Sunday, June 24, 2012

Suffering and Surrendering

Would it surprise you to know that I don't write on this blog for pure pleasure or to make myself look good? (If you think I've got it "all together," think again.) And would it surprise you to know that I have to go back and reread my own posts in order to remind myself of what God already taught me a few weeks ago, but I've since forgotten?

I believe this is one of the many reasons the Lord led me to start this blog. He is teaching me so much through this time of suffering (yes, suffering) and testing that I need this permanent record for myself and to share with others who may need comfort. I've hesitated to put this label of suffering on my situation until now because I tend to identify that word with really horrible diseases, death, torture, and the like. But God has shown me that suffering comes in many forms.

I've had one of those weeks in which God has revealed some things to me that have really stretched my faith. He's asked me to back off--step out of the way--so He can handle things His way. It's time to surrender control and stop picking it up again. See, I have this fatal flaw: a sin nature. In my flesh, I think I know better what I need or how things should be done or when they should be done. [Thankfully this flaw doesn't have to be fatal since Christ took my sin on Himself. How incredible that He was willing to die for my impatience and pride (and all the other stuff) and that God is willing to forgive me too. If that kind of love doesn't melt your heart, you'd better check your temperature.]

God reminded me several times today of principles He's taught me already but I needed a refresher course. One of these reminders came through a godly man who is living in extreme circumstances as a pastor in the country of Nigeria. His life, and that of his family and fellow Christians, is in danger daily. If anyone knows about suffering, it's him. My suffering cannot even begin to compare with his, yet I was still able to identify with him. Suicide bombers and political strife are major concerns for him, but I really picked up on another area of suffering that he mentioned. He and his wife adopted a child 22 years ago. Without going into details (because I don't know them all), this now-adult child has no real life, is bed-ridden, and cannot communicate. She has special medical needs and is taken care of at home. It's the kind of situation that makes a person ask, "Why? What purpose does God have for someone like this and the suffering it causes the care-givers?" Only God knows that purpose. "Why 22 years? Doctors did not expect her to live this long? What more can God teach them through this?" Only God knows that purpose. They have to trust that God knows what He is doing.

His message today was taken from 2 Corinthians 1:1-11. The title of his sermon: Figuring Out the Mystery of Suffering. The problem is there are no answers to why we suffer, just more questions. The word comfort is used many, many times in this passage. One of the reasons for suffering is so that we can comfort others and identify with their trouble. Suffering also reminds us of our helplessness and complete dependence on God--and not trusting ourselves. Suffering is good for my welfare because it teaches me things that can only be learned in this place. God's timing is different than ours and we cannot influence His timing with tears, begging, or pleading.

This was a one-two punch day for me. If the first lesson on suffering wasn't enough for one day, God made sure I heard another lesson which came from Dr. Charles Stanley. He said that God has several purposes for our suffering and some of these reasons mirror the ones listed above: Total reliance on God and being a comfort to others. He also pointed out that how we live out this suffering is a demonstration to others how faithful God is to one of His children. Our suffering also gives us a deeper understanding of who God is and His ways. Suffering also keeps us from becoming prideful. Sometimes God takes things or people out of our life which may cause us to stumble but All Things work for His good (Romans 8:28).

In the end I realized...
  • That I need to keep a Divine Perspective on everything. What doesn't make sense to me, is quite logical from God's perspective.
  • Suffering may be painful, but God has a purpose for it and my obedience in the midst of suffering will reap blessings. Blessings through obedience bring eternal rewards (growing faith, contentment, improved relationship with Christ, Peace, Joy).
  • Suffering comes in many forms and so do blessings. 
  • I need to be thankful in ALL circumstances and I need to always keep looking up, with my eyes fixed on Christ, and not the circumstances. 
 What have you learned about suffering? 
Click on the POST A COMMENT link below and share the comfort.

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. 
For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us
 with his comfort through Christ.  
Even when we are weighed down with troubles, 
it is for your comfort and salvation! 
For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. 
Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. 
We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, 
you will also share in the comfort God gives us. ~ 2 Corinthians 1:1-7

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