Philippians 1:12-13 (New International Version)
12Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.
Philippians 4:22 (New International Version)
22All the saints send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar's household.
I sat in the Saturday morning sunshine, reading the four chapters that comprise the book of Philippians, a letter written by the apostle Paul, from Rome, where he was a prisoner, in chains. Far from a depressing letter, however, the word "joy," and "rejoice," pop up over and over again.
What I noticed though, was something else--the beginning and the end of the letter. There is a story there. Paul was in God's perfect will being in chains.
At the start of the letter he mentions that it was evident to the whole palace guard that he was in chains for Christ. In other words, he was in chains for no other crime than sharing his experience of faith; a radical story.
He was in the very heart of the mighty Roman empire, and his imprisonment served only as an opportunity for people who would not otherwise have known, to hear the gospel; the good news that we are celebrating all over the world today--Christ is risen!
The letter ends with greetings from Christians in the very household of Caesar himself!
That morning I got the news that a dearly loved friend, Hope Fitzgibbon, had died, after a valiant 6 month battle with cancer. No one could have fought more bravely, or been supported more lovingly by family. She was covered constantly in faithful prayer. She had a significant ministry in the two Christian bookstores she and her husband owned in Barrie and Newmarket.
In human terms her death is impossible to make sense of, but I do believe that God touched people's lives through Hope's illness and through the gracious, faithful dignity with which she and her husband Bob and daughter Joy walked through this valley. They rubbed shoulders with people in Princess Margaret, Mount Sinai and South Lake Regional Centre, who had perhaps never considered that God might exist, and they showed them the grace and beauty of Jesus in every word and action. They consoled and helped others that were suffering grief and loss. I have to believe that as Paul wrote, so it is true of Hope's tragic illness, "What has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel." One day we will know just how.
Susan's sister Brenda, who is struggling courageously with a severe depression, wrote on her blog, His Eye about an address made by Joni Eareckson Tada to Dallas Theological Seminary on the theology of suffering. Brenda found comfort in something Joni said to them, that God permits what He hates in order to accomplish what He loves...Perhaps there is an inkling of an answer there. Isn't that what Easter is all about?
My heartfelt love and prayers are with Bob and Joy, as well as Hope's extended family and close friends; also the staff of both of The Treasure House stores.