Warren began searching the Scriptures 18 months ago for every mention of darkness when she felt overwhelmed by two bouts with cancer, five surgeries, the deaths of close family members and serious health challenges of three other relatives. The wife of Rick Warren, the pastor of Saddleback Church in Southern California, Warren said she was comforted by God's promise in Isaiah 45:3 of treasures that were "hidden in secret places, so that you may know I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name."
Instead of trying to run from God or battle the darkness, Warren said she learned to surrender to God and look for the treasures worth embracing in times of suffering.
"This is earth, not heaven. Brokenness is the norm on planet earth, not wholeness. And brokenness and darkness come into all our lives," Warren told the ministers' wives. For those who have yet to experience suffering, she urged them to prepare for the darkness by planting deep roots.
"God knows our purpose and He will make sure in our dark times that we have what we need so that we can fulfill our purpose in exactly the same way that He did that for Cyrus," Warren said, referring to the account in Isaiah of God using a Gentile king to deliver Israel.
After receiving her first diagnosis of cancer, Warren appealed to God to produce gold from the fiery trial of suffering, referring to the promise of Job 23:10. She said that prayer was answered in many ways, including a greater empathy for other people who suffer and a desire to live with a greater sense of urgency so that no day is wasted.
"We all want the benefit of a life of faith without ever having to demonstrate faith," Warren said. "I had to have faith in those moments of suffering with cancer to believe that God would do what He said."
Warren reminded the ministers' wives they can call on the God of the universe who knows them by name. "In those places where you feel like you are backed up against the corner and feel like God might as well nail the coffin shut," she prayed that the attendees would "believe this verse was not just written for the prophecy of a king named Cyrus thousands of years ago, but this verse has your name on it."
"God longs to show you the treasures hidden in the darkness as you embrace it and you seek what is only found in the dark times," Warren said.
Heather Moore of Christ Fellowship in Tampa, Fla., shared her testimony of God's provision after she and her husband moved to the inner city where he rebirthed a dying church. "God alone is my provider and as we reorder our budget He is taking care of our needs and, as we reorder our lifestyle, I'm learning God can be trusted."
In the midst of that challenge, more than 160 people have professed faith in Christ in the past six months, Moore said. "I have decided I will move down in ministry every day of my life as long as I get to be a part of seeing God change people's lives."
Recalling the story Jesus told of the widow's sacrifice from Mark 12, Moore said, "Jesus redefines faith not by how much we give, but by how much we have left over after we have given." Instead of being a story about money, she said, "It's about so much more. It was her faith and trust in God that allowed her to give everything she had."
By taking bigger steps of faith, Moore said, "It has renewed our own walk and we're on an adventure with God like I've never been on before."
Moore and Warren joined Lynette Ezell of Alpharetta, Ga., and Meredith Floyd of Cross Church in Fayetteville, Ark., fielding questions from ministers' wives during a panel led by Susie Hawkins of Dallas. Barbara O'Chester of Wake Forest, N.C., closed the session with a time of guided prayer for the wives.
Tammi Reed Ledbetter is news editor of the Southern Baptist TEXAN (www.texanonline.com), newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.
Copyright (c) 2011 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net