Daniel Ritchie was born without arms and faced a unique kind of adversity daily. Yet after surrendering his life to Jesus, he learned that only in Christ could true worth and purpose be found—freeing him from comparisons and restrictions and releasing him to live a full life that had seemed impossible.
In his newest book Endure: Building Faith for the Long Run, Ritchie (author of My Affliction for His Glory) explores what following Jesus for the long haul looks like and how seemingly mundane choices can be the most important—for your good and God’s glory.
Hear from Daniel in the video below, then read the timely excerpt that follows from Endure about why God allows suffering—and how in it, we see his power, goodness, and sovereignty.
The second Sunday of January 2020 was an eerie foretaste of the year to come.
I had been asked by my good friend David McKinley to preach at his church, Warren Baptist Church, in Augusta, Georgia. He was taking some much-needed time off to spend with his family, and I was happy to fill in for him in his absence.
This was not anything out of the ordinary because I fill in for pastors during their time away from their churches quite often. But as soon as I walked into church that morning, my voice felt scratchy and weak, which is a bit of a problem for someone about to do nothing but talk for the next four hours. I grabbed a water and some cough drops out of my backpack and jumped into preaching the first service that morning. I managed to croak through without any issues.
The next service was the main service. The sanctuary was packed with congregants that morning. I took to the pulpit after the offertory and started my sermon. As I preach, I am not normally tied to my notes. I like to look around the sanctuary and make eye contact with people. I just happened to be scanning the balcony when I saw a pregnant woman throw up and collapse right in the middle of the sermon.
Immediately people were in a panic and someone shouted, “Is there a doctor?” It happened so fast I barely knew what to do. This was not my home church, so I had no idea what the protocol was for something like this, but within 30 seconds, the church’s safety team circled around her and was assessing the situation. At this point, there was no way I could keep going with the sermon. I stopped the sermon, and we spent the next few minutes in corporate prayer for this woman and her baby.
By the time we had wrapped up our prayer time, she had been placed in an ambulance and taken to a local hospital. By the end of the service we had heard that she was in good condition and recovering from dehydration.
Once the service had finished, I slipped back to the church lobby to meet people and sign copies of my biography, My Affliction for His Glory. I got to meet a lot of amazing people that day, but one person stood out among the rest. His name was Trey, and he was an eight-year-old boy born without arms or legs. It would be safe to say we had a lot in common, and we hit it off immediately.
I sat with Trey on the floor for a while as we talked about adaptations we both had to make in life, how we dealt with curious people, and how school was going. I laid my feet on Trey before we were finished and prayed for him and God’s plan for his life. As we got ready to leave, I spoke with the woman who had brought him to church that day. She made direct eye contact with me and said, “Don’t stop what you’re doing. God is using you in more ways than you can imagine.” With that, she picked up Trey and they left.
I was encouraged by her words and went back to meeting the last few people in the lobby. In the next 15 minutes, I had two more people who told me, “Don’t quit what you’re doing.”
At this point I realized God was trying to tell me something, but I had no idea what it could be. I loved what I was able to do as an evangelist and speaker. God was clearly opening doors for me, and we were watching tremendous amounts of spiritual fruit being produced from God’s work in this ministry he had given me. I had zero desire to quit what I was doing. Barely 60 days later, the state of North Carolina went into a stay-at-home order. Church doors shut and large gatherings were banned. My jam-packed ministry schedule was suddenly shot to pieces, and overnight our single-income family went to a zero-income family.
I sat at home from March to July, watching cancellation after cancellation pour into my inbox. We began to wonder how we were going to pay the mortgage or feed our family. Our situation was getting desperate. This was not what I had planned for 2020 at all. My wife Heather and I started to pray.
We prayed for the favor of God. We prayed for those who were sick with COVID-19. We prayed for wisdom as to whether God wanted me to continue in a ministry that I could not do given the gathering restrictions in many states. As we prayed for weeks on end, the words from the church lobby kept ringing in my ears: “Don’t stop what you’re doing.”
God allows suffering for his glory
It was clear to us that we were to continue in this season of ministry. Things were incredibly difficult, but God provided for us in that difficult time. God had a plan for the future and God also had a plan for my time at home away from my ministry. In our family’s suffering, we knew that God was at work.
Suffering has the power both to wreck lives and strengthen faith. In suffering, we hear the groaning of creation, but we also see the power of God made known in our weakness. The suffering of humanity and the sovereignty of God are not divorced from one another. In fact, . . . suffering can be how the plans of God are executed.
- God and Suffering: 4 Questions to Ask When There Aren’t Answers
- Balm for Tattered Hearts: Walking with God through Pain & Suffering
- Will Today’s Pain and Suffering Lead to Death or Birth?
- Why Pastoral Empathy Is Not Enough (and Why That’s Good)