Joy in Suffering

This is always a difficult and touchy subject to write or talk about.  However, in light of recent events in my own life, I feel that I should share some of the wisdom and insight God has given me throughout my life, and especially in the last few days.

My wife and I found out last Wednesday, February 5, that we had lost our baby to a miscarriage.  We had begun to notice some troubling signs a couple of days before, and as those persisted, we decided to go to the hospital and have everything checked out.  For more details, see my wife’s blog:  http://wearelivingagreatstory.com/2014/02/08/journey-to-motherhood-part-3-the-loss/ (sorry, I don’t know how to link things up yet).  Although we did and are experiencing great sadness, and before that fear, we also felt and still feel God’s strong hand on us, guiding us and preparing us and enabling us to trust Him.

In the moment we were being told the unfortunate news, the Spirit brought to my mind the reaction of Job when he found out that everything he had was lost and all of his children had been killed.  He said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return.  The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).  Our loss is deep and very personal to us, but I realize that it is no where near the capacity of Job’s loss.  His first reaction is, of course, grief: “Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head…” but then his next immediate reaction, he “…fell on the ground and worshiped” (Job 1:20).  I am thankful that God enabled my mind to recall that passage of Scripture in that moment, and I said a quick prayer of worship.  The same words that Job spoke when he first received the terrible news about his crops, his flocks and his children, I prayed “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Many of you may think that we are crazy or that something is wrong with us.  After all, how can we praise God when it seems that He has taken something so wonderful away from us?  But we don’t see it that way.  God has done us no wrong, and we believe that He has never done anyone any kind of wrong.  We believe that He is all good and completely trustworthy in everything.  We also realize that God didn’t make this happen.  It just did.  We live in a world that is dominated by the forces of darkness.  But we also realize that this life is temporary and the suffering and pain ever more so.  Paul’s words say it best in Romans 8:18:  “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”  His hope is in the eternal, not in the temporal, and I believe that if we as believers in Christ keep our minds on these things, our pain and suffering will not seem quite as bad as we think it is.  That is not to say that we won’t experience pain or suffering, but that in the midst of it, we can know that God is right there with us in that pain in the present, and we have the promise of eternal joy with no suffering.

Jesus warned us in many places that we would suffer as believers.  One of my favorite passages is John 16:33 where He says:  “In the world you will have tribulation.  But take heart; I have overcome the world.”  Our savior and messiah went through the worst sort of pain possible.  Physically He was tortured and nailed to a cross.  Emotionally, He was despised and rejected by the very same people that He came to save.  And even worse, God the Father turned His face away causing Jesus to cry out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?”  (Mark 15:34)  At times, it feels as though God has abandoned us, but He hasn’t.  He knows the pain that we have suffered, having suffered it Himself.  He is not immune to our pain or detached from it, He is right here with us in the midst of it.

James tells us to “Count it all joy, my brothers (and sisters), when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness” ([strength of character], James 1:2-3).  Our pastor preached on this subject on Sunday, and wisely pointed out that it doesn’t say “experience all joy.” Of course we aren’t going to always experience joy when we are suffering, but we can still count it joy, or have joy and hope in our hearts.  This joy does not come from within ourselves.  It is supernatural, from God the Holy Spirit who lives within believers.  That is the only way that we can have hope in the midst of trials.

Paul reiterates the point well in Romans 5:3-5:  “…we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

In the end, we consider it a privilege to suffer for God.  A privilege that He has entrusted us to bring Him glory through this trial.  This does not mean that we are not suffering or experiencing pain, but that through the pain, our reaction is hopefully pointing to God and bringing Him glory.  At the same time, it is making us stronger and wiser to help others who are experiencing pain and suffering.  It is bringing us closer to each other and closer to God.

We realize that many will not understand and will even think that we are crazy.  Some may even view this as a fatalistic way of thinking.  We couldn’t disagree more.  Rather than being fatalistic, we are humbly putting our fragile temporal lives and our eternal souls into the hands of the Almighty Creator of the Universe and trusting Him wholeheartedly and unapologetically.  We find that this gives us the most strength and the most hope to carry on.  Not to move on, because this will always be a loss and nothing can change that.  We just want our lives to reflect His glory and His strength and not our own, because it all comes from Him and not us.

All Glory and honor and power and strength to our God and the Lord Jesus Christ, and grace and peace to all who are in Christ!

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