Written Jan. 16, 2018
I have been walking around the last few days in a rage, barking at anyone who will listen. I tell myself I need to get my nose back into joint, but I feel I deserve to be angry! I have been handed the crappy end of the crap stick! Too ill to work and provide for my family or even pay for the treatments I need to get well. An illness triggered by chronic stress that doesn’t seem to have an end in sight; the illness or the stress. But I don’t deserve the life that being angry will bring me, nor do I deserve the inevitable bitter heart that will come with it. I prayed this morning “God help me break through this barrier! Make my suffering count, let me be a light for you”. I decided to start a new reading plan based on God’s love. The first reading was John 15. In verse 18 Jesus explains – if you find the world despises you, remember it despised me first. He then goes on to say that we are not products of this world but that he has taken us out of it. But it was verse 20 that caught in my throat Jesus said “If I was mistreated, you should expect nothing less”. If God himself was so terribly mistreated AND brutally killed, how can I expect to be treated any better when he lives in me?! I am not a product of this world and I praise God for it! Does that mean that I am called to suffer? Actually yes! Being a disciple of Jesus means following the narrow path. Jesus suffered so that we could be made whole, to show us God’s great love.
In Paul’s letter to the Romans he wrote “We also celebrate in seasons of suffering because we know that when we suffer we develop endurance, which shapes our characters. When our characters are refined, we learn what it means to hope and anticipate God’s goodness.”(Romans 5:3). If there is no suffering why do we need hope? I didn’t give my heart to Jesus so I wouldn’t suffer, I did it because I needed His love. Christianity is not a pill or an oath that fixes everything. How can we glimpse the vastness of God’s love and redemption if we don’t experience the trials Jesus told us to expect when he took us from this world? If we don’t suffer then all the gifts the cross gave us are rendered useless. Jesus came to earth to give us hope through the cross, that we could be forgiven and saved. In Matthew chapter 5 Jesus states “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.” The “light” is the hope of the gospel that draws people to the goodness of Christ. He then sent us out into the world to share that goodness with others. But if people can’t see the hope of God in us as something they want, then how do we answer their question “Why Jesus?”. I don’t understand why I am made to suffer so, nor do I enjoy it! But I must walk out my life in a way that shows He lives in me, who does it help if I hide it? “As for me, I will always have hope” (Psalm 71:14) because “greater is He who is in me.” (1 John 4:4).
I don’t understand how great God’s love is for me, but I accept it all the same. I have never seen God, but I believe. I don’t need to understand my belief to have faith in Him either. God doesn’t call us to understand! He calls us to seek Him, to humble ourselves into a place where we can admit “apart from Him I can do nothing” pride and things of this world can make that very difficult. That’s why God gave us the holy spirit and all its gifts. He knew we would need them, just as He knew we would suffer in his name. But its that very suffering that brings glory to Him. I can’t escape my suffering, nor should I. Most times I feel as though I am surrounded by walls of obstacles, completely trapped. But I can always look up! And up is the only way out because He is “the way, the truth and the life”. I know without God’s love, grace and hope in my life I would not be alive, emotionally, physically or spiritually. My pain should have killed me. I deserve to die for my sins and it was my sins that led to my pain. Not only did He forgive and save me, he gives me the strength to endure the pain my sins and the sins of others have caused in my life. But I am not of this world, nor is my life my own. I gave it away, in order that I may become a child of God. Peter wrote “You should greatly rejoice in what is waiting for you, even if now for a little while you have to suffer various trials. Suffering tests your faith which is more valuable than gold.” (1 Peter 1:7). A great pastor and mentor reminded me the other day that my suffering is mere moments in the scheme of eternity. Thanks to the grace of God I can count my scars and with each one give a shout of praise, that I may carry them in His name. He heals me from the inside out simply because I believe in Him. He went to the cross because he couldn’t imagine eternity without me. But he has called me to bring as many people as I can reach with me. Not in my own strength, but His. As my faith grows I am more and more thankful that nothing and no one can take it away from me! It is the sprouted grain, gluten-free bread that nourishes my soul! So “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” (Romans 8:35) I say “Bring it on! Do your worst!” Try to take me down, call me names, take my income and worldly possessions! God alone is my sustenance. “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want” (Psalm 23). Thank you Jesus!
References: NLT, NIV, THE VOICE, NKJV