By [2Corinthians 1:9] I was made to see that if ever I would suffer rightly, I must first pass a sentence of death upon every thing that can be properly called a thing of this life, even to reckon [them] as dead to me, and myself as dead to them. The second was, to live upon God that is invisible, as Paul said in another place; the way not to faint, is to "look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal." -- John Bunyan
So when I hear Him say that to suffer aright you must learn to live upon God as invisible, I want to know what that means and I want to experience that so that when my season of suffering is intensified to the point of losing all and dying, I will not lose my joy. Like Habakkuk 3 says “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places. (Habakkuk 3:17-19)” You gotta live in God for that to be true. – John Piper.
Most people know that John Bunyan is the author of “The Pilgrim’s Progress”. What most do not know is that in a span of 3 years he lost his sister, his mother, saw his father re-marry, was drafted into military service and then saw (or at least heard about) a man who switched sentinel duty with him shot through the head. After that, he married, had 4 children (the first of which was blind) and then, after 10 years of marriage, lost his wife. Within a year, he remarried and a year later he was put into prison for 12 years for his religious non-conformity while his second wife, Elisabeth, was pregnant with their first child…his fifth. The stress of being left with 4 children to care for alone, with no means of income, caused her to go into labor early and she miscarried. But his bride was an undaunted by suffering and loss as her husband. She, a poor, young girl, stood before a panel of judges and plead her husband’s case…never wavering in her conviction that he was imprisoned wrongly and should be allowed to continue to preach the Word of God.
What made them both so steadfast despite hardship, loss and pain? Bunyan tells us in the quote above: death to the world and self for the sake of living upon God who is invisible.
That is quite a provoking and reality shaking word. We are to live upon God that is invisible. We are to temper our emotions, make our choices, and rule our actions by what is invisible…NOT on what we see or think or learn or feel. If we are to persevere, and do so with joy, we must live not by what is visible and often more readily apparent but what we know: namely that God, who is invisible, is who He says He is and will do what He promises.
Oh Lord, this is a tall order. Looking around the world today and even the small little corner of the world that makes up my life here, there are so many things that want to dictate my thoughts and actions and provoke me to live upon and respond to what they present as true. But you have called us to live upon you, who is invisible…but not entirely to those with eyes of faith. Winds will blow, rains will fall, fortunes will rise and fall, hopes will be fulfilled, deferred and dashed to pieces, circumstances will change like the tides but you promise that you change not and will never leave us nor forsake us. Help us, Father, to make this reality the only one we know. Make us into men and women the likes of John and Elisabeth Bunyan, who will look into the face of suffering and loss and trial and deprivation and see their God just the same was when they lived in ease and health and abundance…and then more so. Amen.