Tag Archive: suffering


 

This article serves as the preamble to my upcoming series on Christian suffering. There has been so much written and spoken concerning suffering. There are those that believe that suffering is an indication of some existing sin in the life of the one suffering. Job’s three friends took this line of rationale as they attempted to counsel Job in the midst of his pain. There are those that believe that suffering is the Christian’s lot in life and that it somehow signifies the validity of the believer’s faith.

The truth is that suffering does have purpose in the life of the believer. In fact, there are different types of suffering. There is punitive suffering which is punishment for sin and waywardness in association to God’s plan. We see this quite often in the Bible as Israel (God’s client nation) moves contrary to his will.

There is self induced misery; this is the situation when believers and non-believers alike generate anguish within their own souls as well as the overt conditions and circumstance they create around them. Because God designed the human to have volitional freedom, coupled with a sin nature (contracted at the fall of humanity), it is inevitable that man will make decisions that negatively impact their lives. There is a divine law of volitional responsibility which indicates that as a believer exercises their volitional freedom they are directly responsible for the consequences. This keeps us from taking the stance that we are being unjustly punished by God for executing the very freedom he gave. We do have the freedom of choice, but it comes at a price.

There is collective suffering. This is when an entire group suffers because the collective failed as a whole. A good example of this would be when the Israelites tarried for forty years in the wilderness because the majority believed the negative report of the 10 spies and ignored the positive report and vote of confidence from Joshua and Caleb. Not only did the whiners and unfaithful have to languish in the wilderness, so did Joshua and Caleb. Those two did not die with the rest, but they had to suffer through 40 years of delay because of someone else.

There is suffering for blessing, which is a broad topic. In this study, suffering for blessing is assigned to the believer that has steadied himself and positioned himself in the will of God and continues to execute the protocol plan of God. Even someone who was initially suffering as a punitive measure can move from punitive suffering to suffering for blessing. What this means is that the moment a believer realizes that he has sinned and that his sin has resulting in some form of suffering, he has the opportunity to repent and move toward God. If he does this, the suffering may very well continue, it may even intensify, but it is no longer for the sake of punishment, it is now for the sake blessing.

Suffering is a great teacher. It has the exceptional power to conquer ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) of the spirit. God knows how to get the attention of His creation.

There is providential preventative suffering designed by God to keep the believer from moving off course. A good example of this would be Paul’s thorn in the flesh. Paul tells us the thorn was given to him so that he would not become exalted within himself (arrogant and filled with pride [big headed]). The thorn in the flesh was a constant reminder to Paul that God was his source of power and that in and of himself, he was feeble and week.

Suffering comes as a test. You see, adversity is an unbelievable barometer to test the authenticity of one’s faith and their true commitment to God’s plan. I was once posed the following question: Can God trust you with trouble? Could God give the testimony he gave for Job concerning you?

In this study we will explore the importance of doctrinal thinking in the midst of heartache and struggles. So often, Christians take on a victim’s mentality and totally miss the opportunity to advance. There is no greater platform of advancement than suffering. Allow me to elucidate the previous statement. This does not mean that the Christian should look to live in a perpetual state of suffering. The true Christian’s life is characterized by victory and triumph. There will always be resistance and the enemy will always be present, but we are more than conquers (Rom. 8:37). What this means is that when you find yourself in the midst of the storm, you don’t crumble, you don’t cower, you don’t acquiesce to the pressure, you don’t point the finger of blame, you don’t whine and complain. What you do is gird up yourself with faith in your God and His purpose for your life. You allow God to use the storm to elevate you. Ask Joseph and he will tell you that a 13 year storm elevated him to the second highest position in all of the land of Egypt. Ask Job and he will tell you that a whirlwind entered his life, but it resulted in an undying legacy of faith and perseverance.

Actually suffering can be broken down into five major categories and we will become acquainted with them. We will learn how position ourselves in the storm. Remember, God is sovereign and nothing happens without Him allowing it, and if God allows it then it has a positive purpose in your life. So prepare to engage this study with an intensity that will help you grow closer to Christ as you grow thereby in the knowledge and grace of our Savior (2 Pet. 3:18) ~ Dr. Rick Wallace

You are invited to visit me at my Christian Impact site as well!

October 16, 2012

Master Designer
Mary Southerland

Today’s Truth
For he [Abraham] was looking forward to the city with firm foundations, whose architect and builder is God (Hebrews 11:10, New English).

Friend to Friend
Our son was born to be a builder. From the time he could hold a plastic red hammer in his toddler-sized hands, Jered began hammering imaginary nails into the coffee table, fixing everything that was broken in our house, and drawing crayon blueprints of various objects he planned to build. No wooden surface in our home was safe from Jered’s scrutiny or design.

Since my husband enjoyed woodworking as a hobby, he decided to build Jered a miniature workbench beside his own in the garage. Several nights each week, Dan and Jered headed out to the garage to pound and hammer and do what they called “man stuff.” I thought it was cute – a philosophy that would drastically change in the years to come.

I knew we had a true builder on our hands when Jered built a clubhouse inside our garage. And what a clubhouse it was – complete with four walls, a roof, windows and a door, carpeted flooring and a window air conditioning unit – all of which he scrounged from neighbors, dumpsters and piles of discarded wood at construction sites. He built a jewelry box for my birthday and a toy box that held his prized Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. If we needed storage cabinets in our garage, Jered drew up blueprints and built them. When we moved to a house with small bedrooms, Jered designed and built a queen-sized bunk bed over a built-in desk and book shelves to conserve space in his room. We no longer bought furniture. Jered simply built it. Looking back, I did not realize that those crayon blueprints and plastic tools would pave the way for our son’s career. Today, he owns his own construction business and is a master carpenter and builder.

Jered reminds me of another young man who was destined to become a builder – Jesus. Jesus’s earthly father, Joseph, was a carpenter by trade and taught Jesus everything he knew about being a master carpenter. It was not uncommon for the son to carry on his father’s business in those days. I often wonder if Jesus didn’t have a little workbench beside Joseph’s. I am sure Jesus must have followed His daddy around, hammering alongside His father’s true blows. I imagine Joseph had to remove a few stray nails driven by Jesus and even repair a few of his Son’s “jobs.” Did Jesus make a jewelry box for His mother or did He build a piece of furniture that Mary treasured like I treasure everything Jered has ever built for our home? Jesus was and is the ultimate Architect and Builder.

Yes, God is the Master Creator, but His greatest creations are not made of wood or stone. Jesus was and is the creator of eternal masterpieces like you and me. His blueprint for our lives is second to none. His plan is the Word of God and is without flaw or error as it molds us into the image of God – a process that is sometimes painful.

I once promised myself that I would never buy a house that could be described as a “fixer-upper.” I don’t like fixing things. I want everything to be fixed before I move in. But there I was, buying a town house that needed so much work even the realtor couldn’t believe my husband and I wanted to buy it. Why didn’t someone stop me? No one did, so the sale was made, and we went to work. Actually, my son and husband went to work while I went crazy.
I had no idea how horrible the process of remodeling could be. Layer after layer of dirt, grime, stains and ugliness was stripped away. Rotten kitchen cabinets were torn from the walls, and rusty appliances were replaced. We basically gutted the whole place and rebuilt it – while living in it. I was not happy!

I will never forget the day I woke up to see a toilet sitting at the foot of our bed. It was at that moment I resolved to never set foot in another house that required so much work. I am so thankful God does not feel that way about me.

Honestly, I used to wonder why God didn’t just demolish the old me and build a new one. Then He did just that – through a two-year battle with clinical depression. While sitting at the bottom of that deep, dark and slimy pit, the Father lovingly stripped away old fears and insecurities. From the walls of my heart, He tore the rotten attitudes, undisciplined thoughts and unholy desires that had walked me to the edge of my pit – then pushed me in. He replaced rusty old dreams with new ones and basically, gutted my life to build a new one, a better one, and a stronger one.

I know there are days when the plan of God seems completely wrong and we simply do not understand. Every moment is pregnant with darkness, and our hearts are numb, paralyzed by fear and doubt. We are treading water in the storm-tossed sea of life, desperately longing to see Him walking on the treacherous waves toward us, rescue in His hand. It is in those shadowed moments that we must choose to trust the Plan Maker, the Master Designer, even though our faith is small, and we cannot understand the plan. His ways are higher than our ways. His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. And one day, every one of our question marks will be yanked into exclamation points as we see that high plan as He sees it – perfect.

For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11, NLT).

Today, girlfriend, set aside your meager agenda. Lay down your limited life arrangement and look for God to meet you at the point of surrender, power and victory in His hands. Now that is a great plan.

“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes….”(Rev. 21:4 and 7:17)

“And the Lord will wipe away tears from all faces….”(Isa. 25:8)

 

If you are anything like me, you have those moments in which tears begin to well up in your eyes.  You make abortive and bootless efforts to suppress the inevitable tide of physically manifested emotions.  Tears can be brought on by many ardent and effusive forces.  There are tears of regret; when I take a retrospective glance at my life, tears began to flow as I am reminded of the pain that has come to others because of my selfish actions.  There are tears of pain.  The same retrospection that produces regret also paints the malevolent and inclement portrait of abandonment and heartache.  There are tears of Joy, sadness, emptiness and loneliness.  Tears are most often associated with negative emotions.

 

It is a natural human instinct to hold back tears.  Nobody wants to cry.  I took some time to stop by and tell you that it’s okay to cry, your tears are temporary.

            “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory…”(2 Cor. 4:17)

 

Jesus promised it, mama confirmed it, and experience has consummated and solidified the fact that this world will bring pain to those that inhabit it.  There is no circumvention of the trials and tribulations of this life.  You will inevitably take some wrong turns that consequently lead to pain.  You will at some point and time experience the heartache brought on by the neglect and betrayal of those you love and hold dear.  There will be a time when you will, just as David, say, “In return for my love there are my love they have become my accusers…”(109:4)  There are men that with every ounce of their being attempt to stem the tide of tears that flow as a result of pains that run deep.  There are women that have sworn that they will not shed one more tear over a man that has repetitively wounded their emotional stability.  Yet, in both instances, these people wake in the morning to find their pillows drenched with tears.

 

Tears are as natural as the instinct to suppress them.  They are a physiological response to invisible emotions; emotions that the majority of us don’t want exposed.  In our culture, tears are considered a sign of weakness, especially when it comes to men.  However, our emotions were never meant to be suppressed, but expressed.  David, Jeremiah, and Jesus all wept.  Very few people understand that crying and weeping are part of the healing process.  Suppressed emotions are never conducive to proper healing.

 

 

 

The most awesome truth about our moments of weeping is that no matter how hard we try to conceal our tears, our weeping is never a solitary experience.

 

“And the Lord said: ‘I have surely seen the oppression of my people who are in Egypt, and I have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows.”(Ex. 3:7)

 

God acknowledges that He has seen and heard the cries of His people.  He establishes the point that He is not some distant God that is cold and aloof toward His people.  Exodus 2:23 informs us that as the cries of the children of Israel rang out, God heard their groaning and He remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Remembering His promises, God looked upon the children of Israel and acknowledged them.  God has promised us that He will never leave nor forsake us.  This fact should bring solace to every believer.  Though the vault of your emotions has been breached and a medley of emotions cascade through the hollows of your existence, do not despair.  No matter how lonely the moment, irrespective to the current darkness, you are not alone.

 

Not only has God promised never to leave us alone, He has promised to act on our behalf.

            “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him.”(2 Chron. 16:9)

 

“When the enemy comes in like a flood.  The Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him.”(Isa. 59:19)

 

God did not simply acknowledge the children of Israel and their circumstances, He became personally involved.

“So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians…”(Ex. 3:8)

 

Not only have “I’ heard their cries and seen their oppression, “I” am going to intervene on their behalf.  The God we serve is completely responsive to the needs of His people.  He does not sit idly by while they face the vicissitudes of life.  God responds to those tears with a decisive force, bringing power, joy, and peace.

 

In fact, it is those moments of mourning, weeping, and crying that God moves most awesomely in the lives of believers.  When the pain of the moment has taken control of your life; when the loneliness has consumed you and the manacles of depression have seized hold of you; when no one else seems to care, God hears and God answers.  God responded to the cries of Job, David, Jeremiah and more.  It was the weeping of Mary and Martha that moved Jesus to tears and prompted the resuscitation of Lazarus.  It was the weeping of the nation of Israel that caused God to speak through Ezekiel and promise to bring them up from their graves of despair.  God moves in moments of desperation.

 

Let us look once again at the book of Exodus so that we might closer examine the dynamics of God’s movement in the lives of His chosen.  It begins in Chapter 1.

            “But the children of Israel were fruitful and increased abundantly, multiplied and grew exceedingly mighty….Now there arose a new king over Egypt…and he said to his people….come, let us deal shrewdly with them….therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with their burdens….and they made them serve with rigor…. Then the King spoke to the midwives…and he said, when you do the duties of a midwife to the Hebrew women, if it is a son, then you shall kill him…”(Ex. 1:7-6)

 

The God we serve is a “show up” God, and the show up process begins at the moment of need.  Up to this point, God had sustained His people through providential care.  They had increased abundantly and grew exceedingly mighty, but the moment the Egyptians moved against them, the show up process began.  God’s subtle movements are revealed in His providential provisions.  There is nothing subtle about the show up process; when God shows up He shows out.  He is completely radical in His movement.  He leaves no doubt as to who has brought deliverance.  Your tears are a visible sign that God is about to bust a move in your situation.

 

 

Every oppressive move of the Egyptians drew God closer to His people.  Every lash of the taskmasters whip, every drop of sweat from the brow of an enslaved Israelite, every vociferous cry of a Hebrew woman brought closer the day that God’s inimitable and unsurpassed power would be displayed on behalf of His chosen.  The tears of the believer are like a magnet that acts as a spiritually kinetic force that draws God to the center of the struggle.  Sometimes all you can do is cry.  Your ability to reason has dissipated, rendering you dysfunctional.  You want to pray, but you can’t form the words.  All you can do is cry.  Your soul sinks within you and the questions of why, how and when press their way to the surface.  Why is this happening to me?  How could he/she do this to me?  When will it end?  All of these questions have their place, however, the most pertinent question is not why, how, or when, but who?  Who can I turn to when my attempts to ebb the tides of the tribulation proves futile?  Who can I trust when no one else seems to care?  When those who are normally the pillars of support in my life are being crushed under the weight of life’s realities, to whom can I turn to be the buttress that sustains me in the midst of the storm?

“When I cry out to you, Then my enemies will turn back; this I know, because God is for me.” (PS 56:9)

“And it will be for a sign and for a witness…for they will cry to the Lord…and he will send them a savior and a Mighty one, and He will deliver them.”(Isa. 19:20)

 

“Then David and the people who were with him lifted up their voices and wept, until they had no more power to weep….So David recovered all…and nothing of theirs was lacking, either small or great….David recovered all…”(1 Sam. 30:4, 18-19)

 

 

When there is nowhere else to turn, even when there is “no more power” to weep, God hears our cries, even the silent cries of a desperate soul.  It’s okay, go ahead and cry.  Your tears are a release of the pressures, hurts and disappointments of the moment.  Your tears are a clarion sounding to God that His child is in need.  Your tears are not meant to be quenched or suppressed; they are an expression of the heart’s yearnings.  Your tears are a part of God’s show up process.

 

Isn’t it awesome to be in Love with a God that loves you; a God that becomes personally involved in our lives.  I can’t promise you that there will not be tears, in fact, the one you hold dearest may yet break your heart; the expectations for tomorrow may go unfulfilled; in return for your love, they may become your accuser.  Yet, God, in His bountiful love, sees, hears, and responds to the cries of His people.

 

God, through His Word, has not only promised temporal relief from life’s struggles and disappointments, but an eternal acknowledgment and comforting for every tear shed during this ethereal journey of Christianity.

 

“God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.”(PS. 46:1)

“For the lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters.  And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”(Rev. 7:17)

“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying.  There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”(Rev. 21:4)

 

In Psalms 46, we find that God is a present help in trouble.  He is there during those bouts with loneliness; He is there when you are grieving and mourning the loss of a loved one; He is there when all you possess is taken away.  No matter what you are going through; no matter how dark the moment, God is there.  Not only is He a present help, but he has promised to bring eternal peace and comfort.  He has promised to wipe every tear permanently away from your eyes, after which there will be no more death, no more sorrow, nor crying.  He has promised that He will personally take away forever, every pain, every heartache, and every tormenting struggle.

 

Isaiah 25:8 says, “He will swallow up death forever, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces.  Isaiah 35:10 says, “And the “ransomed” of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing.  With everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and singing shall flee away.”

 

“The ransomed” refers to those who have been purchased at a price; those whose debt has been expiated by the Son.  “The ransomed” are those who have been redeemed by the precious “Blood” of the “Lamb”.  Ransomed and redeemed are words meritorious of our concentrated attention.  These words remind us that we have been released from the prison of sin; we have been rescued from the pit of hell; we have been preserved for all eternity; we have been liberated, set free, and cut loose from the shackles of eternal damnation.  God in His matchless love has said, “I will ransom them from the power of the grave…(Hosea 13:14)”

 

 

When we keep in view the fact that we are creatures redeemed by the creator; when we are able to apprehend in full the understanding of the magnitude of the love required for God to redeem us in our sinful state, we will view our trials, sufferings, and disappointments in a different light.  We will view them as Paul did:

 

            “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”(Rom. 8:18)

“We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed….for our light affliction, which is but for a moment is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of Glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.  For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Cor. 4: 8,9,17 and 18)

 

Your tears are a temporary response to the reality of the moment.  Your tears are a physical expression of an emotional state.  It’s okay, go ahead and cry, the pain won’t last forever.  God’s on His way and He’s bringing joy with Him.  He’s coming to wipe away ever tear.  You may be crying now, but weeping only endures for a night, for joy comes in the morning.  Cry if you must, but do not despair; the God we serve is a show up God.  He is on His way to deliver, to heal, to liberate, and to exalt.  So, let the tears flow when they come, for soon God will wipe every tear away!

 

May you be richly blessed!

 

Sincerely,

Bishop Rick Wallace

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