Wednesday, September 19, 2012


The Lord has been consistently pressing this topic on my heart. You know how you will be sitting in church sometimes and you think, "Wow, it's like this sermon was written specifically for me and what I'm going through!" It's been kind of like that for me lately.

The first occurrence were the sermons on September 2nd, both at Anderson and Southwood. Both sermons are very similar, but I loved listening to both because each brought it from a slightly different perspective. The Scripture discussed is James 1:2-8.

The second occurrence was the book our team selected to study for our women's book study this year: Get Out of That Pit, by Beth Moore.

The third occurrence was the book that the church selected as this semester's growth groups topic: 1 Peter. Now, I know I had read 1 Peter several times before, but never all the way through in one sitting. It was a surprise to me how frequently the word suffer or suffering is mentioned (16 times in only 5 chapters). This book is all about suffering.

So the wisdom gained from all three occurrences boils down to this:
  • Suffering is inevitable
  • Suffering is meant to bring glory to God
  • Suffering will someday end

I will of course elaborate on these, because after all, it is my blog, and elaborating is what I'm here for.

Suffering is Inevitable
Because we live in a fallen world - a world with sin - all people will experience suffering in some form or another. Beyond that, as believers in Christ, we will inevitably experience the suffering of persecution.

1 Peter 2:21-24
21 For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, 22 who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; 23 and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; 24 and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.

1 Peter 4:12
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you.

2 Timothy 3:12
Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.

And don't be fooled into thinking that you're the only one suffering. Believer or non-believer, all people experience suffering because we live in a world ruled by Satan at the moment. Because of this, know that God does not cause the suffering.

1 Peter 5:8-9
Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.

It says it clearly above. The devil is prowling and seeking to devour. You are not alone in your suffering. Though your specific suffering may be unique, you are not alone or "unlucky" - the whole world suffers with you.

I love how both pastors in the sermon links above say that you're either just coming out of suffering, in the middle of it, or about to suffer. No one can escape it, because we are all human beings living in a world that contains and breeds suffering. Jesus Himself suffered, arguably the most of all.

But there is a purpose for your suffering. That phrase is almost cliche...perhaps this says it better:

Suffering is Meant to Bring Glory to God
Because everyone in this world experiences suffering, chances are, you will share a similar type of suffering with believers and non-believers alike. I don't mean to undermine your pain here, but rather point out something that wasn't immediately obvious to me: you have an obvious, immediate, and easy thing to connect with other people about.

In other words, by sharing about your suffering, and all that God has done for you through it (even if the suffering is still happening), you are getting a chance to share a testimony with non-believers.

It may sound strange, but I actually was not aware of this fact until last night. Sure, I realized that this suffering I'm experiencing has brought me closer to God, but I didn't realize until last night that this has been the one and only experience in my life that has given me an abundance of courage to bring up the subject of God to complete strangers. And lots of them! Talking about my desire to have children, the difficulty of waiting, but how God has taught us so much about being patient and faithful, and how I was convicted about being a control freak who thought I could "earn" my baby, when in reality you can't earn a baby, much like salvation. I've had those conversations with strangers, friends, and family...all because I've been experiencing this type of suffering. And even if my audience has never experienced this type of suffering themselves, they can still relate to my pain and hopefully hear my key points about faith.

Whatever your suffering is, I dare you to share it with others. Be open, and watch the beauty of what happens. Now, fair warning here: there have of course been some people that I've shared the above testimony with, and I've only received insensitive or unhelpful "wishy washy" replies from. But for the most part, it breaks the ice and establishes a deeper connection with people.

1 Peter 3:14-15
But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you...

The world is watching you. Since both believers and non-believers experience suffering, when a non-believer knows that you are a believer, they are watching how you respond to your suffering.

1 Peter 4:13
but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.

Remember that you cannot avoid suffering. You can't find yourself smack dab in the middle of suffering, and then hit the Esc button and say, "Okay, that's it, I'm ready to be done!" (Believe me, I have tried...)

So choose to be an example to others around you, believers and non-believers alike. Since you cannot control the circumstances of your suffering, focus on the things you do have control over: how you respond to your suffering. Remember that the eyes of the world are on you.

I also love how both pastors stated that suffering righteously does not mean you put on a fake smile and pretend to be happy about your suffering. No, that would make you delusional and insane. It's perfectly okay and expected of you to feel sadness or grief as you suffer. Remember that Jesus wept when Lazarus died? And that was before He raised him from the dead! Jesus still experienced that suffering of losing a beloved friend, and grieved that loss. But He still had complete and perfect faith in God to resurrect him. (Read John 11 for the full story.)  Follow Christ's example and how He responded to moments of suffering. Have complete faith that God is with you, loves you, and that He will eventually end your suffering.

Suffering Will Someday End
God is always with you, through suffering and non-suffering moments in your life.

1 Peter 5:6-7
Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.

And it's not hard to find Scripture about how much God loves you. John 3:16 anyone? Anyone?

God is with you during the suffering. He never leaves you (Hebrews 13:5).

Romans 5:3-5
And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

James 1:2-4
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

And finally, if the beginning of suffering is inevitable, so is the end. You have hope.

1 Peter 5:10-11
After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen.

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