For the past year in a half God has completely redefined my world.
I’ve never lived with such an utter dependency upon His grace, His Son, and the Word for which we are given to know His will. This dependency wasn’t something that magically happened or popped up over night, It came through suffering.
There were many nights when it was hard to hold onto hope. There were many days I fell into despair and despondency. Fear, anger, and depression defined me, but God has a way of shifting our focus off of self and re-focusing us onto Jesus, where all hope is found.
So, as I write about suffering, it’s not an easy place for me. It’s not an easy place for anyone. But my hope is that you will be encouraged after reading this.
Before Jesus redeemed me, I was like a ship setting out for a journey without a sail. I would be tossed and turned by any wave that happen to come my way. Countless relationships were ruined because of this and I was too ashamed to turn to Jesus, but God in His great love and mercy took compassion on His wandering son.
For the first time in my life I was confronted with the ugliness of my sin. A growing cancer in my soul whispering the lies of the enemy. “worthless…you’ve strayed too far…Jesus doesn’t love you…anger defines you…un-redeemable…” But just as I was confronted with the insanity of my sin, I was confronted by the voice of Jesus calming those winds and waves.
This experience is so incredibly hard to capture in words. At the time I knew He was doing something special, but I didn’t know what. I feel as though, to use producer language, He was writing a new script in my life. He was painting over an old canvas and creating a new image, one that reflects Him. There was a bigger picture taking place behind the suffering I was experiencing.
The Bigger Picture
When any amount of suffering is taking place, it’s incredibly easy to neglect the good that Jesus is doing in your life. It’s incredibly easy to lose hope and see only the temporary circumstance, but there is no reason to fear or give into despondency because there is always a bigger picture taking place
Romans 8 does an incredible job of speaking life into this. There’s a section of it that reads like this:
…I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.. (Rom. 8:18-19)
Paul is letting us in on a big secret here.
Pain produces a peculiar glory,
one of which we may not see until we are with our savior in paradise.
He is introducing a concept called Future Glory. It’s arguably against the American (and millennial) culture of instant gratification.
What future glory begs us to to is to look beyond a temporary circumstance
into the eternal perspective. It invites us to look beyond our temporary suffering into a future in which the circumstance shaped us to be stronger and more fit for Kingdom work.
But that’s easier said than done.
Why is this so hard for us to do, even as followers of Jesus?
Culturally, it is very American to desire instant gratification. We love fast food. We love fast internet. Hate waiting in lines or traffic and love to express every bit of emotion on social media. You are in even more danger of falling for this if you are a Millennial. (because we barely had the chance to know anything different.)
It goes beyond our culture though. Romans was written around 57-58 a.d. and as someone who is reading as a Millennial I feel like Paul is writing this letter to me! The sufferings that the followers of Jesus were facing at that time were much more extreme than anything we face here in the U.S. (we can worship openly without worrying about death) but holistically we still struggle with this when pain hits whether it be physical, spiritual, emotional, or mental.
We have to know that God is working something good through our suffering.
It is inevitable that our peers may not understand why we are able to worship God through hard circumstances, but scripture makes it incredibly clear that we are not defined by a temporary circumstance, or even our response to the said circumstance.
When you look at life through the lens of Scripture,
it changes your perspective on suffering.
You begin to see there is hope found in suffering.
Paul continues to write in Romans 12
I appeal to you therefore, brothers,by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world,but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
This is relevant to many situations we face as believers, but can be applied to how we process suffering.
Don’t give up hope.
Remember Romans 5? There is a cycle of hope behind any suffering.
Suffering produces endurance
Endurance produces character
Character produces hope
Hope does not put us to shame
What the flesh will try to dictate is your suffering is eternal.
It is not. It is temporary.
Remember, behind every ounce of suffering is a future glory that is being revealed.
Hold onto hope. Keep pressing hard into Jesus.
Scripture to consider:
“Through him (Christ) we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
Romans 5:2-5 ESV
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
2 Corinthians 4:16-18
A Helpful Song