Tag Archives: suffering

How do You Handle Suffering?

So if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you.
1 Peter 4:19, NLT*

Peter’s writing to Christians who are being persecuted for their faith, reminding them that this can go with the territory. He says there’s no value in suffering for doing wrong, but if they hold up under attacks on their faith, it’s pleasing to God and it may help others see the truth.

The context is persecution, but I think it applies to any form of suffering that we don’t deserve. Peter does warn them there’s no value in suffering as a criminal, etc.

Christians are risking – and losing – their lives for Jesus in parts of the world today, and it’s horrible. Here in North America, the most “suffering” we do for our faith is putting up with snide comments, misunderstanding, and a culture bent on denying our God.

But we’ll all face other forms of suffering, too. Sickness, financial crises, broken relationships, worry… it’s a long list. How do we handle these things as Christians, in a way that shows others who God is?

Peter says we’re to “keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you.”

What’s our confidence to do this? “He will never fail you.”

That means we guard our words and our actions, and keep our attitudes pure before God, because we trust Him. Proverbs 15:1 says, “A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.”

It means we repeatedly choose to trust God instead of giving in to the fear and the pain. It means we make time to care for the person beside us in the hospital waiting room. (Sometimes I think God allows us to end up in those places just because there’s someone else there He wants to reach.)

It means… even when we “deserve” some self-pity, we need to ask God how He wants to use the situation.

And it means “if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it (1 Peter 3:15)”. Gently, not pushy. Tell the story of how He’s made a difference and strengthened us to endure.

It’s all about Jesus, and we sort of forget that in our daily routines.

Mighty and loving God, You saved us and called us to live for Your glory. Help us learn to walk with You each moment, living in response to You instead of reacting to our circumstances. Show us how to live in our relationships and our responsibilities with hearts turned to You and with spirits depending on You. Give us faith to know that You will never fail us.

A good song to keep us focused on the Lord’s care is “Your Faithfulness,” by Brian Doerksen.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

In the Hard Times

Crow in the rainThese days I have two prayer lists near to my heart: eight teens numbing their pain with choices that make it worse, and five couples dealing with serious illness. And a third mini-list of friends with heavy burdens.

Trouble is alive and well, and what do we do about it? We can’t wish it away, and we can’t turn into whiners. Here are three posts that pointed me in the right direction this week:

Why do bad things happen? Glynis Belec knows there’s no easy answer and yet she finds strength to face a new round of battle. Bitter-sweet (at My Journey)

In the middle of global or personal suffering, how do we cope? Violet Nesdoly shares the value of a good lament. Job’s Lament (at Other Food: daily devo’s)

Mary DeMuth’s open personal lament shows the difference bringing our hurts to God can make. A Mourning Prayer (at Live Uncaged)

Of the many “songs for the hard times” the one I’m hearing today is from the Newsboys: “When the Tears Fall.”

Radical Gratitude

And the Light shines on in the darkness, for the darkness has never overpowered it [put it out or absorbed it or appropriated it, and is unreceptive to it].
John 1:5, AMP*

This is the verse that strengthened me after the terrorist attacks of 9-11. It’s the same verse that’s echoed in my spirit these past few Christmas seasons, each one leaving me more aware of the darkness in our communities and our world.

We think Christmas is supposed to be a happy time of year. But the darkness is why Jesus came. Israel of 2,000 years past was a pretty dark place, I’m sure, much like today.

His presence—Immanuel, God with us—still makes the difference.

As I’ve prayed for the people and situations nearest to my heart this season, at first the darkness was too much. This young girl—that young family—this elderly woman and her family… where they’re walking is unbearable. They’ve been heavy on my heart, and weighing down my spirit as I prayed. Reciting John’s words about Light in the darkness wasn’t helping.

A few days before Christmas God blew away the fog and let me see: I hadn’t been demanding why of God—that never ends well—but my discontent about what He had allowed said I didn’t think very highly of His management.

Judging God also doesn’t end well. And discontent is poison. Confession, forgiveness, and a fresh start work wonders, though.

Now I’m praying the same verse, but looking at the Light, practicing what Mark Buchanan calls “radical gratitude.”

Thanking God for what He will do in these people’s lives, instead of being dragged down by where they’ve been. Trusting that whatever His plans are, they’re for good. Not just praying for things to get better but for people to be made new and others to see the difference He makes.

Sovereign and holy God, who doesn’t tend to fix things, I praise You for how instead You re-create or make new. And the new is better. Stronger. Useful in Your hand. You waste nothing. Help us trust You. Show us how to pray in radical gratitude and praise, confident in our trust in You. Shine brighter in our darkness, until all will see Your glory.

Permit me one last Christmas song of the year: catch the hope and the assurance in the words to “Joy to the World,” especially verses 3 and 4.

*Amplified Bible (AMP) Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation

Hope is Born

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6, NIV*

Jesus left the glory of heaven to be born as a human child and began the fulfillment of God’s redemption promise from Genesis.

Imagine… setting aside His rightful glory as God, submitting to the indignity of birth and infancy, to human frailty, rustic conditions and death… to redeem us. Not because He had to, but because He chose to out of love.

The world is still dark and painful. My personal prayers these days share the burden of four individuals needing work, two more grieving through the first Christmas without their husbands, one treading turbulent waters and one who needs the wholeness Jesus brings.

But if we’re open, He does bring wholeness. Hope.

We don’t have to drown in despair. Circumstances don’t get any less painful, but He came to be God with us. We don’t have to do this alone.

Somehow His grace gives us strength, His wisdom leads us, His love in our hearts warms us.

Because we trust Him, we can say “though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil…

Christmas is a hard time for people who are hurting, because the world puts on its happy mask and avoids them. But Jesus’ birth affirms the pain. That’s why He came.

I like how Charles Dickens put it in A Christmas Carol when Bob Cratchit describes his fragile son, Tiny Tim:

“Somehow he gets thoughtful, sitting by himself so much, and thinks the strangest things you ever heard. He told me, coming home, that he hoped the people saw him in the church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day, who made lame beggars walk, and blind men see.” [You can read A Christmas Carol online at Literature.org. This quote comes from chapter 3.]

Father, how can we help but love and praise You for reaching into our mess to bring hope and healing? This Christmas season, may we celebrate Your greatest gift, may Your love flow through us to those we touch, and may the world in its turmoil somehow pause to receive its King. Thank You that someday every knee will bow and every tongue confess Him as Lord. Until then, have mercy on us all.

This week’s song is “Celebrate the Child,” by Michael Card. Let’s celebrate indeed!

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Pain and Joy

Now a man named Lazarus was sick….When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.
John 11:1a, 4-6 NIV*

Jesus didn’t even have to go see Lazarus to heal him, he could have just said the word. Instead He waited until Lazarus was dead before starting out.

He loved this family. Their home seems to be one of the few genuinely safe places where He could visit without loaded questions and malice.

Loving them, knowing their faith and character and that they could pass this test, He let Lazarus the provider die.

Because there was something bigger at stake.

This was “for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” (v. 4)

And as much as this was clearly about God, it wasn’t for God’s benefit. He wasn’t on an ego trip.

It was for the people, the believers. Jesus told His disciples in verse 15, “…for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe.

Not for God’s sake that they could believe, but for theirs. God already knew who He is.

Jesus wept and was deeply moved by the sisters’ grief. Probably more so because He knew He could have prevented it. Given that He’d already been speaking about laying down His own life, it wasn’t a case of letting someone else pay a price He wasn’t prepared to double.

The people needed to know Him better, and joy was on its way. But that didn’t negate the pain.

Sustaining and compassionate God, help us remember in our tears that You feel our pain. Help us rely on You in faith, trusting although we don’t understand. Reveal Yourself to us, not for Your benefit but for ours, so that we can trust You more.

There are plenty of good songs about trusting God in the pain. Today I chose David Crowder*Band’s “Shadows”.

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

How do we deal with suffering?

The other week on the Canadian Authors Who are Christian blog, Canadian singer/songwriter and writer Carolyn Arends wrote:

I recently asked friends online what words and actions had been the least helpful in trying times, and I got a passionate and prolific response. I recognized many of the platitudes listed as things that had come out of my mouth.

If you read her full post, “Allow for Space in the Music: Acknowledging the mystery of pain,” I think you’ll be encouraged and better equipped to offer comfort. If nobody around you is hurting today, someone may be tomorrow. And if you’re hurting today, this may be something you can share with your friends to help them know how to not make it worse.

Happy Ending to a Long Story

God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels.
2 Thessalonians 1:6-7, NIV*

I love happy endings. They can make even the most difficult story worthwhile. Sometimes it’s a hard slog to get there, but at last things work out.

Around the world, people are suffering. Christians aren’t the only ones, but they’re doing their share In North America, Christians have it easy: we’re only treated as irrelevant or repressive. (Some of that we’ve earned, but that’s another story.)

In Paul’s day, the believers in Thessalonica were suffering because of their faith The verses I shared above were to give them hope, but also to give them perspective: help is on the way, just hang on until He gets here

It looks like they expected Jesus to return any day and wrap things up. Good thing they didn’t know we’d still be waiting in 2010! But He is coming, when the Author and Finisher of our faith declares that the time is right.

I don’t understand everything in the Bible, but I’ve read the end of the Book: we win. Revelation chapters 21-22 are some of my favourite passages. After all the hardship, suffering and false turns, we’ll reach the end—and what a glorious end it will be!

Father, thank You for Your Holy Spirit—God with us, who strengthens and keeps us in the hard times. Help us fix our eyes and hearts on You and live by faith. Thank You that we have Your promises, including Your promise that in the end we’ll be with You.

“Reading to the end of the book” brought to mind a song I hadn’t heard in years. Here’s Michael W. Smith with “End of the Book.” This is a long concert clip, and the first half is a cool instrumental piece. If you’re short on time, slide the progress button over to the three-minute mark. Prepare yourself for a trip back to 1985….

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

It Shouldn’t Happen at Christmas

“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.”
Matthew 1:23, NIV*

In the past few weeks, three people have lost parents or spouses, two have received bad medical news, and another is suddenly out of work. And these are just the ones I know! News coverage expands that list dramatically.

What’s the first thing we say? “It shouldn’t happen at Christmas.”

We have this instinctive sense that Christmas is about good news, not about pain. Some of that’s spiritual—the angels came proclaiming the wonder of God with us. Some of it’s human—remembering childhood’s warm anticipation of presents and surprises.

In the midst of the celebrations, pain happens.

Maybe that’s not so bad. The pain reminds us why Jesus came.

Let’s be sensitive to those who are suffering while the culture wants them to be smiling. Last week’s devotional thought was about “faithfully administering God’s grace” and one way we can do that is to bring God with us into every encounter. May His grace in us bring comfort and a sense of peace.

Father, I praise and thank You for the gift of Your presence. Jesus—Emanuel—God with us. Because You are with us, we are not consumed. Because You have rescued us, we have hope. Let us live in You and share Your presence with those around us.

Our song this week captures the tension between pain and joy: “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” sung here by Casting Crowns.

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Conscious of God’s Care

Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favour, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.
Colossians 3:22, NIV*

Somehow this spoke to me about doing right for the right reason—pleasing God, instead of the wrong reason—appeasing people.

I’m not a little girl with authority figures looming in judgment. If someone does chastise, rightly or wrongly, that doesn’t need to crush me. Jesus is the Shepherd and Overseer of my soul and I don’t need to fear men or women.

The verse in Colossians led me to 1 Peter, where it expands on what to do if you’re suffering unjustly: Jesus “entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23, NIV)  and “it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because He is conscious of God.” (1 Peter 2:19, NIV)

For me today, this addresses fear of harshness, which can crush me if I let it. Instead, I’m to be conscious of God, who’s with me and loves me, and I’m to entrust myself to His care.

My hope and confidence are in Jesus. He says I have value, and He loves me. He accepts me and is growing me into His image.

Father, when we’re alone I know You’re near, but the fear of others’ response can take my eyes off of You. Please forgive me, and teach me to walk in the truth of the healing Jesus gives. Help me stay conscious of You, trusting myself to Your care and protection no matter where You lead.

The soundtrack God has given me to keep my focus is “I Need No Other” from Todd Agnew’s new album, Need. It’s a new melody and arrangement of the hymn “My Faith Has Found a Resting Place” (or “No Other Plea”).

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

God Sees

“I cannot find God anywhere—in front or back of me, to my left or my right. God is always at work, though I never see him. But he knows what I am doing, and when he tests me, I will be pure as gold.” Job 23:8-10 CEV*

When he says this, Job is enduring unimaginable suffering. And his friends’ pious half-truths aren’t helping. He wishes he could find God and plead his case in person. His conscience is clean, and he knows he’s not suffering as a punishment. Why won’t God rescue him?

Pastor Charles Price (www.livingtruth.ca) caught my attention by paraphrasing the verse this way: “I don’t know where God is in this, but He knows where I am. And when it’s over, I’ll emerge as gold.”

His point was, sometimes things are so hard that we can’t see God anywhere. But don’t panic. God sees us. Where we can only see the problems and pain, He sees how He plans to bring good from it.

I link this to one of my favourite comfort verses: “Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God.” Isaiah 50:10b, NIV.**

When we don’t understand, when all we have is questions and pain, we can choose to trust God. He knows. He loves us. And He will never abandon us.

A song for those hard times: Casting Crowns’ “Praise You in This Storm.”

*Contemporary English Version (CEV) Copyright © 1995 by American Bible Society

**New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.