“Suffering” can be an ugly word.
Suffering brings to mind shades of pain, discouragement, anger, and darkness.
You know all about it.
So does God.
It is tough to believe that suffering can reveal anything worth knowing.
However, in the upside-down, inside-out, way of the Christian faith, suffering produces more than easy living ever could.
Suffering has meaning. In the middle of intense affliction your spirit is more open than ever to the outpouring of God’s love into your life.
3 choices for strength in suffering:
1. Choose to cultivate spiritual serenity in spite of chaotic conditions. “Shaking mountains” and “agitated waters” (Psalm 46:2,3) are figures of speech for the difficulties we face in life. The Psalmist was inspired to write, “God is our refuge and strength…Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:1, 10) A spiritual calm does not come from a lack of troubles; it develops from a steady, deep reflection on the ways God has intervened in history.
It’s “God’s past” that provides calm for your future. Know God’ s history, not merely intellectually, but practically, spiritually, and emotionally. He is God. He is the ruler of the nations of this earth and the all-powerful Creator of the Universe.
The counsel of Psalm 46:2,3 is counter-intuitive. “Be still” means “cause yourselves to let go.” We “let go” by giving up trusting in ourselves and our own designs in order to experience God’s all-sufficiency.
2. Choose to be who you are in spite of how circumstances are changing. My mum, Irene, had breast cancer. However, breast cancer didn’t have my mum. She was still the same Irene everyone knew before she had cancer. She was still positive, joyful, trusting, and kind. Her hopeful attitude and gentle spirit were unchanged by cancer.
I was in my first year of University and so focused on me that I never came close to understanding the fear and loss she went through because of breast cancer. For me “mastectomy” was simply a hard-to-spell word. For mum it was about her body and her identity. It also became more than that. Cancer surgery was an experience that saw her faith in Jesus put to the test. Her faith passed with flying colours.
After surgery mum never complained. She leaned into her faith in Jesus, and lived another 30 plus years with a graciousness that was contagious.
The trust she developed in that testing of her faith was pure gold and served her for a lifetime.
3. Choose to stand still. If your world crumbles around you, the call from Scripture is: don’t flinch – have faith in God. Stand.
“Put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” (Ephesians 6:13) Stand still — not because you are the most composed person in the face of disaster – but because of what you know about God. Choose to trust the Lord and His Word.
When all feels unwell around you let God teach you to say, “It’s well my soul.”
A man whose three daughters drowned on a transatlantic crossing, was inspired to write,
“When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul.”
His prose became a path for people to follow through their own journey of suffering. A path that would lead them to a “peace that passes all understanding.” A peace that comes from God who guards your heart and keeps your mind quiet and at rest as you trust.
APPLICATION: How have you faced suffering? What can we learn from your story? Please leave a comment below.
Subscribe to “Pointes of View” by signing up here.