My sweetest memory of Mrs. Riebock did not come when I was her student, but when I was her colleague. While working on my Masters degree last fall, I substitute taught at Wheaton Academy. One day I received a call asking me to sub for Mrs. Riebock. I was thrilled and immediately accepted! When I entered her classroom, I was a bit surprised to find her sitting at her desk--not at all absent--and she was equally surprised to see me.
"What are you doing here?" she would ask.
I responded, "Substitute teaching for you, I thought!"
Apparently the office had made a mistake, and I didn't need to be there. I walked to the door to exit the classroom, but she stopped me, saying, "No! You came all the way out here to teach, and you want your money. Stay here, and I'll go out so you can get paid." Mrs. Riebock went out of the way to accommodate her "substitute," even though she didn't need me. That day, Mrs. Riebock cared more about blessing her former student than sticking with her own agenda. She reflected the love and servant's heart of Jesus Christ, and through that action, I was blessed.
I have an "uncensored confession," as I like to call it in our Come Thirsty Sunday school class. I don't begin to understand the ways of an incomprehensible God. I don't know why God chose to spare my mom's life when thousands of people got on their knees to pray for her healing after she was in a coma in Turkey, but take the life of Mrs. Riebock when thousand of people were on their knees praying for her healing when she was going through a liver transplant in America. I don't understand why my classmate Quinn, Mrs. Riebock's youngest daughter, lost her dad in June, and three months later lost her mom. I just don't have all of the answers.
But there are some things I do know. I know that God is good. And I don't just mean that He is somewhat nice and typically kind. I mean that His very essence is good; there is no good apart from Him. I know that God is love. His love is unconditional. I know that God is for us. If we are His children, God is not 9% or 99% for us; He is 100% for us at all times. And I know that Jesus is the way and the truth and the life. There is no life apart from the Christian life, because there is no God apart from Jesus Christ. His ways are incomprehensible, but they are trustworthy. Yes, God is trustworthy and faithful and true. I live and breathe these truths.
I went to hear John Piper speak at Wheaton today. He talked all about suffering. My friend left depressed; I left invigorated. He spoke difficult words. Words that I want to silence with all my being. But words that my soul so longs to hear that I can almost physically feel the echo of its longing deep within me. He said that our suffering is an essential part of our Christian existence. Our suffering should make Christ look great. We might be "sorrowful," but we are to be "always rejoicing" (II Cor. 6:10). Our lives should testify that Christ is more precious to us than everything in the universe, including father or mother, brother or sister, career or unemployment, ambitions or failures, singleness or marriage, children or no children. Christ is more precious. Period.
Furthermore, nothing will happen to us apart from God's will. Do you really think that these events surprise God? God knows, and God is good. We must embrace suffering, hardship, risk, and danger while on earth for the relief of suffering in eternity. "We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22). In Romans, Paul states, "Now if we are children, then we are 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).
So the ultimate question is not whether we will suffer. We must suffer. The question is, "Will Christ be enough when we endure suffering?"