Summer LINK Raleigh: Joy in the Midst of Suffering

Summer LINK Raleigh: Joy in the Midst of Suffering

When I first began to serve Open Door through Generation Link I never could have imagined how much of a blessing this year would be. Likewise, I didn’t know what the Lord was up to when I was given the assignment of leading Summer Link Raleigh. But, now that we are more than halfway through Summer Link I can see in many ways that God’s timing and plan have been perfect. I have been able to make some great friends and be part of a great network of people who are passionate about the glorious gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. I am so thankful that the Lord has placed me within the NACPF and Generation Link family. It’s truly an honor and gift of God’s grace to be a part of such great partnerships for the sake of the gospel and his greatness!

We have learned some great lessons in Raleigh this summer. Two of the major themes that have been present are humility and joy in the midst of suffering.

Humility: Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Phil. 2:4)

Pride makes demands. Pride says, “What about me?” Pride is self-focused and makes us turn inward on ourselves. Pride produces grumbling and complaining. If pride takes over we will never experience great relationships within the body of Christ because we can never get past ourselves to see how we can love and serve others. Humility teaches us to stop worrying about our own glory. It teaches us to pour out our lives for the sake of others. Humility yields everything for the sake of others. Without humility there can never be unity. This is why Paul calls the Philippians to unity by giving Christ as the ultimate example of humility (Phil. 2). Here in Raleigh we have learned that effective ministry will not happen without humbly yielding our expectations and desires for the sake of the gospel.

Joy in the Midst of Suffering: Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. (Phil. 4:4)

When Paul wrote this verse he was in prison chained to a wall in a hole in a ground. His crime was simply loving Jesus and proclaiming his gospel. In Raleigh this summer as we have studied the book of Philippians we have been continually amazed at Paul’s joy in the midst of such terrible circumstances. Paul was so in love with Jesus and so focused on the priority of the gospel that he was able to rejoice in the Lord while in prison. He trusted in a God that is sovereign, good, and wise.

As we studied these incredible words of Paul my family had no idea how God would use them in our lives. After enjoying a great time of fellowship in Myrtle Beach with new friends during Seminary week, I decided to leave Friday night instead of Saturday because my sweet wife was having light contractions. She was 37 weeks pregnant and I couldn’t miss my 4th baby’s entrance into the world. It was a good idea because we were headed to the hospital 5 hours after I got home.

After being in the hospital for more than 12 hours, we were getting close to meeting Isaac. As the doctor came in to check Emily, much to everyone’s surprise, Isaac was coming out backwards. As we were preparing to have a C-section, a nurse informed us there was not enough time. Isaac decided to come into the world bottom first. A rush of doctors and nurses flooded the room for an emergency delivery. I stood back against the wall as I watched two frantic doctors try to deliver Isaac. His head was stuck for 4 minutes. They finally were able to pull his lifeless, pale body out. There I stood, my wife in pain, my baby not breathing or moving. All I could do was cry, pray, and cry some more. But, suddenly the Lord reminded me of his sovereignty. I felt a calmness come over me from head to toe. It was as if he settled my spirit and reminded me that he is in control. I knew then that we would trust in a faithful God no matter what the outcome would be. Isaac never lost his heartbeat and they were able to help him breathe pretty quickly. In the following days, Isaac lay there unable to breathe entirely on his own, bruised and swollen, with wires and hoses connected all over his little body. All we could do was trust God with our child’s life. We knew we would have to respond in faith even if we lost our child. So with open hands we begged God to heal our baby. And by his grace that’s what he did. Isaac spent 11 days in the NICU. We watched him battle with a persistent strength as he gradually got better and better. Now he’s at home breathing and eating like a normal healthy baby! He should have no lasting problems due to his traumatic delivery. We are overwhelmed with the graciousness of our Lord!

So we rejoice in a great God! We have learned that no matter what the circumstance whether prison, conflict, opposition or traumatic experiences if we trust God and pray to him the peace of God which surpasses understanding will guard our hearts and our minds (Phil 4: 6, 7).

As we approach the closing weeks of Summer Link Raleigh, we are thankful for the Lord’s work in our lives. It has been great to watch our team’s excitement about the Lord grow and grow throughout this summer. We are eager to see what the Lord will do throughout the remaining weeks. We expect great things!

Me holding Isaac for the first time

A current picture of Isaac

By Paul Whitfield, Summer LINK Raleigh Director