Tag Archives: suffering

May 4; Momentary, Light Affliction

Psalm 44, 60, 108, 124; 2 Samuel 8:9-14, 23:18-19; I Chronicles 11:20-21, 18:9-13

Why do bad things happen to good people? Why aren’t all Christians living long and healthy lives in the lap of luxury? Does God abandon His people, even those who love and obey Him? Are there times God goes on vacation, or sleeps, and isn’t aware of what His children are going through? It may seem that way to some.

It seemed that way to David. But we are wrong to judge God according to how we feel. We are to trust Him for who HE IS.

If Jesus had gone to the cross in order to make our lives comfortable, bad things would never happen to Christians. Do you think that was Jesus’ motivating factor for enduring the awful beatings and painful death? When He was hanging there, do you think He thought, “Well, at least Suzie will get that job promotion in 2019, and Johnny will get that house on the ocean, and Ellen won’t get cancer?” Was His goal to make His children healthy, wealthy, successful, and happy?

Of course not!

Then why do we get upset with God when we go through hard times? He never said we wouldn’t. Why do we blame God for a cancer diagnosis, or the loss of a job? If anything, Jesus promised life would be hard for us. Do we think He was talking about everyone BUT us?

David gives us a bit of insight as to why God allows those hard times, unfair treatment, suffering. “Yet for Your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” (Psalm 44:22)

Jesus died on the cross to save sinners. And His power can be seen in the lives of His children, even when those children struggle. Maybe especially when His children struggle.

Consider what Paul had to say on the subject. Take a minute and read 2 Corinthians 4. Paul, who suffered more than most of us, considered the beatings, imprisonment, exhaustion, and persecution, “momentary, light affliction…” for the privilege of knowing Christ. Wow.

God doesn’t want us to love Him because He can make us comfortable. God wants us to love Him because HE IS. And God wants to reveal Himself through each of us in a way that will draw people to Him. Is how you are going through those devastating circumstances making people want God in their lives, too?

I’m sure we all know people who are living this truth. I have a friend whose husband was paralyzed years ago in a motorcycle accident. The faith and love of God in this couple is powerful. I have another friend whose husband had a debilitating stroke a year ago. She shines Jesus every day. There is a blogger friend of mine who has lived with ALS for 20 years. He continues to minister to people all over the world in Jesus’ name. Real life people, struggling in this lifetime, and still allowing God to use them for His glory.

Are you struggling? I pray you can embrace the struggle. James tells us to consider it joy when we face trials. Can you do that? Understand that God wants to show off in our circumstances. He wants everyone around you to see His strength and power and love through you. What we are facing is momentary and light if we know Jesus as our Savior. Because we have an eternity with God to look forward to.

And we have the privilege of being His light to a very dark world. Even in our struggles. What are you willing to endure for His sake? What was Jesus willing to endure for yours?

 

January 9; Is There A Target On My Back?

Job: 15-19

Job brings up a hard truth about God that we often try to ignore. We can talk all day about God’s love, His grace, His forgiveness, kindness, acceptance. But we don’t like to even think about His wrath.

Now, to be perfectly clear, chapter 1 tells us Job’s suffering is not a direct result of sin. God is not punishing him. In fact, Job is an upright citizen. God even calls him “righteous.” Yet awful things are happening to Job.

In chapter 16, Job says he feels like God has placed a target on his back. Job feels God’s anger as though God were ripping him to shreds with gnashing teeth. Job says he’s tried to bind his wounds himself, he’s cried endless tears. But Job realizes his helplessness to combat God and win.

It’s easy to say Job didn’t deserve this. But here is what God impressed on me: if Job, descried by God Himself as a “righteous man,” has no defense against God, I’m in serious trouble.

Paul, in Romans 3:23 tells me everybody has sinned. Romans 3:10 actually quotes some Old Testament verses that tell me there isn’t a righteous man or woman anywhere. Not even one.

(I have no problem hearing God call Job “righteous,” then reading more than one Scripture that says no one is righteous. Job never lived like he was sinless. He continued to offer sacrifices for his sins and for those of his children. “Righteous” described Job because he had dealt with his sin.)

Scripture repeats these words, or words like them: Every sin is punished. Every sin deserves death. Every. Sin.

That’s why I think we should probably remove the word “deserve” from our vocabulary when talking about circumstances of life. We are all sinners, and God hates sin. Hates it. It’s hard to hear, but God considers sinners his enemies. (Romans 5:10; Philippians 3:18; James 4:4; I Samuel 12:14; and others)

Being sinners, we “deserve” God’s wrath. And, friend, you can’t handle God’s wrath.

As I look at the theme of worship in the book of Job, I am blown away that this man who is so lost, so grieved and alone, still looks to God. He begs God for an audience, not to give God a piece of his mind, but to present his case before God. Job longs for an advocate from heaven. Listen to this:

Even now my witness is in heaven; my advocate is on high. My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God; on behalf of a man he pleads with God as a man pleads for his friend. (17:19-21)

Read that again and let God speak to your heart. Hear Job’s confidence that there is Someone who is on his side, someone who pleads with God on his behalf like a man pleads for his friend. And Job had never even heard the name of Jesus. My soul is overwhelmed at the beauty of this truth. I love it so much.

Here’s something about God’s wrath: It’s real. And it’s frightening. It’s harsh and relentless. And we are absolutely, totally powerless against it.

But Jesus!

Jesus took God’s wrath directed at you and me. He faced God’s fierce anger – AND IT KILLED HIM.

But He didn’t stay dead! He defeated the last enemy – death. Now, by His grace, I can stand before God – not an enemy – but as His precious child. Not because of my own righteousness (which is non-existent) but because I’m wearing Jesus’ righteousness through the blood He shed on the cross.

God is no longer my enemy. He’s my Father. He calls me His friend!

Please understand that unless you have accepted what Jesus did for you on the cross, you are an enemy of God. You can try to bandage your own wounds, you can try to stand before Him in your own strength. But you don’t have any hope of winning that battle. No hope.

I don’t know what the circumstances of your life are like right now. But I know if you are blessed, you don’t deserve it. If you are suffering, you deserve much worse. You might feel like there is a target on your back, and you might be right.

But read again what Job said in the quote above. And know there is Someone in heaven who would love to be your advocate. Someone who would love to cover that target on your back with His own blood. Someone who wants to turn you from being an enemy of God, to being His most precious child.

 

January 5; What Is Your Answer?

Job 1-3

Job was the George Bailey of the ancient world. He was “the richest man in town.” Sure, he had wealth. But he was also rich in family, friends, prestige, reputation. He had it all.

And he lost it all.

The book of Job has many lessons for us concerning suffering. Who hasn’t wished at some time or another, that they’d never been born? Life is hard. Loss is painful. And sometimes things happen that we’re convinced we just don’t deserve. Job will have a lot to say about that in the next few days.

But I don’t think suffering is the main theme in this book. If you look at chapter 1, Satan is suggesting that people only worship God when they are blessed by Him; only when the bills are paid, and they get a good report from the doctor. Satan is still suggesting that.

And sadly, we often equate health and wealth with God’s blessings yet today.

Not that God doesn’t sometimes bless us with those things, but I think the main theme in the book of Job is worship. The issue at hand is, “Is God worthy of worshiping even when times are hard and we feel abandoned by Him? Or, is God only worth worshiping on good days?”

You probably know Job’s reaction to the news that his livestock and slaves were gone, and all his children were dead. He heard of one disaster after another, then another, and another. It was too much. He fell to the ground and said these words:

Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised. (1:21, emphasis mine)

In the first throws of unimaginable grief, Job praised the Lord. And we will find that…

In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing. (1:22)

I think the main theme of Job is the question, “Is God worth it?” And that’s the question I’d encourage you to answer for yourself today. Does God deserve your worship regardless of your situation or your feelings? Does He deserve your worship when you aren’t getting the answers you think you need? Do you use worship as a bargaining tool to get what you want?

Friend, the truth of the matter is, God deserves our worship for the simple fact that HE IS.

Job won’t be happy about his situation. Job will ask some hard question of God. Job probably didn’t “feel” like worshiping God in the midst of his pain. But in all this Job will not sin, he will not turn His back on God or deny God. Job will worship God despite his circumstances.

And so should we. Because God is worth it. Do you believe that?

What is your answer?

Job 38-42; Final Answer

The whole book of Job is a series of questions and answers. Job had questions: “Why is God doing this to me? What have I done to deserve this? Where is God in my suffering?” His friends had answers (or at least what they passed off as answers): “You have done something bad and God is punishing you, Job. You deserve this, admit it.”

So after 37 chapters of this sorry exchange between friends, God is going to finally speak. Job is going to get his answer. But it’s not at all what he expects. Because God never addresses the “why” of anything Job is experiencing. God never tells about His conversation with Satan in chapter one. God never explains His reasoning, or plan to Job and his friends. The answer to Job’s suffering isn’t about the “why” at all.

It’s about the”Who.”

And it’s the same for us. If we are looking for answers to understand our pain, or our circumstances, we are looking in the wrong direction. Looking horizontally prevents us from looking upward.

A Swiss psychologist, Dr. Paul Tournier wrote, “For God’s answer is not an idea, a proposition, like the conclusion of a theorem; it is Himself.” (Guilt and Grace; Harper and Row, p 86)

God doesn’t owe us answers. He Himself is all the answer we need.

Unless you’ve experience His Presence and peace in the middle of a storm, you probably think this is just another example of “church speak,” that it doesn’t hold water when the reality of suffering sets in. And you would be wrong.

Warren Wiersbe (With the Word, p 303) said, “God cannot do much for us as long as we are busy telling Him what to do.” Sometimes we just need to shut our mouths, stop with our demands, and just be still and know that He is God, bowing before Him in complete surrender.

I hope you read these chapters in Job today, and ask yourself how you stack up when compared to God. I know I don’t come close. And it humbles me that the Creator and Sustainer of life wants a relationship with me, wants to spend time with me, wants to be everything I need in good times and in the worst of times.

God.

Final answer.

Job 3-7; Eliphaz

I have to believe Eliphaz meant well. But sometimes good intentions aren’t enough. Here are some things that spoke to me about the exchange between Eliphaz and his friend, Job:

First of all, if you want to encourage someone or support them during hard times, I wouldn’t start out by saying, “Practice what you preach.” Sometimes godly people, people who have encouraged others in the past, need encouragement for themselves. It’s not a sin. It’s life.

Secondly, telling a hurting person they must be guilty of SOMETHING or God wouldn’t be punishing them is a theology straight from hell. This whole, “God wants you to be healthy and successful” lie does as much harm as anything I can think of to keep Christians from a right relationship with God. Satan loves that.

I went to Dr. Wiersbe’s “With the Word” again today and he pointed out something I hadn’t seen before. Eliphaz proceeds to tell Job and anyone within hearing distance about his “encounter” with God. Red flag!

“Avoid those who make their experience the only test of truth.” (p. 285, WTW)

I know Eliphaz didn’t have a Bible on his bedside table. But most of us do. God is not going to speak to anyone any other way than through Scripture. His words are written there. Test everything you hear or read by what is written in the Bible. And I would say, be skeptical when you hear someone tell you God gave them a special message, if it doesn’t come from Scripture.

Lastly, there is something about the exchange between these two friends that makes me sad. Read 6:26-28. Job says, “look at me…”

Look at me. Hear me. Empathize with me. Love me. See me.

Too often we think the person who is hurting needs answers, or direction to fix things. We come up with great sounding words, maybe quote a Bible verse or two, because we want to say the right thing that will relieve their suffering. Good intentions. But…

Job reminds me to stop talking. To take a breath and just look at the person who is hurting. I hate it when someone says to a person who has lost a loved one, “God needed another angel,” or “It was his time,” or even “She’ll always be with you, looking down from heaven,” or with any hardship: “It was God’s will.”

If that’s the only encouragement you have, just be quiet. Sometimes there are no answers. Throwing out meaningless platitudes do nothing to let the hurting person know you are seeing them, really present with them in their agony.

And as I read these chapters today, I realize that is what Job really needed. He needed Eliphaz just to be present with him in his suffering. Sometimes there are no words that can take away someone’s hurt. Maybe it’s not even our place to try.

I’ll look at what Bildad has to teach me tomorrow. Looking forward to that.

Hey, Happy New Year! I pray that 2018 will find you walking with the Lord, being used by Him to lead others to the Savior, and growing in grace and knowledge of Jesus. Be in the Word every day. Pray every day. And expect to see God work mightily when you are obedient. It’s going to be a great year, my friend, as we move ahead as He leads.

 

December 4 – Momentary, Light Affliction

2 Corinthians 1-4

Paul talked a lot about the sufferings he was enduring. He used words like affliction, excessive burden to the extent he wanted to die, a peril of death, anguish of the heart, and in 4:7-10 he said:

… we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.

Verse 11 says he was constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake. Then in verse 17 he said:

For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.

Momentary? Light? He just got done listing a bunch of affliction that doesn’t sound momentary or light to me. How could he say that?

I think it’s perspective. And it’s a perspective I’d like to adopt.

Everything that happens in our lives happens for one reason only. That is to point us and everyone around us to Jesus. From an irritating hangnail, to this cold I’ve been fighting, to my sister’s cancer, and the tragic death of her son, everything that happens is an opportunity to reveal my Savior to myself, and to people I come in contact with.

That’s why I think Paul could describe his life as having momentary and light affliction. He wasn’t focusing on the pain. His only focus was on Jesus. He didn’t let the circumstances sideline him. He kept on sharing the Gospel.

We all go through hard times, personal pain and difficulties. Life is hard. But Paul’s example tells me that the worst this life can throw at me won’t last forever. And if Satan thinks he can use my suffering to cause me to doubt God, or to be angry at Him, or to steal my joy, he’s wrong.

Don’t miss what Paul said at the end of verse 17. The hardships we go through in this life are producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.

A weight of glory. That’s what’s ahead for those of us who keep our eyes on Jesus.

Dear God, I pray for those who are going through valleys today. I pray for those who are looking at the toughest battle of their lives, or who despair of life itself. God, may we look to Jesus. May we trust Him to be exactly what we need, to give us exactly what it takes to get through. Help us to keep our eyes facing forward instead of inward. Give us Paul’s perspective, that what we face, as hard as it is, as painful as it is, can produce something more wonderful than we can imagine. Thank You for being exactly what we need in the darkest hours of our lives. May Jesus be glorified.

I Know Whom I’ve Believed

I know not why God’s wondrous grace to me He has made known. Nor why, when I was so unworthy, Christ, in love, redeemed me for His own. “But I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto Him against that day.”

If you went to church before the “contemporary” movement decided the old hymns are irrelevant, I bet you have a tune running through your head about now. I find myself singing Daniel W. Whittle’s hymn every time I read 2 Timothy 1:12. If you get a chance I hope you take the time to read all five verses. It is a wonderful hymn of complete confidence in God.

That’s what Paul was talking about to Timothy in his second letter to the young preacher. Paul was in jail, had suffered quite a bit for Jesus’ sake, and he was encouraging Timothy to see Jesus ONLY in every circumstance of life. Paul says, I’ve had a tough time sharing the Gospel, but I’m not ashamed of any of it.

The Apostle wanted Timothy – and me – to have the same attitude. Don’t ever be ashamed of standing up for the Truth of Scripture, of wearing the name Christian according to God’s Word. It might not be a popular or comfortable stand, but knowing Jesus makes everything else dim in comparison.

And God promises to stand with us until we see Him face to face in our eternal home.

I know not when my Lord may come, at night or noonday fair. Or if I walk the vale with Him or meet Him in the air. But I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto Him against that day!

Jesus’ Answer For The “Why’s” of Life

A godly man suffers with ALS. A teenager who loves the Lord loses her battle with cancer. A baby is born with his stomach outside his body. A godly woman buries her 22 year old son who died in an auto accident. ISIS murders hundreds of people who name the name of Jesus.

Jesus met a man born blind. His disciples asked him: Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?

John 9:3 says, “Jesus answered, ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.‘”

Sometimes we dig way too deep to find the answer to the “why’s” of life. Is there some special purpose for suffering? There certainly is! And here it is:

So Jesus can be revealed to a lost world.

Everything – E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G – that happens in this life happens for that reason. Your best day reveals God’s blessings. Your struggles reveal his strength. Your mourning reveals his comfort. Your changed life reveals his grace.

Next time you are tempted to ask, Why is this happening to me?, read John 9:3 again. The question you should be asking is, What is it about Jesus that is being revealed through this circumstance I am facing?

Dear God, thank you for being intimately interested in everything that happens to us in this life. You are ever present, all knowing, sovereign. Forgive us when we concentrate so much on the day-to-day that we lose sight of your perfect plan. May your children, in all walks of life, in all circumstances, be faithful to reveal YOU as you would have us do. Help us to remember that this life is about You, and your passion is that every man, woman, and child will come to know you as Savior and Lord. Help us to look at our circumstances as opportunities to share you with those who are lost without you.

As Long As It Takes

If you read the book of Lamentations you will feel the anguish over the state of things in Israel due to their disobedience. In fact, throughout the Old Testament you will often hear the Jews crying out to God: How long will you continue to forget us?

And often you will hear God’s reply: As long as it takes.

God doesn’t delight in punishing his people. He created us to fellowship with him, to love and obey him. And because he created us with the ability to choose or reject him, he drew a line in the sand. We call the condensed version of this line The Ten Commandments. There needs to be no guessing concerning the requirements for having a blessed relationship with him:

Worship me only. Love me above all else, Obey my instructions how to treat people, how to conduct business, what to believe. And for we who live after the cross: accept my Son as your Savior.

Sure it’s a tough list of rules. In fact, an impossible list to achieve for us humans. Yet God’s requirements don’t change. Here’s the line in the sand. Cross it and enjoy a forgiven life under grace. Stay where you are and accept the consequence.

Be assured. God won’t just let you stay on that side without doing everything he can to get you to come over to his side. You may even find yourself asking, “Why, God? How long are you going to cause me pain?”

AS LONG AS IT TAKES.

If I were you…

Have you ever given or been given advice that begins with, “If I were you…”? How was that advice received? The thing is, grief, anxiety, worry, suffering, whatever the problem – it is personal. I can try to put myself in your shoes but my frame of reference is me. The only way I can really know what you are going through is to become you. Me in your shoes is still me.

Does that mean we should never give advice? Honestly, unless the hurting person asks for advice that is exactly what I’m saying. But even when asked, we shouldn’t assume anything. We should not assume we know how that person feels or know what they are going through. We should not assume we know why that dear one is suffering. Even if you have experienced similar circumstances you cannot know how they are feeling. You can only know how you felt in your experience.

I am reading the book of Job, a book filled with all kinds of bad advice from friends who really did mean well. But Eliphaz, in Job 5:8, actually does give what I consider some good advice for all of us. He told Job to take it to God. You see, God is the only one who really knows what you are going through. He knows how you feel because he reaches into your deepest, darkest places where no one but you can go. 

I guess I would say if you are going through something, go ahead and listen to the advice given by well-meaning friends. You might hear something useful amid all the garbage. But listen with a filter. Then take your problem, maybe even the advice, to God and see what he thinks. Read God’s Word with an open heart. Pray. Thank God for his love even if you feel unloved. Praise him for his blessings even if it’s hard to do. Lay your requests at his feet, then trust him to take care of you.

God promises to give us all we need and he is true to his Word.