No life depicts the power of this verse to me more graphically than that of Helen Rosevere. Many of you know her story. Like so many people who grew up knowing about God, at university Helen came to see him as irrelevant and dropped him out of her story. But the one thing she couldn’t escape was the difference she saw in some of the girls she met on campus. “They were so consistently kind, loving, helpful and thoughtful”, she said.
One Christmas they asked her to join them at a Christian conference and not wanting to be alone, she agreed. For the first time she heard sound bible teaching and she quite literally fell in love with Jesus. The next day the leader of the conference gave her a bible inscribed with Philippians 3:10. He told her that she had begun the journey to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and maybe some day she might be privileged to share in the fellowship of his sufferings. She said, “I’d been a Christian for 24 hours and he was suggesting suffering for Christ!”
And of course that’s just what she did as a missionary doctor to what was then the Belgian Congo, Ziare. From 1953 she helped make mud bricks to build a hospital, delivered babies, helped lepers, founded a training school for nurses, trained women to serve as nurse-evangelists and ran the hospital with minimal supplies as the only doctor in the area.
Then in the early 1960s, the Congo gained independence, but without any preparation or training of the national people to run the country. Chaos broke out. Most Europeans fled the country and four years of anarchy followed.
At one point as they marched her down the hall and she knew what lay ahead of her, she asked God where he was, why he had abandoned her. She was unprepared for his reply, “Are you willing to thank me for trusting you with this experience, even if I never tell you why?” She said she was unable to say anything else but “Yes” and in that moment she knew overwhelming peace and the inexplicable presence of God. “It didn’t stop the pain, the humiliation or the cruelty, that was very real, but it was all for Jesus.”
It would be many years in the future before she was given a glimpse into the way her story of suffering had the power to bring help and healing to many thousands of women around the world.
Suffering is beyond our understanding except by faith.
My deepest gratitude will always lie at the foot of the cross. But can we linger too long at the Cross I wonder? If Helen’s life tells me anything it tells me that she came to know him and the power of his resurrection as she lived out her faith in the mainstream of life, making bricks, learning language, healing wounds, enduring conflict and navigating cultures.
Her autobiography makes no secret of her struggles with pride, anger, jealousy and despondency; yes she was human. But life was the refining fire that enabled an intimacy with God that many people long for, an intimacy that allowed her to trust her Lord through suffering few of us could imagine enduring.
When I saw her interviewed at 85, her faith was tangible. I saw it in her eyes, heard it in her voice and felt the vibrancy of her love for her Lord radiate in a way that moved me to tears — tears that flowed from a longing to know that level of faith and love.
I can't imagine I could have survived what she suffered, but that’s the power of the resurrection, the indwelling God, with us in the midst of suffering. Helen's life is a living testimony to that truth.
So often I try to side-step suffering and eliminate pain but its a package deal, I will come to know him and the power of the resurrection when I can "thank him for trusting me with the suffering, even if he never tells me why".