Grant and Chad discuss the scriptures that believers can hold on to while enduring suffering and use to retain their focus on God's sovereignty and goodness.
Intro (Keith): Welcome to the Kanakuk Institute Podcast, where we continue to equip leaders with biblical skills for a lifetime of ministry.
Chad (00:14): Well welcome back to the Kanakuk Institute Podcast. We are in studio with Grant Gaines, the Dean of Men at the Kanakuk Institute. We’re talking about the topic of suffering and endurance. And if you joined us for Part 1, you heard a little bit about Grant and Sarah’s story and the birth of their child Remi, who at one point they thought, pretty seriously, that they would lose through the process, and so Grant shared, in part 1, kind of, that story. And so, if you’re tuning in with us and you haven’t listened to part 1, we’d encourage you to go back because that story will give you some context into what Grant and Sarah’s story was. So Grant, we talked a lot about suffering, endurance, what that looks like… You chose, after you went through everything you did, to write a book. And from what you’ve shared with me through the years, that book was really a part of the process of your healing and recognizing what God did. But share just a little bit about that. Like, why did you want to write a book? What did it do for you and Sarah, like in your heart? Just as you process back through what God has done in Remi’s life.
Grant (01:20): I think that’s a phenomenal question, and really I wrote a book for two reasons. One is: we just had so many people that were in our corner praying for us, supporting us, loving us that I felt like I wanted to share with them all of the lessons that I had learned and Sarah had learned all throughout that time. Almost as a: thank you for all that y’all have done for us throughout this season. And secondly, as I was spending a lot of time in 2 Corinthians 1, it talks about God comforting us in our trials and affliction, which I was like, “Yes, that’s me, ok awesome.” It also says He comforts us in our affliction so that we can comfort others who are going through similar sufferings as well. In other words, God’s comfort, much like his grace and his blessing and really everything he gives us, is not to terminate on ourselves, but rather to flow through us as an avenue of giving that and passing it along to others. And so, I felt an obligation in some way, shape, or form, to share the comfort that God had given me with others. And so really that book is my 2 Corinthians chapter 1 “so that.” It’s my: here’s what God has given me, here’s the comfort, here’s what I learned. For whatever, whoever reads it here’s the comfort that I want to pass along to you. So it really helped me make myself clear, force me to go back and see the lessons God had taught us and just how faithful he was time and time again whenever we doubted, when things seemed bleak. Man, God is just bigger than we ever imagined, bigger than our fears. It was just a really good, healthy process for me to slowly work my way back through that season.
Chad (02:51): Yeah, that’s good, and a good reminder too, just from a… as we’re process learners, that sometimes we need to put things on paper or we need to hear ourselves audibly say things to recognize not only the good, but often the bad. To be able to verbally out loud and say, “Man this was really hard, and here’s why it was hard.” And, you know, as we think about Institute and Institute alumni, that’s one of the things that we’re constantly training our students in is, right? How do we get into the mud with people that are struggling and going through tough times. What would you just encourage folks? You were going through a hard time. Obviously you had people reaching out, and I know I’ve been in that situation where you visit the hospital, you know, you’re going to a funeral, and all of a… I’m feeling the same way: I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to let this person know that I care and I feel what they’re feeling. Just practically, what were some things that people did for you and Sarah that just let you know, like, you’re not alone and people are here with you?
Grant (03:58): I’m sure everyone would answer that question differently based on the way that the Lord has wired them. What was super helpful was for my close people, like my close family, my close friends, to make phone calls, come visit. That was really helpful while we were in that difficult time. What was not helpful is whenever people who were maybe not in that immediate circle tried to do phone calls, hopping on, catching up, which I understand their heart. That was great. I love that they wanted to know. But I just didn’t have the bandwidth to continually pick up the phone throughout the day and say, “Let me repeat this for the tenth time. This is where we’re at. This is the news. Here’s what they’re hoping for.” So what I appreciated, again, is when my close people came close, but when everyone else was sending texts: Hey we’re praying for you and this is what we’re praying for you for. I loved when people sent scripture. Loved when they typed out their prayers. People were kind enough to send gifts and food and all that good stuff. So for me, I loved, yeah, just knowing that we were being surrounded and covered in prayer. That was so helpful. I know Sarah would tell you, one of the biggest things for her was people consistently following up, and not just a one-time “hey I’m for you,” but, you know, every couple days, “hey I’m still praying for you.” Like “I’m still here, I know things aren’t going well and you don’t know the end of the road or the end of the story just yet, but I’m still here. I’m going to be here.” That was so helpful for here as well.
Chad (05:23): That’s good, and so practical. In fact, I want to circle back and make sure we got those, but one, just people drawing near. And people that knew you and had done life with you.
Grant (05:34): And they didn’t say a thing that was profound, they were just close. That was all I needed. I just needed presence.
Chad (05:39): It was not a theological answer. It was just: come close. Two, that the people that came close continued to come close. That the people that came close continue to come close. And they let you know: we’re here, we’re with you, we’re in your corner. Three, that people made you aware and continually prayed for Remi’s healing and for you guys as you endured those things. And then fourth, and just on a practical level, people were offering to meet your needs. And maybe needs you didn’t even know you had whether it be food or blessing you guys with thoughtful gifts for Remi or for you guys. So, and there’s certainly more than that that we can do when we go through suffering, but I think we as believers need to be reminded like, it doesn’t need to be profound. It doesn’t need to be some theological answer. We need to be near. We need to be available. We need to be in the fire with the people. And what an easy but hard place for us to step into when we’re not in that situation but also the very thing we desire when we are in that situation is for people to be close to us and to make sure that they, that we know that we’re really cared for and loved. That’s really good. You had shared when we went to the break just a minute that God did something kind of unique in your life as you looked at the Psalms. And as you were going through this really difficult time that he used the Psalms in a powerful way as you went through what you went through. Share a little bit about that, I think that’s helpful.
Grant (07:09): Right, again, the way the Lord has wired me, I’m very logical, one plus one equals two, black and white. And so I love Paul’s letters. I love just how clear he is. And so I kind of always steered away from the Psalms. Far too emotional for me, I’m a guy, come on. I’m trying to be just logical here, but I absolutely loved the raw authenticity of David and the Psalmists as they were writing those psalms. And that they were actually voicing their complaints they were voicing their hurts, voicing their stress and their worries and what not, and then just getting to see how the Lord draws near in that moment. That he’s not offended, he’s not turned off, he doesn’t draw away whenever we express our true heart. But rather, he actually moves closer. Psalm 34:18 was a big verse that we camped on a lot was, “God draws close to the broken-hearted to save those who are crushed in spirit.” And so, just love that idea that when we are hurting, God is actually closer to us than he’s ever been. And that amongst all the Psalms were so beautiful, and I’ve just made a habit, and I’ve still carried this habit for the last, I don’t know, like three years now just praying the Psalms. And so, typically I’ll pick one Psalm a day and just pray through it, and I just, I love it. It’s so authentic and real and it’s just exactly what I need. Like God put the book of Psalms in the Bible because we didn’t know how we were supposed to pray in various moments. And so he said, “Pray this and you’re good.” And so it’s almost like the Spirit just used that book and opened my eyes in a fresh way to the value of having, not just head knowledge, but actual, like a heart interaction and heart knowledge with the Lord. So it was really sweet to have that book and I just cherish so many of those Psalms now, and it takes me right back to St. Louis in the hospital whenever I read various verses.
Chad (08:58): Yeah, that’s good. It’s good that God not only gave us foundational verses that really act as a bedrock when we go through difficult times, but also things that we can identify with experiences. You know, that we can, our life in some ways parallels David or whoever in the Psalms and we can go, “Wait there’s somebody else that’s been in my shoes and understands exactly what I’m going through in this moment.” So, amazing that the Psalms spoke to you in that way. When you think about bedrock passages and you think about suffering and endurance and just, obviously there’s an interesting tension there because none of us want to suffer but we all want endurance. Talk just a little bit about your experience and maybe bring it down to a text that has been meaningful for you to understand the relationship between suffering and endurance and how do we do it well as believers?
Grant (09:43): It has to be the beginning of James, James 1, verses 2 through 4 and then verse 12 as well talk a lot about that so, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you face various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. Let steadfastness have its full effect so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.” And verse 12 kind of puts a cap on that as well, but, yeah, that verse, I don’t know if I ever fully grasped what it was saying because it tells us to be steadfast and to have joy, but the reason that we have that is not because trials are awesome, and we’re all supposed to be just gluttons for punishment now, but rather it says that it’s actually producing something. That like the pain that we’re going through is producing a maturity, a completeness, a satisfaction that we could not have otherwise. And so, I still don’t like pain, and I don’t know if anyone ever will like pain, but I had this new idea that: Ok, as I’m going through this difficult time, like we were when we were in the NICU, this is doing something. And I might not see what that something is, I might not see that maturity, in the way that I wanted to with “Awesome, Remi’s alive and she’s awesome” and I’m thankful that that’s our story, but I do know and I do have hope that: Ok, God is actually using this pain to produce something in me. So, that’s a passage, or a verse that we just circled around a ton, and did give us hope when we were in the middle of a difficult time that come hell or high water, God is going to use this, this will not be wasted. But we will, in some way, look and love more like Jesus because of this moment.
Chad (11:18) That’s good. What I love about that passage, and we’re so quick to, we see “Consider it pure joy,” and I think, in our minds, we want the word to be “if. If we face trials of any kind.” And it clearly doesn’t say that it clearly says, “when.” In other words, we want to view trials like they’re on the recommended reading list, and they’re required reading of the human experience. Everyone goes through sufferings. Everyone has loss. Everyone’s going to have people that we love and care about go through illness and die. But there’s something greater going on here than just simply our suffering in the moment. It reminds me of a passage, one of my favorite passages here in Hebrews chapter 2 verse 10, I’m going to read it to you. It says this, “For it was for him,” talking about Christ, “for whom are all things and through whom are all things in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect their author of salvation through sufferings.” And basically what the passage is saying is that Christ was perfected through suffering, and our mind immediately goes, “Wait a minute. Isn’t Jesus already perfect?” And the reality of what it’s saying is that what was true of Christ was revealed in his suffering. When he suffered, it showed us exactly what was true of his character, and isn’t that true for us? That when we go through sufferings, it reveals that which is true of our character. And so, God is doing something through suffering, and he’s building something in us, an endurance that can run this race for a long time. If you had one just last charge, one last encouragement, one last word for our listening audience about the relationship between suffering and endurance, what would you want them to take away from our time together?
Grant (12:59): I think, remembering that God is bigger than your pain. We talked about in the first episode that just God’s definition of “good” and God’s plan is far grander than our definition of “good” and our plan that we have. And so, holding on to that gives us hope whenever we don’t understand what’s happening, but to trust that God is in control, He is good. And so, like a present underneath the Christmas tree, we don’t know what’s under that wrapping paper, but because we have a good gift giver, we trust that that’s a good gift. And so, we move forward in faith and walk, considering it all joy when we find ourselves in a difficult time.
Chad (13:33): Yeah, and it produces hope, right? And I think that’s the one thing we want you guys to walk away with is: hope in the New Testament, hope in the Greek language is not some, like, arbitrary “I hope I get, you know, to eat a certain meal,” or whatever. Hope is a fixed reality that has not yet been realized. And Grant, I’m just so thankful for you and Sarah for the ministry you do here in Branson, but really for your example. Because as we watch other people suffer, we learn from it too, and I get firsthand experience to watch how you guys did it and how it drew you closer to the throne of God, and not in a place where you questioned God. So, I hope as you guys have been listening to this that you walk away with hope. That you are reminded that the hope of the gospel is not some arbitrary idea but it’s a fixed reality, and we’re just waiting for the completion, the return of Christ, for that completion to happen. So, we have been talking about Suffering and Endurance. We looked at James chapter 1 verses 2 through 4. We looked at Hebrews chapter 2 verse 10. Feel free to go back and look at those passages because I think you’ll be encouraged if you do, and I would encourage you to dig in for yourself, not just listen to what we have to say. But we really appreciate you joining us on the Kanakuk Institute Podcast. Special thanks to Grant for being here in studio with us, and we can’t wait to connect with you next time here on the Kanakuk Institute Podcast.