August 17, 2010
“He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed, ” Isaiah 53:5.
“The sufferings of this world are not worthy to be compared with the glory that will be revealed in us,” Romans 8:18.
Jesus was a man who was familiar with suffering. The cross was not His only encounter with pain and suffering. He was rejected, despised, hated, His friends left Him alone when He needed them the most, He was betrayed, He was denied, He was falsely accused, He was mocked, beaten, scorned, and those who should have loved Him did not love Him. He laid down His rights and His life for the benefit of the world. He was and is perfect yet He is often denied true devoted love. He is often the one blamed when life doesn’t turn out the way we want. He is often the one doing the pursuing, actively looking to bless, yet He does not receive the same love or devotion in return. His love and sacrifice for all of mankind is beautiful.
So where is the beauty in our suffering? First let me say I am not talking about abuse, poverty, sickness, or saying we should seek to suffer (do things on our own that lead to suffering). I am not saying God is out looking to cause suffering. Suffering occurs as the result of sin and the fall. We suffer because of sins committed against us, the sins we commit and from simply living in a fallen world. I do not have all the answers as to why God doesn’t prevent certain suffering.
I am addressing certain types of suffering. There is a suffering for the sake of the gospel. There is a suffering that accompanies dying to self. There is a suffering that comes when we have to pick up our cross, wait on God or suffer through trials.
Suffering for the sake of the gospel leads to an eternal reward. Many of us don’t realize there are people all over the world being persecuted for their faith. Jesus was persecuted, Paul was persecuted, we too may one day face the same persecution. Will we deny Christ and withstand the temptation to compromise? The great thing is that this time on Earth is limited, the suffering will end, our time with God goes on forever.
We will spend eternity with God, no suffering and no pain. That sounds beautiful.
Suffering also pushes to the surface everything that is in us. If there is pride, impatience surfaces and the questions of why me. We expect God to stop the suffering and make us feel okay. We don’t want to go through the fire, we want to lay on the beach soaking up the rays. We don’t want the fruits of the Spirit that deal with patience or long suffering. We want the love, the peace, the joy and sometimes the self control. However we want to skip those fruits that crucify the flesh. How dare God make us uncomfortable? Well if Jesus suffered then we should expect some times of suffering. What if God is more concerned with our character? What if He is more concerned with our becoming more like Him, than our comfort? He is patient. He is long suffering. He is beautiful.
If we invite God into our suffering He pulls out those things that surface that are not like Him. He also strengthens the parts of us that are like Him. If we let Him, we die to self and Christ is glorified. When patience is allowed to have its perfect work, the light of God shines through us. We model Him and that reveals the Glory of God. His Glory is marvelous.
Suffering can deepen our dependence on God. I went through a time where I was ill for long periods of time. I have never felt so alone in my life. During that time I learned that if God was all I had, He was all I needed. There were countless nights of tears, aching, sorrow and grief. But for the first time in my life I met Him for myself. There is a difference between hearing about someone and encountering them. I encountered God. He began to speak. I began to listen. Our relationship deepened. My understanding of His comfort and compassion grew. I fell deeply in love with Him because He was the only hand I had to hold. I will never forget those times. I needed someone and He was there. He is always there for me. I need Him more than any other human being. I couldn’t lean on myself, so I learned to lean on Him. Having deep intimacy with God is beautiful.
Suffering weakens our flesh. It weakens our independence and crushes our pride. The flesh wants comfort, pleasure, happiness, easy times, and mountain top experiences. The flesh wants its way and demands that the rest of the world falls in line. When we suffer we are faced to see ourselves as we are-helpless, weak, and in need of someone to rescue us.
He is there with arms wide open saying “Come to me all who are heavy burdened and I will give you rest.” He is there to bring wisdom, comfort, and to shower us with His love.
A beautiful soul is one submitted wholly to God. A beautiful life is one lived in complete devotion to Him, whether we get our way or not. A beautiful heart is a heart connected to His. A beautiful spirit is one filled with an abundance of His Spirit. If we want to walk in His Glory, then there will be some suffering that will occur. Pride, selfishness, and the works of the flesh will have to be pressed out. We (our carnal nature) must die so that He can live fully in us.
When trials come I pray you and I dig in deeper with Him, through prayer and in fellowship. I pray our hearts wouldn’t faint or grow weary. Just as a potter molds his/her clay, I ask that God would shape us and mold us. I pray He would press out everything not of Him. May He look at us and see a clear reflection of Himself. Whatever you face, you are loved. God is in the fire with you.