Seasons of loss and pain can teach me how to receive from God. If I let it, struggle can make me stronger, build me up and deepen my faith. However, this deeper faith can only be attained if I face my suffering head on and not run from it. If I don’t see God’s love in times of suffering I can miss the possibility of the beauty that can come out of the struggle and hence miss out on God’s love even amidst great pain.
I am desperate for Him to work a miracle in and through my heart, to empty it of all its fleshly contents and make it a vessel for His love. Recently, my prayer has been to honor and cherish the people around me. Not just those I like and naturally gravitate to, or have a high esteem for. Rather, those at work who work my last nerve, those who I am wrestling to forgive, and those whom it’s easier for me to judge than to love. It’s harder to love others when we ourselves are hurting.
For me this process starts at a very nitty-gritty place: gut level, brutal honesty with God about all the anger, judgment, blame, self-pity and even hate in my heart. I start by pouring the hurt out rather than allowing it to remain and embitter me. Pouring whatever is in my heart to God radically decreases my tendency to grow bitter and act out against others out of my negative experience. In most cases these individuals don’t even need to be the cause of said pain, sometimes they are merely innocent bystanders. In my greatest moments of suffering and pain I reach for self-protection instead of God. I lack trust in Him because I cannot reconcile the level of pain in my heart with a benevolent loving Creator.
Is 66: 9 (NCV) “In the same way I will not cause pain without allowing something new to be born,” says the Lord. “If I cause you the pain, I will not stop you from giving birth to your new nation,” says your God.”
God is teaching me to suffer righteously. Not to torture me, but to allow something new to be born – a greater faith and deeper intimacy with Him. He has worked for the good of those who love Him since the beginning of time. Sometimes this work, refinement, is painful. Sometimes it’s simply life that is painful and it’s my reaction to it that must still be to His glory. Do right, as in, be in right relationship with God even when everything around me is wrong and I feel searing pain. It’s the ultimate trust fall…off of a cliff.
Ps62:8 (NCV) “People, trust God all the time. Tell him all your problems, because God is our protection.”
To trust all the time includes the times I do not understand, this is where my faith deepens. Even the times when I wish things and people would have been different. In these times, God is calling me to be vulnerable with Him about what I’m thinking and feeling, instead of pulling back my trust. Intimacy with God means sharing the depths of my heart with Him – the depths of the anger, hurt, and injuries of all kinds, so that He can heal it. If I share my heart with him I am more likely to allow Him to help me work through my pain and make my heart whole. This is better than holding my thoughts and feelings hostage inside until they escape at inopportune times and knock over innocent bystanders in the process.
Pv 4:23 (NCV) “Be careful what you think, because your thoughts run your life.”
Proverbs 4:23 provides such a real and honest warning. How I chose to think about my suffering and view God in it will dictate if I live in accordance with the life he has called me to or not. It dictates if I will seek His will amidst it and to still please him or to choose my own way. In other translations it says, “Guard your heart.” Yet the space where our heart and mind meet is what the root of this word means. The warning is vital as my trust in God depends on it. I am called to guard my heart against sin. The choice to suffer righteously and not sin against God and others depends on me. If my heart or mind entertains entitlement or justifies my self-pity, self-protection, or otherwise questions God’s ways His greater plan in me can be stifled.
Job 42:1-5 (NCV) 1 Then Job answered the Lord: 2 “I know that you can do all things and that no plan of yours can be ruined. 3 You asked, ‘Who is this that made my purpose unclear by saying things that are not true?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand; I talked of things too wonderful for me to know. 4 You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak. I will ask you questions, and you must answer me.’ 5 My ears had heard of you before, but now my eyes have seen you.
A friend recently pointed out that even though Job questioned God, when God responded he never answered Job’s questions. When Job heard from God he did not need to understand his circumstances any more. He was content with God alone. When he saw God, really saw his intentions, he trusted Him. I want to trust God in this way. Amidst my suffering or others wrong doing, amidst loss and grief I want to hold on to God’s love in such a way that frees me to suffer righteously and do the right thing, even amidst pain.
The ultimate goal: God shaping me into the type of person I would want to minister to me after I have failed. I want to become a person who does not reciprocate hurt for hurt but can overlook an offense and chose peace. I want to be the type of person who can suffer life’s blows and not let it effect my response to others.
In my suffering, I believe that God is calling me to forgive, to be righteous in the face of suffering and respond with love when it is hard. My hope is that at the end of this journey this belief will be a deep seeded conviction. It is my hope that my actions, more often than not, will exemplify this as I grow in my trust in God and accept his love and protection on a whole new level.
I’ve found that forgiveness doesn’t undo the pain–it heals it. Time is the tool God uses to help the healing. I’m at the beginning of this journey, but I’ve been here before, in a place of pain that I thought would never go away but over time it did. God has healed before and he will heal again. When I look back I always see the greater good in it all. This time, I can’t yet see it, but I know it’s at the other end of this journey and season if I can just persevere.
Ps 27:14 (NCV) “Wait for the Lord’s help. Be strong and brave, and wait for the Lord’s help.”
2Tim4:17 (NCV) “But the Lord stayed with me and gave me strength…”
Ps61:2 (NCV) “I call to you from the ends of the earth when I am afraid. Carry me away to a high mountain.”