Friday, November 4, 2011

What is suffering?

So much of our suffering is self-inflicted. For example, we should ask for prayer for diabetes that was brought on by decades of bad eating habits and extra weight (My Dad. He would put Hershey Syrup in his Pepsi just for starters).  I believe God honors those prayers and uses them for our good, but that is not the suffering of Christ. Years of careless spending and huge credit card debt is overwhelming and praying for a miracle so a home isn't  foreclosed and for help with the awful stress in dealing with the bank is appropriate - but again, not the sufferings of Christ. As I Peter 2:20 states: But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.

God has great grace and mercy towards us when we suffer from our own foolishness. I have often suffered from my own mistakes and sins. I don't make much money, so when my lead-foot hits that pedal as I'm zooming to the airport to pick up my daughter and her husband, that $500 speeding ticket made me physically sick. As did the increase to my insurance. As did the thought of more peanut butter and jelly. I broke the law, exceeded the speed-limit, and was thankful I didn't have a Christian fish symbol mounted to my trunk.

The 100-Fold Christian life doesn't mean we have never sinned. It means that most of our suffering is not a consequence of our own sin and is allowed by God to rid us of sin and test us for a variety of reasons:

Judges 3:1-4: To see if we will continue to obey God's commands under stress.
I Chronicles 29:17: To test our integrity
Hebrews 12:11: To produce a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
Job 23:10: To see if the refining will produce gold.
Proverbs 3:11-12: Because He loves and delights in us.
Philippians 3:10-11: To become like Christ and somehow, attain to the resurrection from the dead.
I Peter 4:19: So we continue to commit ourselves to our faithful Creator and continue to do good.

This kind of suffering usually lasts a long time. I say usually because of my own experience, but I can't be certain. I have had others tell me of their "Job Experience" and to me it would have been a walk in the park. I'm not sure how it works, because I don't want to have a suffering competition, and I want to resist judging. My only thought is that perhaps their wills didn't require such a severe wrenching to relinquish it to God? My goal of this blog is to support those who are currently experiencing extreme suffering in America.  I believe we are the forerunners of what many sincere Christians will face in the near future and, if we maintain our integrity during the tests, God might use us to help others.

God has promises and rewards for those who remain faithful during the years of suffering:

Hosea 6:1-2: He will heal us, bind up our wounds, revive us, and restore us that we may live in his presence!
I Corinthians 10:12-13: God won't let us be tempted beyond what we can bear and provides a way of escape.
Joel 2:25: He will repay us for all that we have lost.
James 1:12: Successfully persevering under trial results in the crown of life!

The end result of the sufferings of Christ should be a complete relinquishing of self will. That is the last bastion, after repenting from the love of the world and the pride of life. As Daniel faced the blazing furnace (3:16-18), he acknowledged that God was surely able to save he and his friends, but EVEN IF HE DIDN'T, he would still not serve any other god. As Jesus faced his horrible death he prayed, "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done" (Luke 22:46).

A quote was bandied about my church for many years, "If He could have taken you any other way, He would have" (Mother Basilea Schlink from the Sisterhood of Mary). When well-meaning friends would say that to me I would think, "What kind of maniac must I have been if this is the way God had to take me?!" That was during my self-pity years. Now I keep my eyes on the goal, and try to remember that my "light and momentary troubles are achieving for (me) an eternal glory that far outweighs them all" (2 Corinthians 4:16).

Friends, I still battle. I still have moments of "Woe is me." When I see pictures of happily married Christian friends on their latest cruise, or knowing people with successful ministries who are respected and live orderly and blessed lives, I hurt a little. But I don't want to offend my Father. He's given me such a huge gift, the opportunity to reap 100-Fold for all of eternity. Quickly avert your eyes to the prize. Such glories await, I don't even know what they all are, but that's faith. I marvel that as God combed existence, He chose me for this walk. I know He chose me so that the world would know it wasn't me, but Christ in me, that ran the race, but what an honor.

How awesome to one day hear the words, "Well done, good and faithful servant!"

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