Sunday, January 19, 2014

On Hardship and Suffering

I don't often talk about suffering.  Suffering is hard.  Suffering hurts.  Suffering and hardship are difficult to understand.  Suffering opens questions that are often very hard to answer.  Why do bad things happen to good people???

Here are some things that I've come to understand are true.

1) Suffering is part of life in a messed up world.  No one escapes it.  Everyone is touched by hardship, setbacks, pain, sickness and loss. 

2) God uses suffering to accomplish His purposes in our lives.  This is not to say that He uses suffering in a punitive way to 'teach us a lesson', although there are times when that may happen.  What I am saying is that God allowing suffering in our lives just to watch us suffer seems outside of His care and love for us.  God's purpose in suffering is always to point us to Him and to conform us into His image.  That process never ends and for that reason, there is always a measure of suffering somewhere in our lives.
3) Suffering comes for a seasonCheck this verse  out from Psalms,  'weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. (30:5) You may be in the middle of your dark night, but morning will come and so will the end to whatever you are suffering through. Suffering is not forever for the Christian. 

4) Suffering provides the opportunity to overcome. Not everyone who experiences suffering embraces the opportunity to overcome.  In some cases, they embrace their suffering to such an extent that it becomes their identity.  I love the way Paul writes about being pressed but not crushed, persecuted but not abandoned, struck down but not destroyed.  He recognizes reality but is looking towards a truth that is far more powerful than what he currently faces.  He was made to overcome and so are you!

5) Overcoming suffering is more art than science.  No one likes a 4 point check-list to overcoming when the wheels have fallen off your life but there are some foundations you can count on when your world is turned upside down.  

a) Romans 8:28 tells us that God works ALL THINGS together for our good.  Never forget that God is ALWAYS doing more than you think He is.  He is constantly at work on your behalf!  
b) God responds to our faith!  Stop telling God how big your problems are and start telling your problems how big your God is!  Things will start to change in you and then they will start to change for you because that's how God works.  The battle that rages is not over what your outward circumstances are but on what will ultimately happen inside of you.  Faith will either grow and be refined or it will be snuffed out in your life based on how you respond to suffering.

c) Never give up!  I love how Jesus shows up in the darkest, most critical times to do something amazing!  Expect the unexpected as you go through your trial and hardship.  He will turn your sorrow into joy!

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