Sunday, February 25, 2024

Trusting God through Suffering: Accept the Pain and Move Forward

“Contrary to what might be expected, I look back on experiences that at the time seemed especially desolating and painful with particular satisfaction. Indeed, I can say with complete truthfulness that everything I have learned in my 75 years in this world, everything that has truly enhanced and enlightened my experience, has been through affliction and not through happiness.” -Malcolm Muggeridge, in Homemade, July, 1990.

As much as I don’t want to agree with Muggeridge I’m afraid that I do. When I look back on my life, even the last two years, I’m greatly satisfied by painful experiences I went through that taught me great lessons. Particularly times when I went through suffering patiently under God’s care.

I think of three experiences, first, in 2020 I was actually banned from preaching for a time, because of a sermon I preached on a sensitive issue. I was bold. I spoke what God told me to speak. I remember when I wrote the sermon, hot button issue, I got on my knees and asked God, should I remove anything from this sermon? I still remember what God said, “Not a word.” Somehow I knew something was going to happen. So I had to be sure. And God made it clear, speak all of it.

It was a time of great pressure and strain in my life. I was concerned, afraid, disturbed. But God was at work. God protected me. God helped me. And soon, my freedom to preach was restored.

I look back on that no longer with pain, but with gratitude, because I learned so much through all of it. And God helped me bear the suffering with grace.

Second, I remember when I had Covid, also in 2020. I was brutally sick. And you probably remember, at the same time I was brutally sick, I was also overcome with severe crippling anxiety. It was something very odd about COVID, it brought on bad anxiety.

I remember day by day, sleeping all day, and being so anxious I could barely stand existing in the moment. But God got me through. I recall the only relief I could get, I would wrap myself in a blanket and go sit on the front porch and talk on the phone, and that somehow helped me to calm down.

Again, I look back gratefully, because I made it through the suffering and learned so much about myself and the world during that time.

Thirdly, I recall a time when controversy broke out at this church with certain leaders, who I was close with. And several people left the church over the division. It was devastating for me. I was so stressed and upset during that time. But again, I recall how God brought me safely through the fire. And it was during that time of severe pain and confusion that God brought Chelsey into my life.

Let’s take a look at a quote from Jeanne Guyon’s book on this issue of suffering:

“You must be patient in all the suffering that God sends you. If your love for the Lord is pure, you will love Him as much on Calvary as on Mt. Tabor. The Lord Jesus loved His Father on Mt. Tabor where He was transfigured, but He loved Him no less on Calvary where He was crucified. Surely, then, you should love the Lord as much on Calvary, for it was there that He made the greatest display of His love.” -Jeanne Guyon, chapter 7

There are two situations where I see Christians that are very common. There are others, but these two are quite common.

First, a Christian who is on cloud 9. They are riding the wave. They are excited. They are on fire for Jesus. Life is good. They feel joyous. Their faith is burning brightly. And they are on top of the world.

Nothing wrong with this first area. It’s a great place to be as a Christian. It’s the mount Tabor experience. Jesus is at the heights of his ministry. He’s changing people’s lives. He’s preaching the truth and healing people. He shines brightly on mount tabor. You will have times and seasons like that.

Second scenario, a Christian who is on the rocks. They are struggling. They are going through something that hurts bad. They feel exhausted. They are tired. They are stressed and seeing red. They can barely stand their situation. And it’s hard.

But, I see Christians here even in a sort of grace. They’ve accepted the situation as from God. And they are walking with Him in it. Then again, I see Christians who are in suffering and they are having a hard time accepting it, they are wrestling in it. And it’s not as pretty. But they make it through as well, as they cling to Him.

So how can we learn to bear suffering more wisely? We’re seeing that times we suffer are actually very helpful and we learn a lot in those times. We know it will happen. Pain is inevitable. Is there a way to handle it better?

Here’s what Jeanne Guyon says…

“As soon as anything comes to you in the form of suffering, at that very moment a natural resistance will well up somewhere inside you. When that moment comes, immediately resign yourself to God. Accept the matter. In that moment give yourself up to Him as a sacrifice.” -Jeanne Guyon, chapter 7

As you find yourself facing some difficulty, simply offer yourself to God in that moment. God I accept this suffering as from you. Unless it’s something that isn’t from him, I suppose.

Give yourself up, accept the suffering as from God, and allow it to simply be there for it’s time. And it’s only a time. As the word of God says…

1 Peter 5:10 ESV “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”

Suffering only lasts so long. Then God brings you through it, out of it, and he restores you, confirms you, strengthens and establishes you.

Psalm 34:19 ESV “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.”

We will face many difficulties as Christians, but God delivers us from them all.

And Jesus said, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” - John 16:33 ESV

Take heart, take heart, and take heart again. Have peace. Don’t give up. You will get through this. And a time will come when the suffering will end. God will bring healing. And in paradise, we will suffer no more. There will only be joy.

At times you may bear the suffering well. You carry your cross with strength, but there will be other times when you carry your cross in weakness.

As Jeanne Guyon said…“Sometimes you may bear the cross in weakness; at other times you may bear the cross in strength. But whether you bear it in weakness or in strength, bear it! Both weakness and strength should be the same to us since we bear the cross in the will of God.” -Jeanne Guyon, chapter 7

I know there have been times that I suffered gracefully. Other times it was ugly, like an ugly, bitter cry in a corner somewhere. Either way, it doesn’t matter. Sure it’s good to bear it in strength, but at times it will be in weakness. That’s ok. Ugly cry it out. Just don’t give up. Keep going.

We know one day, Jesus will wipe away every tear, and heal every hurt. One day we will go from groping toward God in the darkness, in this life, to the next life, night to day, where we will see Jesus face to face. And that will change everything.

Revelation 21:4 ESV, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Until then, let’s continue to deal with suffering with grace, accepting it as from God, allowing it to do it’s work in us, and learning the lesson from it, to grow in grace, come into healing, and bear up under suffering as we carry out crosses toward heaven.

Also understand that suffering has an expiration date if you’re a Christian. But, if you are not a Christian, suffering in this life is only the beginning. In hell, suffering is permanent. Right now we suffer, but there is a hope beyond the suffering. For the person in hell, suffering is permanent, and it only promises to get worse over time. There is no hope at all. That’s truth.

So allow Jesus to be your savior, and you can know, suffering is temporary and joy awaits you in heaven.

Let’s Review our Main Points from Today:

1. Suffering is necessary in life to learn the deepest truths about ourselves and the world and God

2. When you’re in the joy of the Lord and everything is great, praise God

3. When you’re broken and suffering, and everything seems wrong, praise God

4. When going through suffering, accept it as from God, and offer yourself to God as a living sacrifice

5. Suffering always has an expiration date, give it time, and God will deliver you

6. Accept that sometimes you’ll suffer in strength, other times you’ll suffer in weakness, just don’t give up!

7. Believe that one day, in paradise, all suffering will be gone, and joy will be permanent. (While in hell, suffering is permanent and joy is impossible)