The Gift of Suffering

One of my heroes of the faith is Elisabeth Elliot. I used to love listening to her radio program “Gateway to Joy” which aired in syndication until 2001. She shared so many jewels of wisdom that I started recording many of her stories, quotations, book recommendations, and poems in a notebook. In her June 30, 2000, broadcast she shared a poem that has brought me much comfort and encouragement in the years since then.

It was written by Martha Snell Nicholson – a woman acquainted with suffering. Nicholson suffered from four incurable diseases for over 35 years. She wrote many poems about pain and suffering, but in not one of them does she depict herself as a helpless victim of a cruel fate. Her agony was an opportunity for closer fellowship with her Savior – the One who, though perfect, learned obedience through suffering (Hebrews 5:8). As Elliot said on another of her broadcasts (and I recorded in my notebook), “Jesus Himself had to learn obedience by the things which He suffered, not by the things which He enjoyed. Shall we who claim to be His followers expect it to be presented to us in a more congenial form?” Shall we, indeed?

I hope Ms. Nicholson’s poem will comfort you as it has I.

The Thorn

I stood a mendicant [beggar] of God before His royal throne

And begged him for one priceless gift, which I could call my own.

I took the gift from out His hand, but as I would depart

I cried, “But Lord this is a thorn and it has pierced my heart.

This is a strange, a hurtful gift, which Thou hast given me.”

He said, “My child, I give good gifts and gave My best to thee.”

I took it home and though at first the cruel thorn hurt sore,

As long years passed I learned at last to love it more and more.

I learned He never gives a thorn without this added grace,

He takes the thorn to pin aside the veil which hides His face.

~Martha Snell Nicholson

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