by Barbara Early
When I realized that I would be doing the devotion following the week of Gina, I asked if she could share a little of the spiritual element of her novella, Sugarplum Hearts. Now, when you ask an author to share about their book, you’ll usually get an enthusiastic response. And since what Gina had to share was not only enthusiastic, but uplifting and edifying, I’ll share a bit of that too.
The theme verse for Sugarplum Hearts:
"But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you." ~1 Peter 5:10
(Now, just because Gina had a theme verse, doesn’t mean her novella was preachy or sanctimonious. She did a wonderful job of incorporating the inspirational theme into a satisfying and entertaining read.)
But the God of all grace…
While it’s important to be perfect, stablished, strengthened, and settled, the verse doesn’t start there. It starts with who is doing the action--who perfects? Stablishes? Strengthens? Settles? They are not things we do to ourselves. They are things that God, the God of grace, does for us and in us. He is the subject of the sentence--he is the doer of the action.
It’s also interesting that He’s indentified here as the God of all grace, as if to doubly emphasize that God is the one who performs the actions. Grace is sometimes defined as “God’s unmerited favor.” Others use the acrostic: God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense, to show that the favor he bestows--freely to us--was purchased at a great price on the cross.
And one precious gift his grace has purchased is eternal life, his death on the cross paying the price that we may enjoy his presence forever.
…after that ye have suffered a while…
Peter’s first letter was written to a church experiencing tough persecution. It’s a very human reaction during the discouragement of tough times to question God, his love, and his grace. So Peter reminds them that God is a God of grace, and he has already given them eternal life. Even if their lives were not very pleasant at the moment, there’s a new world coming. The suffering would not last forever, but in comparison to the glories ahead, would only last a little while.
While most of us cannot truthfully say we experience the same kind of persecution many early Christians did (and that many in other parts of the world experience today!), it is universal in human experience to understand suffering. And the application is as relevant for us today as it was then. That hard time you’re going through? It won’t last forever. God has something better coming--and it’s just around the corner.
About how this relates to Sugarplum Hearts, Gina said, “Finley suffered a lot in Scotland during his upbringing because his parents weren't of high moral character. He grew up lower class. Through the ministry of a set of Believers who reached out and shared Jesus with him, he came to faith, separated as much as he could from his blood relatives, worked on the docks saving almost all of his pay, then worked his passage to America. His goal was do more short-term work until he'd have enough money to buy farmland. He's such a planner that he doesn't see what God is doing in the immediate moment. With my heroine's father's spiritual guidance, Finley learns to start looking for God's opportunities instead of him looking to solve the problem himself.”
…make you perfect…
The first part of God’s four-part plan for us is to make us perfect. Not perfect in the sense of being without fault. But perfect in the sense of maturity. He doesn’t want us to remain children, griping when things get tough or when we don’t get our own way. When we’ve suffered a little bit, and learned to trust in Him through the suffering, we grow.
Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. James 1:3-4
I’ve read what the dictionaries and the commentaries say about the word translated “stablish” (a rather interesting study), but the best working definition I’ve come across is “stabilized.” After we’ve suffered a while, God promises we will become more stable.
Those of us who have been blessed with daughters are probably aware of the term “drama queen.” Teen girls especially seem to be well known for extreme emotional responses to seemingly inconsequential stimuli. Giving them a break, I will say that there’s a reason for that. Teens often experience a lot of stress because they are dealing with situations they’ve never had to face before. They need to learn. They need to suffer a little bit, so then they can be stablished. Stabilized. Made stable.
The same for Christians. While emotions are normal and God-given, God wants us to respond to the trials of life in a Biblical manner--with grace and faith--not falling apart or flipping out every time the storm clouds gather. We’re not to be spiritual drama queens.
Not only will God make us mature and stable through suffering, but he will also make us strong. Have you ever met a strong Christian--one whose faith never wavers, even in the most desperate of circumstances? Mostly likely that Christian has already been through a lot of rough patches, each one making him stronger.
We often tell rambunctious kids that they need to settle down. Things that are settled are unchanging, unmoving. Not tossed about from idea to idea, doctrine to doctrine.
Gina said, “So while my obvious spiritual theme focus is on settling my characters physically in one location, I also have a twist on the word settle because in the end, they both had to settle their drives, wants, and fears and be content with the life God has given them.
“Also is settling our past. Finley was ashamed of his past. Seren resented her past. Both had to accept that their past didn't weaken them, but helped mature them into the people they are. Sometimes we can be so focused on the past that we can't see the future. It's okay to let the past go. It's okay to find joy in what we suffered.”
Question: Have you found the joy in suffering?
Barbara Early grew up buried in the snowy suburbs of Buffalo, NY, where she developed a love for all things sedentary: reading, writing, classic movies, and Scrabble. She holds a degree in Electrical Engineering, but her penchant for the creative caused her to run away screaming from the pocket-protector set. Barbara cooks up cozy mysteries with a healthy dose of comedy and sometimes a splash of romance. Her holiday novella, Gold, Frankincense, and Murder was released in e-book format from White Rose Publishing in December 2011. You can learn more about her writing on her personal blog: http://barbearly.blogspot.com/ or see what's for dinner on her recipe blog: http://bflogal.blogspot.com/.