Tag Archive | Suffering

Easter Hope: A God Who Understands Suffering

Living with chronic illness is difficult. Having someone you can talk with who understands what it’s like to live with longterm pain, a friend who can say “me too” when you share some of the struggles you are currently dealing with, makes it a little easier.

I’m grateful to be a part of a group of ladies who love Jesus and also know what it is to suffer with chronic pain, exhaustion, and other common symptoms of chronic illness. As we share with and pray for one another, I am encouraged and strengthened. I consider that a blessing from the Lord.

But as I’ve spent this week preparing my heart for the celebration of Easter, one thought has come to mind repeatedly that I consider an even bigger blessing. We have a Lord and Savior who knows what it is to experience pain. A God Who can say, “Me too!”

Isaiah 53:3 (NIV) tells us that Jesus was well acquainted with pain and grief, “He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.” Therefore, when we suffer pain and grief, we are not alone. We have an ever-present God and Savior who understands.

As I was doing some research online, looking for a meaningful quote for this article, I came across some quotes from a book by Jon Weece,  entitled Me Too: Experiencing the God Who Understands. Weece speaks of the cross as “God’s ‘me too’ statement to a world saturated with suffering.”

Weece adds, “Pain is the common language of the human experience. Most people I know are fluent in suffering. They speak it, but they don’t understand it. One of the ways people begin to heal is to sit across the table from someone who can say, ‘Me too.'”

Jesus didn’t like suffering any more than we do. He strugged in the Garden of Gethsemane with what laid ahead of Him. There He cried out to His Father, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death… “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark‬ ‭14:34‬a, 36 NIV‬‬)

Jesus’ suffering was more intense than anything I’ve ever experienced. In his description of the Garden, Luke adds, “And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” (Luke‬ ‭22:44‬ ‭NIV‬‬) Have you experienced more emotional pain than this?

So why did Jesus go through this suffering in the Garden, just thinking about what was ahead of Him, and then the actual physical suffering leading up to and on the Cross?  He did it because of love. He did it to make a way for us to be restored to the relationship with God that we were created for.

Through Jesus’ suffering, His death on the cross, and His resurrection,  1 Peter 2:24 says, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.” Because of Easter, we can have peace with God and hope for the future. And we can also have the comfort of knowing we will never be alone in our suffering. We have a Savior who understands and walks with us through whatever we face.

Have you taken advantage of Jesus’ immeasureable sacrifice? If not, don’t let this Easter go by without accepting the forgiveness of sin His suffering purchased for us. Ask Him to be your personal Savior and Lord. Make the decision to die to sin and live to righteousness. The price has been paid, and the gift is yours if you are willing to accept it for yourself.  

        

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Lessons From Job: God Speaks

For much of the book of Job, the main character in the story has been asking for an audience with God. In these final chapters of the book, when Job has come to the end of his own strength and understanding, the Lord begins speaking to Job out of a whirlwind. But I don’t think the words were what Job was expecting!

“Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge. Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.” (Job 38:2-3 NIV)

What follows is a rebuke from the Lord. Through a series of questions, God basically puts Job in his place. “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundations? … Have you ever given orders to the morning? … Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth? … Do you send the lightning bolts on their way? Do they report to you, ‘Here we are’?” These are just a few of the questions God addresses to Job, demanding an answer. And Job, who has had plenty to say in the past thirty-plus chapters, is reduced to silence.

The Lord’s questioning of Job is broad and detailed. It includes questions about the Creation, the weather, light and darkness, stars and constellations, and a wide variety of animals. So what was God’s purpose in asking all these questions? I bleieve He was wanting Job to be reminded of Who he was condemning with his words. He wanted Job to be reminded of His power and authority. And He wanted Job to come to the place of humbling himself in repentance. 

Where the words of Job’s friends may have been with the same desire, to bring Job to repentance, their method of reaching that goal was wrong. Instead of pointing out to Job all he had done wrong, God reminded Job of Who He is. Jehovah God is Creator, and He is the One who was and is and will always be in control.  Job’s eyes had become so focused on his trials that he had lost sight of this essential truth. And his faith in God and trust in His love and faithfulness had been weakened by his focus on his troubles. 

By the time God finished questioning Job, he was more than ready to admit that God can do whatever He desires, and no purpose of His can be thwarted (Job 42:1-2). He confessed, “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.”  (Job 42:3)  Jobs response is one of sorrow over his sin and repentance.

With Job now repentant, the Lord begins addressing Eliphaz as the representative of Job’s three friends.  We learn that they had angered the Lord by saying things that were not right about Him. What had they spoken in error against the Lord? The book of Job does not specifically answer this question, so I won’t speculate about this. But we do see them doing what the Lord commanded. “So now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering?” (Job 42:8)

Further evidence of Job’s repentance is seen as he also accepts God’s solution and prays for his friends. After the unkind and accusatory words they had spoken to Job, this could not have been easy. But in praying for his friends, Job was healed and his fortunes restored, even receiving twice as much as he had before. And verse 12a says, “The Lord blessed the later part of Job’s life more than the former part.”

So to conclude this week’s lesson from Job, what truths are we to take away and apply to our lives?

  1.  First, when we walk through seasons of pain and suffering, we need to keep our focus on what we know to be true about God. Job entered this time of trial with an understanding of the authority and sovereignty of God, as shown through his own words. For example, in chapter 2 when his wife tells him to curse God and die, he responds, “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (verse 10). Job understood that God was still in control. Yet, as the trials dragged on and on, Job lost sight of this truth. 
  2. Next, when we face times of suffering, we need to be especially diligent about guarding our words. The temptation to wrongly accuse God will be there, and we need to guard against this sin and repent if we catch ourselves falling. Being honest with the Lord about how we’re feeling is okay, but accusing Him of being unfair or cruel is not. One of the main things God desires from us when we are hurting is the choice to continue trusting Him.
  3. Forgiving those who hurt us with their unkind words is an importsnt step toward healing. Just as the Lord healed and restored Job when he forgave his friends who had so deeply hurt him, He will bring healing and restoration into our lives when we forgive those who have hurt us by their words and actions. I wish that always meant total physical healing. Often it may, but even if God is currently more concerned with making us whole in other areas this process of forgiveness brings healing.
  4. Finally, Job makes a very important statement near the end of the book. In Job 42:5, Job concludes his response to God with these words: “My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you.”  


This is my own persoanl testimony of the benefit of suffering in my life. Through the variety of trials I’ve faced, I have come to really know God. My knowledge of Him is now more than just what I’ve read or heard from others. 

  • As I endured the suffering of losing a child, I better understood how much it cost the Father to offer His Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the penalty for our sin. “For God so loved the world” took on new meaning.
  • By loving a son who is completely dependent upon others to meet all of his needs, I’ve learned much about God’s unconditional love. Our son David can’t do anything to earn our love, and we can’t do anything to earn God’s love. It is His gift!
  • And through the suffering from a long list of chronic illnesses, I’ve learned that God is just waiting for me to come to Him with my needs. I’m learning that He is my strength in weakness, my peace in turmoil, and my joy in sorrow. He is all I need, no matter what I face!

This concludes our study of Job. I hope you’ve learned as much through it as I have. I hope you too can sum up this study with Job’s closing words: “My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you.”


    Is God “Enough” in Hard Circumstances?

    Almost from the time I asked Jesus to be my Lord and Savior, I have known what it is to live in hard circumstances. My husband and I had an automobile accident that took the life of our firstborn daughter and left me with numerous fractures. We have a special needs son (now an adult), who is completely bed bound and dependent upon others to meet all of his needs. For several years, my husband, adult daughter, and I were the main caregivers for my mother-in-law as Alzheimer’s gradually took her life. Now, my biggest struggle is with my own health, as I deal daily with a long list of chronic illnesses, including severe osteoarthritis of the knees and spine, lumbar and cervical spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease, carpal and tarsal tunnel syndromes, plantar fasciitis in my feet, progressive polyneuropathy, and fibromyalgia.

    I haven’t shared what I’ve been through to cause you to feel sorry for me. Rather, I want you to understand that I know what it is to face severe and on-going suffering. I’m not saying that I’ve always immediately turned to God when another painful situation arose. It’s been a growing process. But I can honestly say without God’s grace and strength, I wouldn’t have made it through all of these difficult situations without becoming a person filled with self-pity, anger, and bitterness. I can say that God is “enough” in hard circumstances, if we choose to allow Him be “enough.” And I can share some understandings and steps that have helped me to make this choice.

    1. Recognize that suffering is a result of the fall. We are not promised a life on this earth without suffering. Everyone faces times of suffering, and this will continue until we are in God’s physical presence, in the New Heaven and the New Earth.
    2. Know that God is not the cause of most of the suffering we face. Much of our suffering is a result of sin, either in our lives or in the lives of someone else. An example of this is the accident we had. It was caused by a driver who had been drinking and lost control of his car when he leaned down to pick up a cigarette.
    3. Understand that God allows suffering and works through it to accomplish His purposes in our lives. James addressed this in his letter. “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James‬ ‭1:2-4‬ ‭ESV)
    4. Let go of the past, accept the present, and trust God with the future.  Learn to live one day at a time. Take your worriesI about the future to the Lord and leave them in His capable hands. ‬“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:6-7‬ ‭ESV)
    5. Lean on God’s grace and strength, especially on the hard days. As Elisabeth Elliot said, “God shields us from most of the things we fear, but when He chooses not to shield us, He unfailingly allots grace in the measure needed, It is for us to choose to receive or refuse it. Our joy or our misery wil depend on that choice.”  Decide to live by the truth Paul learned by his “thorn in the flesh.”  “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”    (2 Corinthians‬ ‭12:8-10‬ ‭ESV)
    6. Take time daily to strengthen your spirit. Prayer, Bible study, worship and gratefulness are important disciplines for all believers in Christ, but even moreso for us as we deal with daily health struggles and challenges. Get to know God by spending time studying His names and character. Listen to worship music that reminds you of the truths you need to hold onto. Look for God’s blessings in the trials, and keep a gratefulness journal. Draw strength from His presence and His steadfast love.
    7. Finally, remember we are only in our present bodies for a short time.  Focus on what counts for eternity. “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians‬ ‭4:16-18‬ ‭ESV)‬


    So, back to our original question: Is God “enough” in hard circumstances? Honestly, the answer depends upon you. He will be more than enough if you choose to allow Him to be. As Oswald Chambers said, “We all know people who have been made much meaner and more irritable and more intolerable to live with by suffering: it’s not right to say that all suffering perfects. It only perfects one type of person… The one who accepts the call of God in Jesus Christ.” My prayer is that we all will choose to be that – the latter – type of person.  Choose to be the kind of person James wrote about in the first chapter of his epistle:  “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” ‭(James‬ ‭1:12‬ ‭ESV‬‬)