening our focus on the few things in this world that really matter.
It is good for our love of the Bible, because we learn that nothing – absolutely no other spoken or written word – encourages us so deeply and so lastingly as the written Word of God.
It is good for our relationships with others, because our the memory of suffering becomes our source of compassion for others.
It is good for our heart, because suffering is a sharp mirror into the heart. I
t is good for our families, because the stories of our sufferings and God’s faithfulness build a lineage of faith in our children upon which they may build their own faith.
It is good for evangelism, because our response to suffering testifies to the world what or who is on the throne of our hearts.
Lastly, it is good for worship, because we learn to leap into the protective and comforting arms of our Savior.