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.
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.
You can’t fit God’s dream (if I can use that language) for his church inside of the American dream and have it work. It’s a radically different lifestyle. It just won’t squeeze into the available spaces of the time and energy that’s left over.
Go check out the rest of the post at Desiring God. You will be encouraged.
Our longing to do something for God should never supersede our desire to know God. I had this thought as I listened to a Paul Washer clip yesterday. How often we find ourselves ready to serve God but without the hard pressed hours on our knees in preparation for the service. I am guilty. Even as I sit here writing this post, I am reminded of how much I need to read His word and approach the throne of grace on my knees.
I want my desire to first be to know God. If I ever want to effectively serve Him, I MUST know Him. It becomes a very self-centered task to do things for God without first knowing what it is He requires.
A man would hesitate to purchase a lawnmower for a woman whose heart he hoped to win. He would strive to know the heart of that woman and then purchase his gifts in accordance with his knowledge. A Christian can offer all kinds of nice gifts to God- a life of service, a willing heart, a giving spirit. But we must first understand the person we are serving in order to be an effective servant. The priority must be our personal devoted relationship with God above our outward tasks for God.
Do not put to death the desire to be used of God and to do much for His glory. Simply prioritize the knowledge of Him over all else. The stronger our relationship is with God, the more naturally the outpouring of our usefulness will be to God.
I can not say enough about John Piper and the influence he has had on my spiritual life. Listening to him preach is an honor- even if it is via the internet. If most preachers are a drinking fountain, Piper is a fire hydrant. You can not escape his sermons without saturation.
In Take Care How You Listen!, Piper details the need to prepare our hearts and minds to hear the Word of God. In the second part of the message, he gets very practical about how our lives as Christians should look if we truly want to grow. I’m challenged to ever be seeking ways to change- not out of legalism, but out of a desire to be used by God. I want to be encompassed by my Maker.