After my last post, the Lord flooded me with things to share. I was in His Word, and of course, I saw SO many things on which to write. I scribbled my thoughts on the closest square of paper because it is true that the memory fails us with age...mid thirties even. For some reason, this has also been a stipulation of my ability to write. If I have thoughts, whether it's on a piece for my blog or in the past when I've wanted to express things to friends, family, or loved ones, I must get my initial thoughts on paper and then I can finish it up later. Strange but true. I've decided to follow through with what God knows we all endure...suffering and testing!
Someone has said, "God never uses anyone unless He puts them through the test of suffering and pain." Doesn't that just make you flinch? Ugg...suffering and pain is sooo not fun. It is scary and very difficult. But, read it again...don't you want to be used by God? We don't like to be "used" by fellow humans but oh to be used by God...that's the ultimate! So, instead of turning from the suffering of a trial, we must take up our cross and follow Jesus. We must be willing to say "Do with me whatever You may. Your will be done with me." Take up your Cross...what does that mean? Remember, Jesus was not only crucified and tortured on the Cross but He had to carry His own Cross. If you've seen "Passion of the Christ", you know how horrific carrying the Cross was. (By the way, I believe every Christian should watch the Passion...it will totally change and/or enhance your view of Jesus' sacrifice...mmm what love.)
We have to carry our crosses just as Jesus did. God will not take the suffering from us. If He did, He would be removing the opportunity for us to become more like His Son. Yes, it IS an opportunity! We must endure emotionally what Christ endured physically. (Our suffering may be of a physical nature but I find so many times it's of an emotional nature.) So, God will not remove our suffering, what will He do? He will enable us to endure with His strength. He will provide the grace we need to see us through the trial...not around it but through it. Once we have gone through the trial, He will turn our test into a testimony. What greater reward than to have an outstanding testimony for God...the Savior who died for us all!! What does a testimony provide? It provides an opportunity: 1) to praise God for seeing you through it, 2) to relate to Jesus' suffering on a much smaller scale, 3) to console others enduring the same fire, 4) to testify for the development of your character.
I'm sure you all know what James says about suffering. It is one of my favorites. "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds" (James 1:2). I know you are asking "how"? That's a good question. We've discussed this several times in Bible study and it is a hard concept to grasp. However, James tells us in verse 3 how we can do this..."because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance." As I reflect on my own suffering, to be able to grasp and fully appreciate what James is telling us to do - "consider it pure JOY" - I must focus on what good has come from my suffering. I reflect on the character He has built in me, the ever so close walk I have with Jesus, the stamina and strength He's providing me, the patience I have acquired. The list goes on and on. What Jesus has done in me and hopefully through me is worth any cost. That's still hard to say but it does get easier. I would trade the world to turn back time and not have the suffering of my current trial but since that can't be done I know what the Lord's done in me. I consider THAT pure joy because I know regardless of my deep pain of suffering, I know I have the Father ever so close to me. It's not an easy road but it is a safe and secure road with Jesus. My hope is in Christ and His power to continue to make good out of my suffering. I believe He will fulfill what He's said and promised to me in His timing and in His way. That too is how we consider it pure joy!
Imagine also how many people you can reach through your suffering. You never know who is watching and what they will take from your suffering. They very well may decide to take your Jesus that you are so committed to even though you are suffering so deep. Now, isn't your suffering worth that...to see one more soul saved by grace because of YOU, your testing, and what becomes your testimony!
This was supposed to be a short posting. When the Spirit speaks, He speaks. Or maybe I'm dragging it out because I love being close to Him while I write. (smiles). Let me leave you with some powerful scriptures.
Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. Romans 5:3-5
The fire refines us to the image of God. I'm sure you've all read the email that's circulated for years on the Refiner's Fire. I'll post that sometime as it is one of my all time favorites. When you think your life is bad and your suffering is too much, think of Job and what all he endured. Not only that, ponder on his reward for staying faithful to God. He received back twice everything he had.
But those who suffer he delivers in their suffering; he speaks to them in their affliction. Job 36:15
I used to have a not so positive view of the Psalms because some of it is hard to understand. However, I find myself coming across so many great Psalms thinking "oh that's a good one, oh that's good too."
My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life. The arrogant mock me without restraint, but I do not turn from your law. Psalm 119:50-51
Look upon my suffering and deliver me, for I have not forgotten your law. Defend my cause and redeem me; preserve my life according to your promise. Psalm 119:153-154
If I may quickly point out here a common factor just in these two verses...we must not turn from God's law...We MUST be in His Word to adhere to His laws and be obedient to Him. Here's a great verse. Vs 8 instructs us on His Word and vs 9 encourages to be strong and reminds us of His presence EVERYWHERE with us.
Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:8-9
Be Blessed In Him,