Family watching television, c. 1958 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Imagine if you will that we are in the studio audience for a game show. Now look on stage at the three doors you and I could choose – consider this:
- 1. Behind door number one – an extreme makeover for your house – your dream home right here. It could be in the most wonderful, as they say in real estate, location, location, location. It comes complete with choice of style, the most amazing appliances in a dream kitchen, a garage-workshop lined with the best power tools, and curb appeal to impress any and all guests.
- Behind door number two is the perfect family. Everyone is on their best behavior, everyone gets along and they are your pride and joy. Enough said.
- 3. And behind door number three is a simple sign that says, “Suffering that you might grow closer to Christ.”
Our human natures wouldn’t let us to choose and open that third door. We wouldn’t. As much as we would like to think we would, none of us wants to suffer.
As difficult as it is to consider, here are some positive things suffering can do:
- Suffering establishes a common denominator with others who suffer in different ways. It might be health issues, an aggressive cancer, a financial reversal, a job loss, the loss of someone close to us through death, the end of a treasured relationship, the list goes on….but when we accept suffering, unjust as it may be, we “get” the suffering of others and can give and receive sympathy on a whole new level.
- Suffering can make us more tender-hearted and compassionate and use the fueled energy for something good. Many powerful society-changing movements are birthed out of suffering. We are seldom moved to sacrificial action when life is easy. It takes those circumstances that tear us apart inside to give us the courage, determination and energy to make a difference.
- Suffering saves us from living a superficial mediocre life.
- Suffering helps us understand what is important, and what is not.
- Suffering shines the light on what position God holds in our lives.
- Suffering helps us to identify with Christ with the realization that He suffered more and so He understands on a level of no one else. What Jesus willingly took on in submitting to a crucifixion is described as excruciating mentally, physically and spiritually. Jesus “gets” our suffering.
- Suffering can increase our thirst to know Christ more intimately.
- Suffering refines us. It is a tough process, but suffering is able to burn away things like pride, a self-sufficient attitude, a tendency toward resentment and a host of other things that can cause war within our souls.
- Suffering enlarges our ability to trust in God alone for our future.
- Suffering makes us long for heaven. Suffering helps us understand it’s not all here and now and that some day in His timing, God will have the final word on everything.
We would never in a million years choose suffering. But when it chooses us we can purpose ourselves and encourage each other to search out those silver linings to the dark clouds on our horizons. How grateful I am for the kind words, selfless work and encouragements given to me. They have made many days endurable, comforting and even hopeful. Maybe our suffering will be used – somehow in someway – to make a brighter day for someone else. Just perhaps something significant will grow out of the unlikely soil of anguish. That gives a sense of hope when we are deep in hurt. We all want something that outlasts us and our suffering, painful though it is, is an oft-used vehicle for powerful positive change.
As I paint in my artist studio I try to listen to uplifting music or messages from preachers and speakers I respect and from whom I am eager to learn. Today, while I was working on a painting of a wedding portrait with a stained glass background, I took in a session of Beth Moore‘s Jesus the One and Only that was filmed in Israel. Beth’s messages resonate with me because of her knowledge, the way she connects in a personal way with her audience, her humble nature and sense of humor. She is a terrific communicator but does not water down the message to try to make it popular. But popular, she is – and for good reason.
Today Beth talked about losing a following with an important person in her life because she wasn’t as funny as she used to be and did not shrink back from tough issues. Life is difficult and a lot of people are hurting. I caught myself saying “amen” out loud several times as the video rolled on.
We live in a culture that loves to be entertained and we financially reward those who help us escape mentally for awhile be it through sports, films, or with popular music. Nothing wrong with those things, but those who are hurting still need someone real with a sensitive ear to listen, some hope from the reality of faith in Christ and encouragement from the Scriptures.
Day 442: Precious (Photo credit: amanky)
Jesus with little one (Photo credit: freestone)
God equips normal every day people for this task of listening, hope-giving and encouragement and His school for such ministry is called The Academy of Suffering and Sorrow. Wouldn’t you know it, no one intentionally signs up for one of those classes. But once they are in the academy something wonderful can happen. The suffering and sorrow is not the wonderful part. But those who have been trained by such are able to lend a hand, an ear and a heart to a hurting world and let others know that God is going to get them through this difficult time. These academy graduates know because God was faithful to them in their time of need. Their resolve was strengthened, their belief became more than intellectual and their faith made real. Now their outlook is deeper and they can handle bigger punches from life, their attitude brighter and they are full of hope. God can mould us by His “thundering velvet hand” and make us sweeter for the encounter.
All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. II Corinthians 1:3-4
Someone I dearly love has been diagnosed with cancer. Surgery is imminent. As I listened to her characteristically cheerful voice there was a tinge of apprehension about the upcoming discomfort of the treatment. Yet, she was optimistic about the future. My heart went out to her. This has been someone who has lovingly cared for me when I was ill. How I wish I could close my eyes and make the reality of this rotten cancer go away. While I am thankful for the medical strides that have taken place and I know she will be well cared for, I wish she didn’t have to endure what is ahead.
I am comforted that my Lord knows suffering. Hurt and pain and disease were not hypothetical circumstances to Him. While on earth He suffered excruciating pain, so when He offers compassion it comes from a deep, real place. He offers us something beyond sympathy.
“I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” John 14:27 (NLT)
As we reach out to those who suffer physically, mentally and emotionally and seek to be His hands and feet, may we carry with us the peace of God and offer it to a hurting world in Jesus’ name.