We live in a fallen world where everyone desires to maximize comfort and minimize suffering. Everyone is striving to reach their next season of blessings where everything seems to go so well that worrying becomes a sin of the past and sadly we forget about the trials we’ve faced. Living in the age of social media, I notice people rarely speak about the seasons of suffering; the process that God allows us to endure to draw us closer to Him before the blessings are poured out; not acknowledging that suffering can be a blessing in itself. People rarely see suffering as a good human experience that produces growth and I understand. But isn’t it interesting that the countries where Christians endure the most suffering and persecution seem to have the most faith-filled believers? Although my suffering is nothing compared to many of those who are persecuted in these countries, I am guilty of questioning God about my life sometimes.
What does it mean to suffer?
We can learn a lot from the disciples and early Christians but let’s focus on Apostle Paul for a minute. He is a great example of suffering outside of Jesus and would probably find some of the things we complain about to be quite humorous if he was alive today. Here’s a man who gave his entire life to Christ, who he has never met in the flesh (only in spirit) and trusted Christ so much so that he was willing to be persecuted, endure pain and rejoice in it all for the glory of God. The man who so famously posits “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” -Phillippians 1:21 But what does this look like for the 21st century Christian?
What are you holding on to? I was holding on to a lot that only left me feeling empty. But I learned that tough times are temporary, God is eternal. Money, nice cars, houses, careers, friendships, beauty are all fleeting. Jesus Christ is everlasting. Only in Him am I truly rich. Nothing on this earth is truly satisfying without God. I know this from experience. I thought my life was so full. Great things were happening consecutively and I was happy for some time but I was hungry for more. Each time I sufficiently conquered something, attained an accolade, I would say to myself “this is just not enough, there has to be more to life than this”. As an ambitious person, it was hard for me to stop seeking. Even as good things continue to happen in my life still nothing can satisfy me like Jesus. My joy comes from Him. Happiness comes and goes but joy is permanent. This joy is supernatural and transcends all the dark moments in my life. He’s my best friend and my Father. Only He can carry me through and out of tough times and make my good times so much brighter.
Therefore, it wasn’t until I surrendered everything to Him that I truly felt peace. Trust me, the money will only make you happy for a little while but without Jesus, you’ll always be wanting more. I’ve heard stories of wealthy people who sold all of their possessions and gave their lives to Christ. Isn’t it interesting how the depression rate in the US is on the rise and that those statistics include the wealthy? Whether you are rich or poor, if your life isn’t surrendered to Christ, you’ll always be desiring more. It’s because we were created by God and for God. We were created to desire a divine relationship that cannot be substituted with anything earthly. Thus why we feel a longing for something more even when we have so much. Often times, we don’t feel God’s presence in our circumstances and we fall subject to the idea that maybe He’s not there. That maybe He’s not listening because our circumstances are seemingly too unbearable. However, His Word is truth and you can stand tall on His promise that “he will never leave you nor forsake you.” -Deuteronomy 31:6. We can trust that our unity with Him in heaven is a greater extension of our unity with Him right now on earth. So ask yourself, is there something you are still hanging on to that you need to lay at the altar? Let’s be clear, I’m not suggesting that you sell all your possessions and give up on everything. I am simply suggesting a paradigm-shift; that you shift your focus so that it is Christ-centered. Is He your priority? You can still be an electrical engineer who loves travel and dirt bikes but how much do you love Jesus? Your efforts to focus on Him will help you to trust in Him more. (More about surrendering in a later post)
Have Hope in His Goodness
We can rest our hope in our Father’s promises because the scriptures prove He’s faithful to the end. He always finishes what He begins unlike us who struggle with this. If we truly know who God is, we will be able to put our complete trust in His character, His wisdom and His sovereignty. Whenever we are faced with a challenge that seems absolutely unbearable and impossible to get out of, it will be easier to understand that God has us right where He wants us. He wants us to draw closer to him and He has something up His sleeve. He is about to do the impossible in that situation so that He can get all the glory for it. Amen? Let’s reflect on the many times He’s done that.
Paul writes in Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Because God is good and there is nothing He cannot do, we have to make the effort to have faith that He is working all things out for our good. Because of the fall in Genesis 3, we were separated from the presence of God and pain and suffering became inevitable but God sent a Redeemer, He gave His only begotten son Jesus Christ so that we can live eternally with Him. Is there a greater love than that?
Ask for Wisdom, Perspective and have Faith
Consider Job. A man who was considered very pleasing in God’s eyes. He was the most faithful in all the land yet God allowed Him to endure suffering as a test of his faith. In just a matter of time, He lost everything yet he still rejoiced to say in Job 19:25 “I know that my Redeemer lives and that in the end, he will stand on the earth.” How many of us can have faith like this? Job so faithfully abandoned his trust in God even when his circumstances didn’t make sense. His wife and his friends didn’t understand it. But God has a way of giving us greater perspective by revealing His omnipotence for example when He says to Job in Job 38:4 “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me if you have understanding.” Eventually, Job overcomes his trials and his losses are restored in double. A story that so profoundly exemplifies the beauty of the journey, highlights true faithfulness and trust in God. Like a woman who endures the pain of childbirth, if only we were all aware of the joy that lies on the other side of our pain. To do this we must seek wisdom and perspective from the Lord. In James 1:5 it says “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” God wants to give us wisdom during these times so just ask for it and have confidence in the wisdom that He gives you.
Develop a Discipline to Turn Your Pain into Glory
On the topic of developing perspective and discernment, there’s a posture in which this is cultivated. Many of you know the trials I’ve endured with losing my father and dealing with my mother’s illnesses. It’s truly been a journey but God has never failed to comfort me and give me perspective throughout. However, I had to make an effort on my end, I had to make a choice. As difficult as it seems, we have to choose to feel better and this comes out of full devotion to God and dwelling in His presence. The more time you spend in God’s presence (worship, prayer, reading etc) the more your thinking patterns will change and you’ll be more encouraged as the Holy Spirit exhorts you to develop a discipline to turn your circumstances around. Whether that be waking up earlier, going for a run, reading scripture, reading devotions, worshipping, spending time in prayer, journaling, and blogging. In addition, spending more time at church, or with friends, brothers and sisters in Christ and family, being active in your church’s ministries and maybe starting your own. Maybe it’s finally starting that business God told you you should start or going on that missions trip, interceding in prayer for that friend or relative or sharing the gospel with a stranger. It will all be food for your spirit and help you to grow closer to God. You’ll begin to see your life transform. As mentioned, God allows us to go through tough times so that it can be used for His glory so ask Him what you should be doing in this season that will bring Him the most glory. We have to be intentional about our healing and often times this includes helping others going through similar struggles. I truly believe purpose is found in that.
No matter how hard it gets, please don’t forget that God loves you – He gave His only begotten son. You are so valued! Heaven went bankrupt for you. He wants a relationship with you and wants to turn your pain into glory. And He’s working things out for you for your good. He has your best interest at heart and has a really good plan for your life. In due timing, that situation will disappear, just continue to have faith. Trust that the pain you are enduring is only for a season and that this chastening and sanctifying process is so that you can be Christ-like, be a light in a dark place and be prepared for better seasons to come. No matter if you are Christian or not, no one is exempt from the struggles in this world that resulted from the fall but if you have Jesus you will for certain have peace and hope that transcends all understanding. He makes everything better.
May God bless you!
I hope this was a blessing to you!
P.S. God created us for community. Never go through tough times alone. I am your friend. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me for anything.
To Be Continued Because The Journey Never Ends…