Beauty in Suffering
A couple weeks ago I shared about the yellow lights of our lives that make us slow down, pause, be still...actions we often do not like to live by. I want to take a few minutes to expand on that idea...the idea of waiting. Waiting can often feel like suffering. Suffering, by definition, means to experience or be subject to something unpleasant, be it pain, loss, or a delayed response or answer to prayer. Waiting is a delayed response to something that, in our finite minds, needs to be answered NOW so the suffering will be short-lived! So what do we do when we are waiting? How do I wait when I am in pain or when it feels like time is running out?
Romans 5:1-5 says, "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
So this passage is telling us we should rejoice in our sufferings? Rejoice means to feel or have joy. BUT HOW?
Nehemiah 8:10 says, “The joy of the Lord is my strength.”
It’s not saying, “Lord, give me strength so I can have joy!” It’s I am going to choose joy, and through the joy, because my joy is in and for the Lord, I will have strength!
When I have joy, even in the midst of suffering, I know that I will have the strength to be able to persevere, therefore, I will grow in character or experience. You see, many people try to skip the perseverance or patience part. In the midst of their suffering, instead of persevering and growing in their experience, they give up when they don’t see an immediate answer.
When I think of long-suffering, I think of the passage in Matthew 17, starting in verse 14. The disciples had tried to cast demons out of a little boy, but it didn’t work so they called on Jesus, who came and, first, rebuked the disciples, but then drove the demons out. The disciples asked, “Why didn’t it work for us?”
He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
This sounds contradicting. But I believe that when Jesus said, “you have so little faith,” he meant, their faith was short-lived. When we have faith, even just a little, as long as we persevere in our faith, we can move mountains!
But when our faith is short-lived, we continue in our suffering and instead of choosing joy, enduring through the pain and gaining experience and therefore hope, we loose hope and live in bitterness.
Either you choose the beautiful cycle of JOY - EXPERIENCE - PERSEVERANCE - CHARACTER - HOPE or you choose the ugly cycle of SORROW - SUFFERING - STRUGGLE - STAYING THE SAME - SHAME
I’m choosing the beautiful cycle! I will choose joy in the Lord, even when I am suffering. I will have long-suffering faith, patience and perseverance, in which my character will be built and I will have the experience so that in the future, when I experience suffering again, I will look back on my past experience, see what mighty work the Lord has done and have faith and hope again!
Will you chose the beautiful cycle today? Can I challenge you that when you experience pain or loss or when you feel like you have been waiting for a prayer to be answered for what seems like an eternity, that you maintain a Kingdom perspective and reconcile your mind, body and spirit to remain joyful?
And don't get me wrong...often our initial response is to complain, cry or just wallow (and honestly, that's ok...we are human), but let's just not stay there for too long. Let's choose the beautiful cycle and see what God does with it! And remember (though not all may agree with me) sometimes we have to fake it till we make it...turn on worship music and sing, even if you don't feel like it! Shout "GOD, YOU ARE GOOD!" even if you don't believe it in that moment. Cause you know what? Your suffering, your sorrow, will be traded for joy...even if it starts out a little fake! Give it a try! GOD, YOU ARE GOOD! YOU ARE FAITHFUL! I LOVE YOU, LORD! YOU'RE NEVER GOING TO LET ME DOWN!
Shout it, sing it, and allow the joy to well up within!
And always remember...
He loves you so incredibly much! That thought alone should bring us more joy than we could ever imagine! <3