I recently watched a video message by Steve Saint from a past Desiring God conference on suffering in missions amidst God's sovereign plan. I've heard his testimony before, but to hear it again in more detail, this time in specific context of God's intentional plan for suffering--in His sovereignty and missional plan for the world--was freshly moving. The story of how Steve's dad, Nate, and four others lost their lives for the sake of the Gospel's advance among a unreached people group has always gripped me. In this more recent message by Steve (2006), I listened as he shared deeper details about the savage-like methods of the killings that fateful day. It is truly a testament to the Gospel's work to hear grown-up Steve Saint now talk about his close relationship with these (now Jesus followers) who killed his dad!
I think the other thing that struck me was Steve's testimony about his daughter's more recent death. After an apparent time of complacency in ministry to those in suffering, Steve told how he prayed to better identify with our suffering world. Upon their daughter's graduation, Steve and his wife had to give up their daughter to missions. As she returned home visiting from her mission travels, Steve and his wife were elated to have their whole family back together. In a moment of family bliss, Steve recounted how sweet it was to have her home with the family again. Later that night after complaining of a headache, Steve and his wife held their daughter and prayed for her relief and thanked Him for her visit. As they prayed, a massive brain hemorrhage occurred and their daughter entered eternity. Steve recounts the reaction of Mincaye (the Equadorian Waodani man who once was a killer but now a Jesus follower). Mincaye became part of the Saint family, an incredible testament to God's forgiving grace. As the Saint's daughter was rushed to the emergency room and medical staff hurried about, Mincaye tried desperately to figure out who was hurting his precious adopted granddaughter. Steve recounted how Mincaye's face formed the image of one who was once again willing to kill, this time to protect his family. As the tragedy culminated in the emergency room, Steve tells how Mincaye realized who was behind this. Mincaye rushed to Steve and said, "God is behind this Steve, God is taking our precious one to be with Him!" Immediately, Mincaye started shouting that the Saint's precious daughter went home to be with Jesus, and he urgently beckoned the medical staff to surrender to walking God's trail so they could likewise one day be with Jesus!
Now, what in the world can give some sort of semblance of logic to such tragedies in life? How do we process Mincaye's reasoning for the Saint's daughter's death? Ultimately Mincaye nailed it! In his own way he realized that sovereign God orchestrated His perfect plan for her life, just as He had enacted His perfect plan in Nate Saint's life. Somehow in that moment, the truths of Scripture on suffering (we often think of Romans 8:28, but the Scriptures are full of examples) became vividly clear to Mincaye.
There is much much more that we could comment on the theme of suffering from Scripture. But, for this post I simply want to share this testimony of Steve Saint regarding his own suffering experience. How do we view suffering? Those moments in our lives that are difficult exist for a greater purpose. How are we responding? How are we growing closer to God through them?
Steve closed his message with the following poem:
"I stood a mendicant of God before his royal throne
And begged Him for one priceless gift that I could call my own.
He placed it in my outstretched hand, but as I would depart I cried, "But, Lord, it is a thorn! And it has pierced my heart!
"This is a strange, a hurtful gift, that Thou hast given me."
He said, "My child, I give good gifts and gave my best to thee."
I took it home, and though at first the cruel thorn hurt sore
As long years passed, I learned at last To love it more and more.
I learned He never gives a thorn without this added grace.
He takes the thorn to lay aside the veil that hides his face."
-Martha Snell Nicholson
Oh may we more clearly see God's heart as we "walk His trail" through all circumstances!
For the Spread of His Fame,