Cost Became Swallowed Up In Privilege

After Keith’s sermon this Sunday, I found myself reflecting on a story I read about a year ago. Dr. Helen Roseveare was a Christian doctor who gave up wealth, affluence and success to serve the medical needs of people in central Africa from 1953-1973. She spent most of that time in the Congo, one of Africa’s most dangerous countries. She knew she her work came with great risks, but had no idea how costly it it would be until one terrible night in 1964. She was captured by rebels from the Congo for her faith and tortured and raped for the next five months. She lived a nightmare.

In her autobiography she describes the night she was kidnapped. After being beaten and sexually assaulted, she began wonder at the silence she felt from God, thinking, “It is too much to pay!” and praying, “Why? Why?” Then something baffling happened. She writes,

In the dark loneliness he met with me. He was right there, a great wonderful almighty God. His love enveloped me. Suddenly the “Why?” dropped away from me, and an unbelievable peace flowed in, even in the midst of the wickedness. And he breathed a word into my troubled mind: the word privilege.

These are not your sufferings; they are not beating you. These are my sufferings: all I ask of you is the loan of your body. 

For twenty years, anything I needed I had asked of God and he had provided. Now, this night, the Almighty had stooped to ask of me something that he condescended to appear to need, and he offered me the privilege of responding. He wanted my body, in which to love and through which to love these very rebel soldiers in the height of their wickedness. It was inconceivable, yet true. He offered me the inestimable privilege of sharing him in some little measure at least, in the edge of the fellowship of his suffering. And it was all privilege. 

For that night, cost became swallowed up in privilege.

How I wish my heart buckled under the weight of suffering into completely dependent faith. Helen Roseveare’s example is one I cannot imagine matching. Yet, when I read her story I’m reminded of a profound reality: Christ draws near to us in our suffering.

He is near to us, because he too suffered. He suffered far worse pain and punishment than I can imagine: he suffered separation from his heavenly father. Worst of all, he suffered not for his own wrong doings, but for mine. Christ knows suffering; thus he is so close to us in our suffering that Peter writes, “Rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings.” (1 Peter 4:13). We are sharing with him.

This is honestly one of the only promises that bears me through my piddly sufferings. Whether it’s small financial losses, marital tension, business at work, or the poor health of loved ones. I can bear through it when I remember that Jesus is with me, near to me, sharing with me.

I’m reminded of the baby tree in my front yard. If a storm came through, the winds would rip it right out. That’s why I had to stake it to the ground with ropes. When the tree is anchored, no storm can uproot it.

In the same way, when storms of suffering come along we must be anchored to Christ, lest we be uprooted. But here’s the great news: when the storm comes we feel him anchoring us down, holding us steady, and protecting us from the storm. In those moments suffering is swallowed up in the privilege of being with him.

Leave a Reply