In Part I and Part II of Thoughts on Suffering, I have discussed some of the reasons why God allows us to suffer. Of course, the details vary, but the primary concept is that suffering can bring glory to God. Nothing else matters.
I would like to go over some ideas on dealing with suffering. This is meant to be a simple and yet practical post on how we cope when times are tough.
- Search Scripture. Find comfort in the words of Jesus and understand that He was a man and acquainted with sorrow. Search through the countless Biblical stories of those that suffered: Ruth, Job, and Paul are amongst others.
- Pray. Depression can make us feel like drawing back from the Lord, but it can also be a springboard towards closer fellowship with Him. Use it as a time to draw near to the throne of grace.
- Seek counsel. Talk to a trusted friend, family member, or church leader. Be selective in seeking counsel- it is not always wise to pour out your heart to every person that will listen. Seek the wisdom of one or two Godly counselors who can provide a listening ear and Biblical direction.
- Journal. Document the seasons in life that are trying in order to reflect on them in the future. Getting thoughts on paper can be very healing and also provide a reminder of God’s faithfulness in the storm.
- Preach the truth to yourself. Suffering is for a purpose- and it is an eternal purpose. Let it have its work in you. Do not run from it, but allow yourself to be molded by challenges. Remind yourself of truth about God and His nature.
- Repeat steps one through four.
The weeks pass as if a day. Some of my favorite moments from the past week were:
- Fellowship with a dear friend while shopping at IKEA.
- Seeing God work through the beginning of Joshua.
- Listening to hours of Paul Washer and being so challenged in my faith.
- Visiting a church with the purpose of seeking ideas for the hope of working with a church plant in the future.
- Preparing for a class I am taking- stretching myself mentally and excited about preparing for future ministry.
- Seeing a beautiful baby come into the world!
I firmly believe that though suffering can be beneficial to our lives here on earth, so much of the purpose of suffering will not be seen until we get to heaven. The dear woman who I mentioned in Thoughts on Suffering: Part I has gone on to glory. Rachel B. from Death is Not Dying is also resting in her Savior’s arms. No longer are these dear women bound to pain of their earthly bodies. They are finally home.
Even if your suffering is not in the physical- it is very real. Sometimes the deepest pain does not show up on an M.R.I. or an X-ray. Sometimes the deepest hurt is in the heart. It may come at the hands of a friend, family member, or even a church. I personally have experienced pain at the hands of all three. Even as I sit here and remember some of my past pain, tears come to my eyes. Wounds- especially when they are often unjust- leave a stinging that remains long past the blow.
But as I look back, I know that it was never God’s purpose for me to live an easy life. A pain free life would never have given God the same opportunity to show me His amazing faithfulness. It would never have allowed me to grow, clinging more to my Father in heaven than any person He has given me on earth.
In addition, there are joys that come through pain. Sometimes God takes something away for the purpose of something better. Sometimes the taking away is an end in itself. Most importantly, it provides an opportunity for God to be glorified.
Stop by next week for Part III!
I was reminded of many things as I witnessed to Amanda. The first is that God is always sovereign in providing opportunities for us to proclaim His name. The second is that those opportunities can come in unexpected places. The third is that sometimes sharing the gospel is especially easy- and sometimes the people that God chooses to sovereignly place in our paths are the ones that we are the easiest for us to evangelize.
I was sitting by the wave pool at the local water park watching my family’s pile of towels. The only available chairs were sandwiched between a few chair occupied by other people’s things. I sat down to get started on my sunburn (another story for another time) when 15-year-old Amanda plopped down next to me. She was a tomboy to say the least. We started chatting, and it turned out that she races dirt bikes. I could tell she was a tough country girl.
We chatted about racing (well- I asked questions- I didn’t know the first thing about racing). We also chatted about the brown recluse bite that was bandaged over on her leg. Of course, her somewhat daring lifestyle was the slightly cracked window that I worked open to turn the conversation towards matters of eternity.
Amanda was very open. She believed in heaven and hell and seemed interested in the questions I was asking her about eternity. Her thought was that though she has broken God’s law (by her own admission), God would forgive her. We talked about how a Just Judge (Psalms 7) cannot forgive people for free. When I gave her the courtroom analogy, she was quick to say she wouldn’t let someone pay her fine. I told her that was ok in a human court, but that the debt we owe because of sin is not a debt we can pay. It took a perfect sacrifice- Jesus.
I gave her a tract to take home and pray that she takes the time to read it. I want her to understand God’s forgiveness, but I first hope she begins to understand repentance and faith in Jesus alone.
This situation was a reminder that God will use us anywhere. If we live our lives viewing each person as either saved or lost, we will never be at a loss for someone to evangelize. I am so thankful that God let me talk to Amanda. I did not have to go looking. In His sovereignty, He took a country girl three hours from her house and placed her in the chair next to me.
Here’s to regular blogging again! I do not know how long it will last since I am looking ahead to what promises to be an insanely busy fall. I am thrilled with most of the busyness. It will center around managing my business, teaching my students, taking quite a few classes, being with my family, and hopefully maintaining a level of organization in my personal life.
My baby sister turned eight this week. That makes me feel sufficiently old. I do believe it is high time for my mom to have grandkids. Considering I am ten years older than my next sibling, I suppose that makes it my job to bear said children. I look forward to being a mommy- especially with the recent downpour of babies from my friends. But I am also so very excited and thankful for this season of my life to pursue educational goals that will hopefully lead to future ministry goals that would simply not be possible if I found myself in a different season of life.
I spend a lot of time staring at my computer screen. I recently made an addition to my room of a comfy loungy chair of sorts that is becoming permanantly imprinted with my backside. I like it a lot. My thought in the addition of the chair to my room is that it will help get me out of bed in the mornings and into an upright position where I can better begin my day. (Prior to this chair, my morning routine involved rolling over, opening my laptop, and staring at the screen through bleary eyes while pressing send/receive half a dozen times.) Next to my chair is my book basket which houses my Bibles, current reading material, journal, etc.
When I am working on my computer or even around my room, I like to put on a sermon. Paul Washer is my favorite of late (see Twitter!). I told a friend this week that it is kind of like an I.V. drip. I almost incessantly have a Paul Washer sermon playing. I love how he dives in deep and always brings things back to the Gospel. When I am not listening to Paul Washer, I listen to John Piper. I have not decided which of these amazing men is my favorite preacher. Perhaps when I finish listening to all of their sermons (possibly by the time I’m 92), I will be able to decide on a favorite.
Just a few random personal reflections…
Coming this week:
- Entrusted With A Dirtbike Racer
- Thoughts on Suffering: Part II