Are you suffering? Has what God asked of you lately seemed too heavy to carry? Beth Zamfir is one of my dear friends from college. When I went through some of my darkest days, she was there for me with a hug, Bible verses, and sound Godly advice. She is now the mother of six children, who she homeschools and is raising to follow after God, too. I just love her heart for God and pray you’re encouraged today by her story of learning to rejoice in our suffering.
I was quite honored when Tara asked me to come share with you the blessings God has shown me… But then the question was which to choose?
As I talk to my babies about Heaven, and as we study science, and look at history, even English, I see Him so very active everywhere. Choosing one spot is difficult, but then my back aches or throbs or my leg gains back a bit of feeling and I remember it’s been mostly numb all day, and I’m reminded of the ever-present, near crippling pain along my spine… So, I think I’ll choose to tell you of my suffering – not as a whiner complains of her ailments though (Phil. 2:14), but as a Christian who has found rejoicing in her suffering.
Doesn’t that sound strange? But what do I have to complain about? We each have our own stories of pain and suffering. For one it’s having to endure emotional heartache, for another it’s spiritual sorrow, for another it’s physical agony. Each of us has or will soon have to brace ourselves for trouble of some sort. Jesus says that every day there’s trouble of some kind when He warns, nay, commands us “not to worry” (Matt 6:34).
I ask the wee souls in my care what they would do if someone pointed a gun at them and asked if they believe in Jesus, telling them that if they say “yes,” there’ll be a loud noise, and it will hurt, and they may even die. They shrug it off and say “of course we’d tell them ‘yes,’ ’cause then we maybe even get to see Jesus that day!!!” And then I wonder if we adults are living as “grownups” and fearful from all our “knowledge,” or if we really are as full of love and trust and hope and innocence as Jesus says those in His kingdom will be – “the Kingdom belongs to such as these children”…(Luke 18:16) Do you look at life with this mindset?
There are two kinds of suffering, but only one prescription for relief. The first kind of suffering is because of the sin that has come into the world. When Adam and Eve chose to disobey God and listen to that Devilish serpent, death did come, not just to them, but to all the earth, man and beast, each cell on this gigantic planet that is capable of life can also expect death. I call this kind of suffering the natural consequence.
The second kind of suffering is reactive. Disney’s Sword and the Stone has Merlin teaching Arthur “For every up there is a down… for every high there is a low… for every to there is a fro… That’s what makes the world go round” Paul makes it easier when, through the Spirit, he explains that we reap what we sow (Gal 6:7). If you do wrong, regardless of the right you might do to fix it afterward, there will still be consequences for those actions. So many times those consequences involve suffering and sorrow.
Paul talks about a worldly sorrow (the kind we have as rebellious kids and should outgrow, the kind of sorrow not because we’re sorry we did wrong, but that we were caught and will be prevented from our “treat,” or even have to be punished). The other sorrow is the godly sorrow, the sort necessary for true repentance, a full turning away from the wrongdoing and realization of the pain and disappointment it brings to our Heavenly Father and the devastation to our own souls.
For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.2 Cor. 7:10, ESV
When we’re paying attention to things of the world there will be consequences and suffering that will continue to plague us even after we repent and live in Christ. The difference between when we’re lost and when we’re found is in the love of the Finder.
Herein is the prescription for the pain that we all must know: It is living for Christ despite the situation, even making the most of the situation so that He might be given the glory.
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.Phil. 4:11, ESV
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.Rom 8:28, ESV
Christ gives us the strength to overcome the lies the Devil whispers, even shouts. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.Phil 4:13, ESV
But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.1 Cor 15:57, ESV
Christ gives us the knowledge to discern temptation from trial and helps us to overcome triumphantly.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.Prov 3:5-6, ESV
My suffering? I have always had a weak back, slipping discs in high school, months later, recovering. Enduring a car accident in college, and recovering, though not wholly. And now, recently, after visiting spinal specialists and delving into the alternative medicine world to find relief for my back pain, the doctors begin to ask my medical history and then click their tongues when they hear that I’ve had five full-term babies, two of whom were a set of twins, in five years… “What were we thinking?” Apparently that’s not ‘normal’, and “no wonder you’ve got a bad back!”, etc. So, in the medical world, my back pain is justified, it’s a consequence of Daniel and my decision to “be fruitful and multiply.” It’s a consequence to a decision made and blessings given (Psalm 127:3, Gen 33:5).
Through this “medical help,” the Devil whispers discontentment, points toward freedom from pain if I wasn’t constantly bending and twisting and keeping up with these babies, these kids who caused the pain in the first place. He goads me towards complaining, grumbling against the blessings God has given me, uses my exhaustion as an excuse for ill feelings towards my husband, even myself… He urges me towards selfishness…
But, just like you in your own forms of trouble, I can overcome, not because I am stronger than the wily one, but because my Lord and Savior is (1 John 4:4), and this has been my joy. If I stand close to the Father, He will protect me (Psalm 121, 2 Thes. 3:3).
In contradiction to the popular misquote, “God won’t give you more than you can handle,” He knows I can’t handle anything! Can you add an hour more to your own life by your own accord (Matt 6:27)? What He does promise is to stand with me and promises to provide a way of escape when temptation becomes too great (1 Cor 10:13).
James tells us that when we find ourselves facing a trial, to be joy filled because it means that we will have the opportunity to grow spiritually (James 1:2, Rom 5:3-5, 2 Peter 1:2-8), to fancy ourselves a fine gem that’s being polished by the Master Himself! (1 Peter 1:4, 6-7, 2 Cor 3:18, Eph. 2:10)
In my children’s terms, we can’t pout when we have to land on a bad spot in the game, because we know it’s necessary; like a video game, we’ll go through the twists and turns, and if we’re smart, we’ll run away from the bad guys or situations, or by the understanding of Scripture, plow right through them and collect the gold coins of virtue as we go!
Even better, we get to glorify God in our troubles and show that hope to those struggling without our Hope!
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.2 Cor. 12:9-10, ESV
Remember some of that hurt and the lessons learned are so that we’re better able to comfort and aid another facing the same type of trials, think on the good that you’ll be able to do for them, and rejoice while you finish your tribulation. “…who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” ~ 2 Cor. 1:4.
I pray that my pain and the joy I’ve been able to find through it has been an encouragement to you, especially as you go through this little race called life (Heb 12:1-2, 11). May you be found faithful and have persevered in Christ despite the tribulations so that we might truly live for eternity!
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs–heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him…For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.Rom 8:16-18, ESV
…who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.Phil 3:21, ESV
Post Script- I have since been blessed with one more baby and no back problems! Thinking myself in the clear, I went on my merry way not expecting anything life-changing from my tired body weaning off a busy nurser. Not did I expect simple lower back pain to be anything more than a kidney stone… Little did I know that I was a few A1c points away from death. The Lord let me live and I enjoyed a week of recovery in the ICU and am now learning to live as a 40-year-old with Juvenile/Type 1 Diabetes.
My joy in this so far is that I have a far deeper understanding of the Lord’s “parched lips” as He suffered so greatly on the cross (Psalm 22:15, John 19:28). A mouth and tongue that feels like cotton balls no matter how much you swallow is awful. The pain as your kidneys begin to shut down from dehydration is horrible. This was just one thing the Author and Perfector of Life suffered as He took my sins and yours away (Acts 3:15). I cannot fully comprehend such sacrifice, but I am so very grateful!
May we find a reason to rejoice in each day the Lord allows us to live, and truly redeem the time, living as fully for Him as we can!
So brace up your minds; be sober (circumspect, morally alert); set your hope wholly and unchangeably on the grace (divine favor) that is coming to you when Jesus Christ (the Messiah) is revealed.1 Pet 1:13, AMP
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