MOULTRIE -- The daughter of the Rev. Billy and Ruth Bell Graham told a crowd of about 250 people Tuesday that God is with all of us even during our worst sufferings.
Ruth Graham was the keynote speaker as part of the Colquitt County Habitat for Humanity's second annual fundraiser Tuesday night at Willie B. Withers Auditorium. Graham said she was honored to be a part of the fundraiser because she believes in Habitat and its mission.
Graham said she was qualified to speak to about suffering not because she is Billy Graham's daughter or has a degree in speaking but because she is flawed like everyone else. She is a sinner saved by the grace of God and shared about her life to the crowd. Being Billy Graham's daughter is only part of who she is because she is a "pilgrim on a journey of life" like everyone else.
Everyone has gone, is going or will go through deep suffering in their lifetime, Graham said, because everyone lives in a "fallen world." Everyone needs God's grace and comfort in their everyday lives, she said, and faith from grace becomes most evident in the face of pain, suffering and despair. What a person does with their suffering reveals the differences in people.
In addition to faith, Graham said everyone needs at least one person to talk to that they can fully trust. That person is someone to be honest and real with and will not share your sufferings with anyone else.
The church's biggest secret is that "in every pew sits a broken heart," and Graham said people hide behind "masks" to disguise their suffering. It is with those masks that she is most concerned because wearing a mask heightens a person's sense of isolation. People also look for anything to keep the pain away and keep other people at bay because everyone hurts deeply inside when they are suffering.
Graham said everyone goes through three different kinds of suffering: When someone becomes honest with God, others and themselves; when someone endures something the have not asked for; and the consequences of their own choices and sin. No matter what kind of suffering someone one may go through, God speaks His comfort and grace to everyone.
Looking at the life of Jeremiah, "the weeping prophet," Graham said everyone can see how God works through a person's suffering. Reading through Jeremiah demonstrates that God is in control and that God has made provisions through sufferings.
God's mission for Jeremiah was to minister to the people of Judah, which Graham said was a "hopeless and thankless" mission for more than 20 years of Jeremiah's life. He preached a message from God that made both the people of Judah and its enemies angry at him, which led Jeremiah to a lonely and unhappy life, but he bowed his own will to God's will.
Graham said Jeremiah reacted to God honestly and aggressively, arguing with God about what He had called him to do. People today may not think it proper to argue with God, but there's nothing anyone can say to God that He has not heard already.
Jeremiah learned about God through his personal sufferings, and Graham said he saw that God was in control of his life and that a sovereign God would provide for him. God had not left Jeremiah to suffer on his own, she said, and He will not allow anyone else to suffer on their own.
Graham said she has had to deal with several moments of suffering in her own life. She has had to deal with a cheating husband and a bout with depression, and she has seen her three children face problems that she felt helpless to correct.
Graham's oldest daughter, Noelle, went through a struggle with an eating disorder, but Graham said she is on the recovering by running marathons and is married with a chid. Her son, Graham-Pierce, was addicted to drugs but has overcome the habit. Her youngest daughter, Windsor, got pregnant at 16 years old and put the baby up for adoption but had a second child less than 2 years later. She is a college honor graduate now, and her son is among the top students in his class.
Graham said that God has a purpose for everyone's life and He does not delight in someone's pain. God's timeline is eternal and unchanging, and through Jesus he understands what everyone endures in suffering and He will deliver everyone in His time and in His way.
"God wants to come alongside us to strengthen us and guide us," Graham said.
Everyone is equal in God's eyes, and Graham said He will take on everyone's suffering as His own. She concluded by asking everyone if they will take God's sovereignty, God's promises and God's vindication for their sufferings.
Prior to Graham's speech, Ruthie Garner from WALB-TV sang two songs for the crowd. She said she was so excited to come to Moultrie and could not wait to get to the fundraiser.
Graham and Garner were presented gift baskets by City Councilman George Walker on behalf of the City of Moultrie and Habitat for Humanity in appreciation of their appearance.
Wanda Purvis provided piano music prior to the beginning of the program.
Marilyn Hay, Habitat board chairperson, said Habitat plans to break ground on its seventh home in Moultrie at 10 a.m. Saturday. Volunteers are needed to help in the construction of the house, and Habitat's Home Store is in need of donations, Hay said.
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