The Blessing of Suffering!
Oh how I wish I could just put my Top 10 Books I LOVE post up. However, I have simply been inundated with this topic today. It leaves me trembling a little bit. I’m uncertain of what is coming. Are their dark clouds overhead? I pray I can see them as blessings. I pray I can see God’s work in my life through tragedy. Suffering…it comes to all of us in little or great packages. The older I get the more I see it never really ceases. It rubs me raw. Sometimes I don’t think I can breathe under the weight of it. It leads to snap judgments about my life, about God, about my journey here. I don’t embrace it…I rebel against it. It is like someone taking a Brillo pad and scrubbing until I’m raw. It is why I numb myself, turn my feeling inward, and never let anyone get to close to the core of who I am. I keep one arms length away to any thing that will cause pain. Just in this last week this line has been fed to me by more than one person, “This is just life!” Whether it is a headlight that has gone out or a financial situation. I got to thinking about this & realized that this is a lie. It is a lie we tell ourselves to make it feel better. Because, if this is just life then God didn’t abandon me…I do matter…this suffering wasn’t caused by something I’ve done. I am not saying that God has abandoned you or that you don’t matter or that you did something to cause suffering…no way! I am saying that we were created as perfect & eternal beings. We were created for life & communion with God. As JJ Heller so aptly sings, “We’ve lost our paradise!” Life was NEVER meant to be lived this way…EVER! Isn’t it sort of incredible that God uses this fall…this loss of paradise as a BLESSING! No, I did not misspell that last word. I did not use the wrong word. It is a BLESSING! I was at work just the other day and Dave played me a song. “Blessings” by Laura Story. It really resonated with me. I had intended to post it on my FB page and share it with you guys (I did by BTW!). It is where I live. I curse God for not providing for me or making me anxious or not giving me what I think I need. I struggle with His perfect love & perfect grace everyday. I fight Him tooth and nail. I open my “Ransomed Heart” Newsletter today & what is the topic about? SUFFERING!!!! Oh yes! Now, John usually discusses the healing, life, freedom, breakthrough available in Jesus Christ…but he’s talking about SUFFERING! Here is the paragraph that stuck out to me: “Peter says, “arm yourselves” for suffering (1 Peter 4:1). Indeed. We had best arm ourselves. How? Well, he goes on to say, “do not be surprised…” when suffering comes (vs. 12). But we are surprised. It sends us reeling. There is not even a close second to the power of suffering to distort our views of God, and to get us making loads of agreements we should not be making. The collateral damage can be worse than the suffering itself…” (John Eldredge, Sacred Heart Ministries) I threw the newsletter away & was heading out the door for church & God was like, “Um, you might want to dig that back out of the garbage!” Then, I meet Cynthia coming in the door & we had a Holy Spirit, Praise Jesus Moment in front of the congregation. Someone even made a snide remark that someone “enjoyed our show”! (Well, here is where I go off on my tirade. I usually try to keep my emotions to a minimum, but I am very expressive. I’m loud & opinionated once you get to really know me. But, I’m not gonna quinch the spirit. When I get excited your gonna see me shout, jump up and down, clap my hands together…laugh, cry, praise Jesus…it is just who I am. I mean God was doing some major work in both our lives here. It really was a moment where I forgot where we were (& if we cannot praise Jesus in His house, then where can we praise Him?) My little tangent is now over.) It is difficult…this world is not our home. It rips and tears and breaks us, yet we grasp a hold of it so tightly. We focus on the right here instead of the eternal. John Eldredge also wrote this: “Suffering can do enormous damage in our lives, but it can also do enormous good. It shapes our character; it drives us to God; and it loosens our grip on this world. The entire posture of the Christian life is that while much good is available to us now, our great good is coming in the next chapter. Most of us have set our hopes entirely on our life working out here, now. (Notice your reaction when it doesn’t!) This, too will tear you apart. It will break your heart. Suffering causes us to re-evaluate where our hope lies, and to move it to where it belongs.” If I were completely honest, I don’t like anything in this post. The fall hurts. We are reminded deeply, when we grasp at the sweeping shadows of this world, of the pain and hurt of the fall. The separation is great…but, it can lead to GREAT COMMUNION! Christ suffered! He suffered for you & me. He knows intimately our pain. He has not abandoned or forsaken. These little irritating things that are thrown at us are not just merely “life” that we can sweep it under the rug. On the contrary, they are protests against “life”! May we take a small glimpse at the possibility, at the hope, at the mere chance that: “…Blessings come through raindrops; …healing comes through tears; …a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know you’re near; …trials of this life are your mercies in disguise!” (Blessings, Laura Story, words taken out to make my little insignificant point ;) 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. – Philippians 3: 10-11