You need to learn to separate yourself from unnecessary and restless thoughts which grow out of self-love. When your own thoughts are set aside you will be completely in the middle of the straight and narrow path. You will experience the freedom and peace that is meant for you as a child of God.
I try to follow the same advice that I give others. I know that I must seek peace in the same way. Often, when you suffer, it is the life of your self-nature that causes you pain. When you are dead you do not suffer. If you were completely dead to your old nature you would no longer feel many of the pains that now bother you.
Endure the aches and pains of your body with patience. Do the same thing with your spiritual afflictions (that is, trouble sent to you that you cannot control). Do not add to the cross in your life by becoming so busy that you have no time to sit quietly before God. Do not resist what God brings into your life. Be willing to suffer if that is what is needed. Overactivity and stubbornness will only increase your aguish.
God prepares a cross for you that you must embrace without thought of self-preservation. The cross is painful. Accept the cross and you will find peace in the middle of turmoil. Let me warn you that if you push the cross away, your circumstances will become twice as hard to bear. In the long run, the pain of resisting the cross is harder to live with than cross itself.
See God's hand in the circumstances of you life. Do you want to experience true happiness? Submit yourself peacefully and simply to the will of God, and bear your sufferings without struggle. Nothing so shortens and soothes your pain as the spirit of non-resistance to your Lord.
As wonderful as this sounds, it still may not stop you from bargaining with God The hardest thing about suffering is not knowing how great it will be or how long it will last. You will be tempted to want to impose some limits to your suffering. No doubt you will want to control the intensity of your pain.
Do you see the stubborn and hidden hold you have over your life This control makes the cross necessary in the first place. Do not reject the full work that the power of the cross could accomplish in you. Unfortunately, you will be forced to go over the same ground again and again. Worse yet, you will suffer much, but your suffering will be for no purpose.
May the Lord deliver you from falling into an inner state in which the cross is not at work in you! God loves a cheerful giver (II Corinthians 9:7). Imagine how much He must love those who abandon themselves to His will cheerfully and completely–even if it results in their crucifixion.
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SURRENDER TO HIS PLANS
I am truly sorry about all your troubles, but I know that God is working on your behalf. Remember that God loves you and therefore He does not spare you! He lays on you the cross of Jesus Christ. Whatever revelations you receive or whatever emotional experiences you have are worthless unless they lead you to the very real and constant practice of dying to your self-nature. Unfortunately, you cannot die without suffering, nor can you be said to be fully dead while part of you still lives.
The death that God brings you will pierce deep within. Soul and spirit will be divided. He sees in you all that you cannot see. He knows exactly where the fatal blows should fall. He heads straight for that which you are most reluctant to give up. Pain is only felt where there is life. And in this situation life is precisely the place where death is needed.
Your Father wastes no time by cutting into that which is already dead. If He wanted to let you remain as you are, He would certainly do so. He seeks to destroy your old nature. He can only accomplish this by cutting into that which is alive. Do not expect Him to attack only those obviously wicked desires which you renounced when you gave yourself to Him. Rather, He may test you by taking away the wonderful sense of freedom you feel, or by taking from you all that now brings you spiritual comfort.
Will you resist? No! allow everything! Volunteer for you own death, for God will only accomplish His work to the extent that you let Him. Do not push away the progress that God wants to make in you life.
Cheerfully give up everything you now rely on to God's good pleasure. Give up spiritual things, too, whenever He wants to take them from you. What do your fear, you of little faith? Are you afraid that He may not be able to give you His strength when He takes away yours? Why does He take it away? Only so that He might be your supply. The lesson may be painful, but He wishes to purify you. I see that every natural means of help is shut off. God intends to accomplish His work in you by cutting off every human resource. He is a jealous God. He wants you to see that what He is going to do within you can only be done by Himself alone.
Surrender to His plans. Allow yourself to be led where He wants to take you. Be careful when you seek help from people when God is not wanting you to. Remember that they can only give you what He gives to them to give you. Why should it bother you that you can no longer drink from the faucet? You are now being led to drink from the ever-flowing spring!
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THE BENEFIT OF TRIALS
You have some difficult trials to bear but you need them since God has allowed these events to happen. He knows how to select them. You could not have picked for yourself what God brings into your life through the cross. The cross that you would pick out would build your sell-will instead of breaking it down.
There are times when everything in life seems to be a trial. Sometimes there is only suffering. Still, the heaviest cross must be carried in peace. Sometimes the cross can neither be carried or dragged. Then you can only fall down beneath it, overwhelmed and exhausted. I pray that God may spare you from suffering as much as possible.
Remember that God is not unaware of your suffering. He allows your suffering. See that He alone knows what is best for you. Live by faith as you embrace your trials. Confidently trust in God, even when you do not see what He is doing. Trust that God, with great compassion, gives you trials in proportion to the help that He wants to bring to you. There is no doubt that the life of faith is the most penetrating of all deaths.
You complain about your inward darkness and poverty of spirit. Jesus says, "Blessed are the poor in spirit." It is good for you to see your weakness, but don't excuse it. Remain simple and low before God and He will bring you peace, gentleness, longsuffering, and contentment even in your trouble.
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THE CROSS – A BOND OF LOVE
I am sorry to hear of your troubles, but I am sure you realize that you must carry the cross with Christ in this life. Soon enough there will come a time when you will no longer suffer. You will reign with God and He will wipe away your tears with His own hand. In His presence, pain and sighing will forever flee away.
So while you have the opportunity to experience difficult trials, do not lose the slightest opportunity to embrace the cross. Learn to suffer in humility and peace. Your deep self-love makes the cross too heavy to bear. Learn to suffer with simplicity and a heart full of love. If you do you will not only be happy in spite of the cross but because of it. Love is pleased to suffer for the Well-Beloved. The cross which conforms you into His image is a consoling bond of love between you and Him.
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TRUST YOUR SELF-LOVE TO GOD
I have no doubt that God treats you as one of His friends by giving you the cross. God's way accomplishes His purpose quicker than anything you could think of. God is able to seek out and destroy the roots of self-love. You on your own, could never find those hidden roots. God can see the entire path of self-love within your heart. Let Him attack self-love at its strongest point.
Pray for strength and faith enough to trust yourself completely to God. Follow Him simply wherever He may lead you and you will not have to think of big plans to bring about your perfection. Your new life will begin to grow naturally.
I know you want to see the road ahead rather than trusting God. If you continue this way the road will get longer and your spiritual progress will slow down. Give yourself as completely as you can to God. Do so until your final breath, and He will never desert you.
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THE PATH OF CHRIST
God will eventually test you in all areas of your life, but He will not let your trials become greater than you can bear. Let God use trials to help you grow. Do not try to measure your progress, your strength, or what God is doing. His work is not less efficient because what He is doing is invisible. Much of God's work is done in secret because you would not die to yourself if He always visibly stretched out His hand to save you. God does not transform you on a bed of light, life, and grace. His transformation is done on the cross in darkness, poverty, and death.
What valid questions do you have about the truth of Christianity? You really fear having to submit to someone beside yourself. You also fear having to walk the difficult road toward becoming conformed to the image of Christ. You see clearly the sacrifices you will have to make to follow Christ completely and you are shrinking back.
Christ did not say, "If anyone will come after me, let him enjoy himself, let him be gorgeously dressed, let him be drunk with delight." He never even said, "Be glad that you are perfect and that you can see how well you are doing." No, Jesus said, "If anyone will come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me." His path winds up the side of a steep mountain where death will be present on every hand" (Matthew 16:24).
You do not yet see the lovely side of following Christ. You see what He takes away, but you do not see what He gives. You exaggerate the sacrifices and ignore the blessings.
Paul tells you that you desire to be clothed, but it is necessary that you be stripped before you can put on Christ. Allow Him to strip your self-love of every covering so that you might receive the white robe washed in the blood of the Lamb. You need only His purity.
Listen to what I have to say. It is not easy to hear, but it will feed your spirit. Do not listen to the voice that suggests that you live for yourself. The voice of self-love is even more powerful than the voice of the serpent. If the world never asked for anything more than what you could give out of love, wouldn't it be a better master?
Christ leaves no emptiness within you. You will be led to do things which you will find enjoyable, and you will like them better than doing all the things which have led you astray. How happy you will be when you do not posses anything of your own but give yourself completely to your Lord. Bride of Jesus, how beautiful you are when you no longer have anything of your own, but seek only His beauty. You will then be the delight of your Bridegroom, and He will be all your beauty! He will love you without measure. He will put His own life in you.
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Many think that "dying to themselves" is what causes them so much pain. But it is actually part of them that still lives that causes the problem. Death is only painful to you when you resist it. Your imagination exaggerates how bad death will be. Self-love fights with all of its strength to live. Die inwardly as well as outwardly. Let all that is not born of God within you die.
Bear your cross. Do you know what this means? Learn to see yourself as your are, and accept your weakness until it pleases God to heal you. Your goal is to be as patient with yourself as you are with your neighbor. If you die a little bit every day of your life, you won't have too much to worry about on your final day. Self-love brings great anxiety. No wonder you worry about the future so much. Be patient with yourself and allow your fellow Christians to help you. How completely will these daily deaths destroy the power of your final dying. Then your bodily death will be but a falling asleep. Happy are you who sleep this sleep of peace!
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God doesn't want to discourage you or spoil you. Embrace the difficult circumstances you find yourself in–even when you feel they will overwhelm you. Allow God to mold you through the events He allows to enter you life. This will make you flexible toward the will of God. The events of life are like a furnace for the heart. All your impurities are melted and your old ways are lost. Learn to live with yourself as you really are without being so upset. If you do this, you will soon have peace.
Patiently endure the ups and downs of everyday life. Behind every annoying circumstance, learn to see God governing all things. See that He trains you through troubling situations as well as through pleasant ones. The intrusions that God sends you will no doubt upset your plans and oppose all that you want. But they will also chase you toward God. Sit still before Him and yield your will to Him. Your unbending will shall begin to learn flexibility.
Everything that comes from God's hand produces good fruit. Sometimes the annoyances that make you long for solitude are better for producing humility than the most complete solitude could be. Use the circumstances of each moment to the fullest. Sometimes an exciting book, or an inspiring devotional time, or a deep conversation about spiritual matters will make you feel extremely satisfied with yourself. You will believe that you are farther along than you really are. Talking about the cross is not at all the same as experiencing it. So remember this: Do not seek annoying circumstances, but when they come, bear them in peace. It is easy to delude yourself! Do not seek God as if He were far off in an ivory castle. He is found in the middle of the events of your everyday life. Look past the obstacles and find Him.
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THE WAYS OF GOD
When God starts to deal with your old nature He heads straight for the center of all that you hold most dear. Allow Him to bring you to the cross in the very center of who you are. Don't grumble and become agitated when the process starts: Silence and peace will help you much more than being upset. You will be tempted to speak out in a humble tone of voice to tell others of your problems. Watch out for this! A humility that is still talkative does not run very deep. When you talk too much your self-love relieves its sense of shame a little.
Don't be angry about what people say. Just follow God and let them talk. As far as people are concerned, you will never be able to satisfy them. Silence, peace, and union with God should comfort you from all that people speaking against you. You need to be determined to do right in your present situation–but at the same time your quick temper requires checks and balances. Come to God often just to sit in His presence and renew yourself. Nothing is as important as lowliness of heart and detachment from your own opinion and will. Stiffness and harshness is not the spirit of Jesus Christ.
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TAKE UP YOUR CROSS
To bear the cross simply, without letting your self-love add all sorts of dilemmas to it, will make your life easier. When you accept the cross and simply allow it to do the work God intended, you will be happy because you will see what good fruit is produced in you.
When you love God, it will not matter to you what you must suffer on His behalf. The cross will make you over in the image of your Beloved. Here is real consolation–a true bond of love.
You are bearing the burden of some old ones who can no longer bear their own. Reason weakens at so old an age. Goodness, unless deeply rooted, lessens. All the strength seems to go to the temper! Accept and welcome this burden as the cross.
It is a blessing that you have some free hours to rest in peace in the bosom of the Lord. This is where you will refresh yourself and gain strength to go on. Take care of your health and try to take some time to rest and enjoy yourself. As others grow older you should expect less and less of them. Don't expect too much of yourself, either.
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TEMPER YOUR STANDARDS
Suffering is necessary for all of us. You will be purified by dying to your own desires and will. Let yourself die! You have excellent opportunities for this to happen–don't waste them!
I agree that the daily standards that you live by should not be relaxed in any way. Yet you must deal gently with the faults of others. Learn to be lenient with the less important matters, but maintain your firmness over that which is essential.
Remember that true firmness is gentle, humble, and cam. A sharp tongue, a proud heart, and an iron hand have no place in God's work. Wisdom "sweetly orders all things." Do you act this way? If you ever find yourself acting otherwise, humble yourself immediately. Uphold a godly standard, but admit when you uphold it in an ungodly way.
No book or prayer will help you die to yourself as much as facing the humiliation of your daily failures. Of course you must still retire inwardly and be faithful to bring yourself before God. I also warn you not to let your business distract you from your spiritual life. If you allow yourself to be constantly distracted, your heart will grow hard. Retire to pray when you can and live the rest of your day in love.
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UPS AND DOWNS
Let the ups and downs of your spiritual life come and go. If you were always down, you would become hardened and discouraged. God gives you season when you can catch your breath.
Let me tell you about myself. When I suffer, I can never see an end to my trials And when relief comes, I am so suspicious that the suffering is not really over that I hesitate to accept my rest. It seems to me that to accept both "good" and "bad" seasons alike is to be truly fruitful. Accept both comfort and correction from the hand of God.
Of course, this is all very easy for me to say to you, but I want you to know that I cringe at the very thought of the cross coming to work in me. I am not telling you that experiencing the cross will be easy. Outwardly it will be difficult but inwardly it can be worse–a time of agony and dryness. If I sound a bit pessimistic, it is because I am writing to your in the midst of a spiritual dry spell. I don't know what tomorrow brings. God will do what seems good to Him. Sometimes what He wants is hard to accept. Listen to God–there is true freedom, peace, and joy in Him.
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I am sorry that one near to you is an invalid. Encourage her not to distrust God. He wil give her patience to bear with her suffering. Only God knows what her limit is. Neither you nor she know the limits of her strength, or how long this trial will continue Understandably, this can lead to discouragement.
"God is faithful and will not allow you to be tempted above what you are able to bear." He pledges His faithfulness and how wonderful is this faithfulness!
Remind your friend of this and tell her to leave everything in God's hands without looking at tomorrow. Often that which you imagine to be so terrible and unbearable is not so bad when it actually happens Your imagination makes things harder on you than God every could. You want to know the future and you also exaggerate your suffering. Sometimes you become overwhelmed by events that have not yet happened. All moments are in God's hands. Walk humbly with God.
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THE BONDAGE OF SELF
Chains of gold can become like chains of iron. And while people envy you while you wear fine jewelry, you can become the prisoner of such finery. Your bondage is not better than the person who is unjustly kept in prison. The only comfort you have is that God, in His wisdom, has allowed this, and this is the same comfort that an innocent prisoner has.
The comfort that comes from knowing you are in God's hands is inexhaustible. When you are in God's care nothing else matters. How blessed you are when you are cut off from your own will so that you might follow God's will. But it is no easy journey! Let me tell you what it is like: You ca no longer live for yourself. Day and night you do only what God wants. But so much the better! He keeps you bound hand and foot and never leaves you a moment to yourself! Shall I go on? He leads you to sacrifice more and more, and you go from one troublesome situation to another! He trains you to fulfill His noble plans amidst the petty annoyances and aggravations of life. And He doesn't allow you much more than a moment's rest! Hardly will one annoying person have gone before God sends another to you.
You think that it is spiritually important to have free time to be alone with God; but I tell you, you will really get closer to Him by embracing the cross in your life, and not always seeking to experience tender moments in the presence of God. When the torrential floods of daily business sweep you away, just let yourself be carried off with no regret. Don't you know you will find God in this torrent too?
Jesus said to Peter, "Before, you walked where you wanted to, but when you are older, another stronger than you will guide you and lead you to where you do not want to go." Like Peter, let yourself be led in this way. To dream of freedom is a lovely idea, but perhaps you will never reach it. You need to realize that you might die in your present condition. The Israelites in Babylon longed for Jerusalem, but there were many who never saw Jerusalem and died in Babylon. What if those people had waited until they got to Jerusalem to serve God? Be like those Israelites who served God even in captivity.
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THE HIDDEN CROSS
God has all sorts of circumstances to bring you to the cross, and they all accomplish His purpose. He may even join physical weakness to your emotional and spiritual suffering. Of course the world may not see you dealing with the cross–they think you are just touchy or prone to fits of nervous exhaustion. So while you are bent double under the hidden work of the cross, onlookers often envy your apparent good fortune.
What do you say to God when you are under the work of the cross? You nee not say a lot to Him, or even think of Him much. He sees your suffering, and your willingness to submit. With people you love you do not need to continually say, "I love you with all my heart." Even if you do not think about how much you love Him you still love God every bit as much. True love is deep down in the Spirit–simple, peaceful, and silent.
How do you bear suffering? Silently before God. Do not disturb yourself by trying to manufacture an artificial sense of God's presence. Slowly you will learn that all the troubles in your life–your job, your health, your inward failings–are really cures to the poison of your old nature. Learn to bear these sufferings in patience and meekness.
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THE NATURE OF SELF-DENIAL
Self-denial has its place in a Christian's life, but God doesn't ask you to choose what is most painful to you. If you followed this path you would soon ruin your health, reputation, business, and friendship.
Self-denial consists of bearing patiently all those things that God allows to pass into your life. If you don't refuse anything that comes in God's order, you are tasting of the cross of Jesus Christ.
God gives you grace to bear the cross in you life just like He provides for your daily bread. He will never fail you! It is a good exercise for overenthusiastic people to give up their own ways of practicing self-denial, and to allow God to bring whatever He will into their lives.
If you are not willing to accept the self-denials appointed by God, then don't trust the self-denials that you come up with. Examine what you are doing. Trust God to bring you what you need.
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THE VALUE OF THE CROSS
Do you wonder why God has to make it so hard on you? Why doesn't He make you good without making you miserable in the meantime? Of course He could, but He does not choose to do so. He wants you to grow a little at a time and not burst into instant maturity. This is what He has decided and you can only adore His wisdom–even when you don't understand it.
I am awed by what suffering can produce. You and Ire nothing without the cross. I agonize and cry when the cross is working within me, but when it is over I look back in admiration for what God has accomplished. Of course I am then ashamed that I bore it so poorly. I have learned so much from my foolish reactions.
You yourself must endure the painful process of change. There is much more at work here than by our instant maturity. God wants to build a relationship with you that is based on faith and trust and not on glamorous miracles.
God uses the disappointments, disillusionments, and failures of your life to take your trust away from yourself and help you put your trust in Him. It is like being burned in a slow fire, but you would rather be burned up in a blaze of glory, wouldn't you? How would this fast burn detach you from yourself? Thus God prepares events to detach you from yourself and from others.
God is your Father, do you think He would ever hurt you? He just cuts you off from those things you love in the wrong way. You cry like a baby when God removes something or someone from you life, but you would cry a lot more if you saw the eternal harm your wrong attachments cause you.
You do not see with the eyes of eternity. God knows everything. Nothing happens without His consent. You are upset by small losses, but do not see eternal gains! Don't dwell on your suffering. Your oversensitivity makes your trials worse Abandon yourself to God.
Everything in you that is not already a part of the established kingdom of God needs the cross. When you accept the cross in love, His kingdom begins to come to life within you. You must bear the cross and be satisfied with what pleases God. You have need of the cross. The faithful Giver of every good gift gives the cross to you with His own hand. I pray you will come to see how blessed it is to be connected for your own good.
My God, help us to see Jesus as our model in all suffering. You mailed Him to the cross for us. You made Him a man of sorrows to teach us how useful sorrow is. Give us a heart to turn our backs on ourselves and trust only in You.
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A VIOLENT KINGDOM
Whom do you think Paul was talking to when he said, "We are fools for the sake of Jesus Christ and you are wise in Jesus Christ." To you! Not to the people who do not know God! e is talking to all who think they can work out their own salvation without accepting the folly of the cross of Jesus. No one wants to be humiliated and put down. It is not something to be excited about, but it is the way of God.
You cannot give place to the world, to your passions or your laziness. Words are not enough to claim the kingdom of God! It takes strength and courage and violence. You must violently resist the tides of the world. Violently give up all that holds you back from God. Violently turn your will over to God to do His will alone.
This violence is what I pray you will come to know, for how else will you know anything of the life of the Lord Jesus?
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The most important thing is humility. Humility gives you a teachable spirit that makes everything easier. Consider the life of Jesus. He was born in a stable. He had to flee to Egypt. He worked thirty years in the shop as a craftsman. He suffered hunger, thirst, and fatigue. He was poor and He was ridiculed. He taught the doctrine of heaven and no one listened to Him. He was treated like a slave, betrayed, and died between two thieves.
Jesus' life was full of humiliation, but we are horrified by the slightest humiliation. How do you expect to know Jesus if you do not seek Him where He was found: in suffering and the cross? You must imitate Him. But don't think you can follow Him in your own strength–you are going to have to find all your strength in Him. Remember that Jesus wants to feel all your weaknesses.
Seek to follow Jesus along the road of humility that He has taken. The greatest profit which can gather from an experience of your weakness is to let your frailties help you become more humble and obedient.
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THE SACRIFICE OF LOVE
If you follow God only to feel His presence and comfort, then you follow Him for the wrong reasons. Your mind is anxious to know, your heart wants to feel sweet feelings, but you are not willing to follow Christ to the cross. Is this dying to self?
There is refined spiritual ambition in unduly pursuing spiritual gifts. Paul speaks of a better way. "Love does not seek her own." How will you go on to maturity if you are always seeking the consolation of feeling the presence of God with you? To seek pleasure and to ignore the cross will not get you very far. You will soon be trapped in the pursuit of spiritual pleasures.
If you have too tender a childhood in Jesus Christ, you will be in for a hard time when God starts to wean you away from the sensed comfort of God's presence. Don't live on the porch and think you are in the house! The beginnings of our faith may be accompanied by many wonderful feelings, but this does not mean you are mature. Hold to God alone and do not rely on anything you feel or taste or imagine. You will come to see how much safer this way is than chasing after visions and prophesies.
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THE PURPOSE OF SUFFERING
God never makes you suffer unnecessarily. He intends for your suffering to heal and purify you. The hand of God hurts you as little as it can.
Anxiety brings suffering. Sometimes you are simply unwilling to suffer, and you end up resisting God's work. If you put away all your restless longings and your anxiety, you will experience the peace and freedom that God gives to His children. The yoke that God gives is easy to bear if you accept it without struggling to escape You make life more painful for yourself when you resist God in the least way.
Usually you bargain with God to set a limit on you suffering. The same inward waywardness that makes the work of the cross necessary in your life, is what will try to push the cross away.
Sometimes God takes away His gifts until you can possess them purely. Otherwise, they will poison you. It is rare to hold God's gifts without possessiveness. You think everything is for you. You do not think first of the glory of God or you would not become depressed when your visible blessings vanish. The truth is, you are mostly concerned with yourself. Self-love is proud of its spiritual accomplishments. You must lose everything to find God for Himself alone. But you won't lose everything until it is ripped from you. You won't begin to let go of yourself until you have been thrown off a cliff! He takes away to give back in a better way.
Look at the example of friendships. At first God attracts you by pouring His presence out on you. You are eager to pray and to turn away from your selfish comforts and friendships. You give up everyone and everything, but get depressed when everything becomes a burden. Far from looking for friends, the friends they used to enjoy now irritate them. Here is agony and despair. Joy cannot be found.
Does this surprise you? God takes everything because you do not know how to love, so do not speak of friendship. The very idea brings tears to your eyes. Everything overcomes you. You do not know what you want. You are moody and cry like a child. You are a mass of swirling emotions which change from moment to moment. Do you find it hard to believe that a strong and high-minded person can be reduced to such a state? To speak of friendships is like speaking of dancing to a sick person.
Wait until the winter is past. Your true friends will come back to you. You will no longer love for yourself, but in and for God. Before, your were somehow always afraid of losing–no matter how you appeared. If you didn't seek wealth or honor, you sought common interests or confidence or understanding.
Take away these comforts and you are pained, hurt, and offended. Doesn't this show who you really love?
When it is God you love in someone, you stand by that person no matter what. If the friendship is broken in the order of God, you are at peace. You may feel a deep pain, for the friendship was a great gift, but it is a calm suffering, and free from the cutting grief of a possessive love. God's love sets you free.
Do not waste your suffering Let suffering accomplish what God wants it to in your life. Never get so hard that you suffer for no reason and for no purpose. Paul says, "God loves a cheerful giver." How much He must love those who cheerfully give themselves to His dealings.