We as humans love to be in control, we love to have control, knowing what the outcome will be. In order to grow and change however, there is a need to abandon the ‘form’ that we have created, our security, our control; open to the creation of un-control.
We have such narrow, defined, shallow and restricting idols that we erect; the creation of our minds. We map out the perfect life; born into, career success, comfortable retirement and a pain free, quick death. By assuming that our plan, ‘construct’ our ‘created form’ that is better than the one we are experiencing, we open ourselves to judgemental feelings, disappointment and dissatisfaction.
We assume that Almighty God is there to prop up and polish our idol like a Genie that emerges from his lamp to fulfil our wishes. When this idol is touched, shaken, perhaps destroyed we regard it as shocking, an affront. We are frightened when the careful balance that we have created is shaken. We are shocked at the destruction. From the chaos of our disturbed life, we may for the first time see God in and through the circumstances we are kicking against. When we have the ‘security of life’ touched and shaken, this for many of us is a new life being birthed. Benoni.
Suffering and death.
Acts 21:13 Then Paul answered, What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus. Once we have taken on the name of Jesus our life is no longer ours to command. We have entered into the realm of the King of Kings where he has the right to command our lives and to do as he wishes with us. We died in Christ Jesus and now we are his. There is a tendency in modern western Christianity to imagine that we will be protected from every form of suffering and pain if we only follow Christ. This is a concept that is foreign to scripture and the experience of the apostles and the early Christians.
What is suffering?
Different views on suffering.
Why is there suffering.
Attitude to suffering.
What is suffering? Suffering can be described as pain in any form.
The theologies of suffering:
Modern name it and claim it. This is the view that says that all suffering was dealt with at the cross and that if you are suffering it is not necessary, you should claim your victory in Jesus name and move on. If you are still suffering then it may be because of the sin in your life that prevents the Lord breaking the shackles. However there may be another reason for the suffering.
Bad Choices, if you have aids and are suffering with it you made the wrong choices.
Demonic attack. This view is that there are demonic forces that are at work and that are causing the suffering, that a God that is all loving and all powerful God full of goodness would never allow suffering in one of his children. There is another view:
Allowed by God. This view is not popular and is contentious in the church as it exposes the possibility that suffering might be God’s plan for our lives.
Who suffers? Everyone suffers in some form or another. It is my argument that in the scales of God; every life is weighed and tested. God is just; measuring out both pleasure and pain even if he has to move us into the eternal realm to balance the scales. Suffering can not be avoided, it can be delayed but not evaded.
The purpose of suffering.
Knowing the nature of the Lord as I do there can be only one reason for God allowing suffering: For good.
To test the metal. What are you made of? Suffering allows you to find out what the Lord knows: Are you made of lead, hay, wood and stubble? Are you formed of gold, silver and precious stones? What is the mental, physical, spiritual, moral, makeup of the metal that you are made of? Can you stand the heat of the refiner’s fire? The fire of suffering will expose the truth.
To boil off the dross. All of us if we are honest will admit that there is a mixture of metals in us. Like a refiner, God is interested in the gold and silver, the lead, zinc and other rubbish has to be burned off at a high temperature.
To expose the cracks. God in his mercy leans a weight of suffering on the wall of our life which allows the cracks to be exposed so that we can come to knowledge of what we have papered over. We all have cracks in our lives but we never do anything about them because in the good times they don’t affect much. They are just papered over and we move on. Now with suffering the wall that was so fine and stable begins to shift and quake and the weakness and cracks appear for all to see. This is good as the truth will set us free.
To destroy our confidence in the flesh. We all have a confidence and put our trust in the flesh. This confidence is destroyed in suffering or at least severely tested in suffering. It is hard to trust a body that is failing. It is hard to trust a mind that is unstable, deceiving you.
To find out what we actually believe. We all have our beliefs; suffering exposes what you believe and what you think you believe. There is a ‘little god syndrome’ that we all suffer from: we worship the little god within and then say that we belong to the Lord Jesus Christ. All the while we build up the kingdom within we profess to be building His kingdom. When our kingdom starts to come crashing down we are forced to either prop it up or to tear it down, but either way we find out what we believe.
To allow us to make choices. In the good times you don’t have to make decisions. We naturally resist making difficult choices. Suffering allows us the opportunity to make the choices we would otherwise avoid.
To force us to make choices. God is more interested that we come to knowledge of the truth than whether we are comfortable prosperous and successful. Suffering forces us into the position where hard decisions have to be made. We would prefer to procrastinate and defer but God wants your answer.
To bring reality to our hearts. We are frot. (for those who don’t understand) we are very frot. Suffering lets you know and have the opportunity to do something about it.
To force us into the rebellion that is there. Rebellion that is lurking under the crust that we call self control, suffering forces it to the surface like lava breaking through a hard crust of old ice. Family love and hate, friendships, brotherhoods and marriages are forced into the rebellions that are there. Sometimes as Christians we doodle along going through the motions singing the hymns and doing the liturgy until the pain and suffering arrives and then the rebellion surfaces. This rebellion is against God and is not a bad thing as it gives time to deal with what stinks.
To allow us to grow. Ask any mature Christian when they grew the fastest. There is something that suffering does in a believer that allows them to touch God at a level that they never could before. The experience of suffering takes the compliant believer to another level.
It separates us to God. Suffering separates us from those closest to us. It is as if no one can understand the pain, no one can penetrate the pipe that we are slipping away in. In true suffering there is only one person that is with you; the Lord. The amazing thing is that often we don’t even know that He is there and may even push Him away in our pain.
To force us to our knees. There is a time for talking to God when suffering comes even if it is in rebellion. Christians are quite happy to light the candles and pray but a sustained period of suffering brings complacent ‘bless me and them’ prayers to an end and opens the door for time of crying out on our knees.
To open the hardness of our hearts to allows God to pour his water into the parched desert of our lives. As the land of our lives dries out the cracks appear and spread, cutting deep, some like gullies spread across what we imagined were perfect fields. The Lord knew that it was a surface job, deep down there was hard dry, fallow, crusty ground that had a desperate need for the water of God to make it soft. Suffering breaks up the surface, a pick into fallow ground.
To force us to our knees. To destroy our independence and formulaic prayers. There is something very humbling that happens when our best efforts fail, when we have done everything humanly possible and we are exactly where we were or even worse, we have gone backwards. Where do you go when there is no hope? Who do we turn to when no human being can help?
To allow us to empathise. It is easy to feel sorry for someone else: Someone who has lost a child, or has landed in a painful hospital bed. But the person who has lost a child or lain in pain in the lonely night feels along with others in a way that they never could have imagined before.
To take our eyes off ourselves. Although suffering often creates a pity party in people this is not the purpose. Suffering is not to be bathed and wallowed in; it is a gift of God to remove us from our comfort zone and to allow our eyes to rest on him and others outside of ourselves. Take the time to look for those who are suffering once god has opened your eyes through suffering.
To give us a focus outside of this world. When our hope in this world is destroyed you are forced to focus elsewhere.
To force us to acknowledge that we are heading for eternity. Here I am not talking about a toothache or a nail that has been whopped by a hammer. When the soul is in anguish and the night is black, when strangling is preferable to life, when despair is wrapped around you like a cloying shroud then eternity becomes reality. Then eternity is not a concept but alive.
To give us a sense of God’s time. So many of us are locked into the here and the now, we don’t mind ‘a bit of suffering’ as long as it is quick and we can see the benefit. God allows us to experience suffering at his pace and time to remind us that he is the master of time.
To give us time.
God realises that many of us are busy; too busy to have hours, days weeks, months and years needed to be quiet, still and in a place where He can penetrate our self absorbed hamster wheel, brains. Suffering often takes people out of the main stream into the backwaters where there is nothing else but Him. We might find it terrifying but this is where choices can be made; choices to rebel or to acknowledge his lordship. God wants us to be in a position where we can make a choice, he does not want uninformed clones manipulated by clever oratory. Many including Moses spent time withdrawn from the main stream wandering in the desert to prepare them for life. you need time to prepare for eternity.
To harden us. So many Christians are soft and flabby, we are soft in the views that we hold and flabby in the way that we express them. Seedlings that have never been out into the full sun have to be hardened off before being planted out. If these seedlings are sent straight from greenhouse pampering to the full sun they shrivel and die. We need hardening.
To muscle us up. When you have to fight and wrestle you start to muscle up. Suffering is not about lying on your back and letting something happen to you. Suffering is a motivation to move from the place that you are to where you need to be, an opportunity to wrestle with God and the demons that you have inside you. God would rather that you walk into eternity with a dislocated hip than have you deluded.
To show us that God is good even when things are bad. The common belief is that we serve a namby-pamby God that is always gentle and mild, catering and pandering to our wants and needs. The belief is that when something comes across our path that is not nice then the ‘god’ that we have created in our imagination has let us down or that he is no longer in control.
To bring a sense of reality to our theology. For many the theology is something that they have been taught but that is not rooted in the reality of their lives. Suffering brings you into personal contact with the theology that you hold. Much of our scripture reading is without understanding. This understanding is enhanced when suffering is experienced. Try reading Ps. 46 or Ps. 23. Or the book of Job when your innermost being is in travail and they light up and speak to you. Don’t take this lightly as it is vital to your growth in the Lord. Much of scripture makes no sense until a period of suffering makes them clearer. It is almost as though the suffering acts as a lens that brings the word of God into focus for us.
Sharing in the suffering of Christ.
Acts 9:16 and I will show him what he will have to suffer for my name.”
To allow others to share in suffering. Suffering allows others to share in our pain which is a privilege. Some in the body of Christ embrace and share in suffering and are enriched and grow as a result.
Suffering separates. Families, partners, friends that can not take the pace split, and this is a blessing and good. It is painful, suffering heaped on suffering but the truth is better than living a lie. Suffering also separates some for God.
To teach the angels. We are continually surrounded by the angelic host who are instructed in the nature of God by watching the church and its reaction to God’s instruction. (Ephesians 3:10)
Suffering births an attitude which manifests.
Preparation for suffering. Before we get into a place of suffering make the choices that will carry you through.
What do you expect? Are you in a place of self delusion? Do you imagine that you will never experience the trial of your faith?
I am worthy of more. Do you imagine that you are worthy of a better deal because you are a believer? Are you living in the delusion of self entitlement?
Are you a victim? Many people consider themselves to be victims of a plot to ruin their lives. You are not a victim but privileged, chosen, selected by God for the privilege of being instructed by suffering as was Job and Jonah: Rebellious perhaps but not abandoned or forgotten.
Ask for suffering to be given to you? (Heb 11:35b) We all read of the heroes of the faith and see how their lives were interwoven with suffering: Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Joseph, Moses, Gideon, Samson, David hunted by Saul, the apostles and the prophets as well as the martyrs and we think that suffering is strange. Should we not be asking for our lives to be enriched and deepened by suffering? The world is so mundane and ordered without the spice of suffering. Perhaps you don’t have to ask; shit happens.
You have a purpose and a plan is being worked out in your life, you are a chosen vessel that is having the precious life of Christ poured into it. At the moment it may look senseless it may feel painful but it is God’s way. Enjoy it; it will not last forever but your life will.
You can endure and overcome if there is a reason for the suffering and a hope for the future. But it goes further than an enduring. There are two classes of praise: Pleasure praise and pain praise. It is easy to praise when everything is going your way, the higher form of praise; praise out from the furnace of affliction. Commit yourself to offering the higher form of praise on a daily basis not because you feel like it but because it is right.
Suffering is for good; the vulnerability caused by suffering cuts across the cock sure, brassiness of the world. Suffering acts as a crowbar levering open hearts that would otherwise remain closed. If suffering is viewed as a valuable tool rather than a curse then it can be used.
Why I praise God in and for my suffering.
Because I choose to.
Because he loves me.
Because he is good.
Because this is His best for me, there is no better plan.
This is my resolve: to praise Him to the end and to rejoice in the life that he has given me. Whatever it takes no matter what it costs I want what Christ has in store for me.
The link will take you deeper into seperation by trial and testing.