My flesh stings with the stripes of suffering. Persecuted,
rejected, abandoned. What are these to me in light of eternity
with You? Your upside-down kingdom of servant king is a balm
to my heartache.
Though my flesh revolts at the dirt of humility and
my mind balks at unseen hope, I pick up my cross
and follow You night and day. Faith in You never
disappoints! Tears and songs
gurgle and bubble to the surface like a spring. You, Oh Lord,
are the source of circumstance-transforming joy.
And when my night comes, when all hope seems lost, and my flesh
bleeds to betray You. May I
cry out like Jesus. “It is finished,” and trust your resurrection power.
He remembers his covenant forever, the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations
(Psalm 105:8 ESV).
Turning My Page
My grandmother giggled like a teenage girl. Her whole being exuded joy at both hanging the sheets out to dry and investing in the lives of those around her. One summer, I spent several weeks with her and heard stories never shared with me before. Behind that giggle was a whole lot of suffering. It was impressed upon me that she had resilience. At the time, I was an Eyore, focused on the gloomy clouds constantly hovering over my life, and had little to no ability to bounce back. Still, I soaked up her stories and wondered how she could have such a great attitude, praise God for her blessings, and serve others wherever God placed her.
So much of Grandma’s life was deeply hard. Her father died when she was three, and when her mother remarried, her stepfather wasn’t keen on the extra baggage of a daughter. She passed from relative to relative until her siblings started arriving, and then she was brought back home to help raise her brother and sisters. She did not hold a grudge. When she was older, she endured the devastating loss of two sisters, who died because they got caught in a whirlpool and drowned. Grandma lived through the great depression, wars, and a husband who was a harsh and unforgiving man.
He had softened as a grandfather, and I only caught glimpses of his stubbornness, but I could tell she loved him with every fiber of her being. She lost a grandson who lived with her for a while when his parents discarded him to suicide. I didn’t understand then, but I do now how profoundly the loss of my cousin broke her heart.
Yet, despite all of these experiences, she laughed and celebrated life to the fullest. She shared her faith with me at a little white church in the country. She played cards with me and taught me how to make buttermilk toast when she was sick. I loved her tea, her stories, and everything about this five-foot-nothing, once curly-haired redhead. What I didn’t understand then, I know now as a believer in Christ.
I can now laugh, celebrate, and live life to the fullest, whatever circumstances may come because I recognize that Joy and Sorrow are beautiful companions. Death does not end my story. It is only a part of the story.
Turning Your Page
Start observing joy coupled with sorrow where you are. Who around you is an example of someone who lives life to the fullest amid hardship? What characteristics do you observe about them? Ask them to share the reason for their hope. Ask them what scriptures are foundational to how they live with sorrow and joy at the same time.
Learning to walk with sorrow and joy simultaneously is not easy. Often, our selfish and worldly desires get in the way. A simpler life, with no troubles at all, would be nice, but remembering that God sees you and has kept his covenant to all who believe in Him, what we experience in this life is but a blink. Living life to the fullest is possible because Jesus bridges the gap of our sinful nature and teaches us to take up our cross daily. Here are some other passages to help you practice joy in sorrow.
“Trouble and anguish have found me out, but your commandments are my delight” (Psalm 119:143 ESV).
“‘Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour'” (John 12:27 ESV).
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,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 Corinthians 1:3-4 ESV).
“‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid'” (John 14:27 ESV).
Lord, thank you for the many examples throughout scripture and in my life who exemplify your attitude of joy amid great hardship. May I take comfort and share that comfort with others because you waste nothing.
Patiently packaged within pain
is the gift of possibility.
Unopened or opened—content remains the same.
My future is secure in the gift-giver.
Oh Lord, help me tear away the wrapping of fear, bitterness, and despair
and gasp in awe at your glory.
My passion—tangible hope secreted within the gift of suffering.
The portrait slumped in the back corner of the attic.
Her head folded in resignation of neglect—abandoned.
“A beginner’s musings,” I guessed, ready to dismiss my discovery.
But something drew me to the forgotten girl. Her eyes
haunted me, pleaded for hope beneath the cobwebs of neglect.
“I reframed my heartache after considering eternity.
Didn’t stop feeling when the world tortured me and laughed, What’s the point, no one cares?
“I reframed my longings, surrendered them to eternity.
Didn’t stop reaching for my creator when the skeptic told me, There’s no such thing.
“I reframed my thoughts to illuminate eternity.
Didn’t stop holding each other up when despair screamed, No way out!”
The girl reached out, tugged my heart
closer for respect, kindness—for some granule of
understanding her pain. Her hair fell like flames
around her face. Untamable
beauty. Maybe with a little work …
Pain Looks Different in Light of Eternity
I traded out her beaten frame for a new one,
brought the broken child out into the light. Displayed her as a priceless treasure.
Strange how the new light brushed her cheek and
shared a different story.
Her soul danced with hopes and dreams, passions, and compassion.
Did a hint of a smile appear on her lips?
And in that hope, our joy emerged as a masterpiece of possibility.
Turning Your Page: Reframing Pain
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV
The world can be brutal to our mind, body, and spirit. Jesus stepped into humanity to teach us a new way of looking at our circumstances and responding with joy, rather than despair. Jesus reveals we can withstand so much more than we think. Often we view ourselves through shortsighted glasses and it takes an outside perspective to jolt us to an eternal reality.
That jolt can come in the form of scripture, wise counsel from a friend, or the Holy Spirit trying to challenge your thinking? How are you responding to their love?
Spend some time walking around your life as if you are looking at them as a stranger. Describe the challenges. Have others shared a similar experience? How did they get through suffering? Who did they turn to for help?
What is one aspect of your circumstances you can work on allowing hope to illuminate possible outcomes? Spend time this week asking God to open your eyes to see the possibility for good things emerging out of difficulty.
Jesus, my heart is heavy with circumstances I have no control over. You set the joy of being with your Father in front of you! Help me to endure my cross and have joy because my eyes remain fixed on you. Amen
During the many shifts, changes, and difficult challenges caused by COVID-19, we can either choose to praise or curse God. As a result of your circumstances, what will you choose?
Relent, do not be unjust; reconsider, for my integrity is at stake.
Job 6:29 NIV
Turning My Page: My Response to Covid-19 is to Praise or Curse
I slammed my Bible shut. After spending a month with Job’s friends, I couldn’t take one more sentence of their arrogant presumptions about Job and God. “I can’t wait for you to speak,” I complained out loud to God.
God in his infinite wisdom answered back, “Oh really?” So, today, I listened to the first words God spoke to Job and his friends, and also heard him say to me, “How often do you lean on your own understanding, trying to explain why I allow suffering in your life? How often do you presume to know my ways and what I will or will not do in the lives of your children?”
God’s rebuke was not harsh,
but it cut through my self-righteous judgment of Job’s friends and placed me squarely in the storm of his answers to Job.
Reading through Job, you and I have the benefit of Chapter 1. This causes us to question God’s goodness because we know God calls Job, ” blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil”. God made it clear Job does not deserve what is happening to him. Take the first chapter out and we are just as blindsided as Job when his favored life turns hard.
Witnessing such great suffering I would have asked:
Is God punishing Job because he sinned?
Has God withdrawn his love?
Job was wealthy, therefore, is it a sin to accumulate possessions?
Is God allowing Job to suffer as an example of what happens when man thinks they are better than God?
Too often I presume to know why God allows suffering
in our lives rather than knowing and finding security that he is good and that I am part of God’s larger story for mankind. He does not answer to me, nor does he have to explain himself to me.
I pray that one day I can say, “Satan meant Jonathan, my oldest son’s, death for evil, but oh Lord you meant it for the salvation of many.” Suffering has a greater purpose, just as God had a divine purpose when he allowed Jesus’ death on the cross. I choose to praise you, Lord, just as Job chose to praise you even when he didn’t understand your full design.
Lord, you created the heavens, earth, and all that resides in it.
I don’t have the first clue of your purposes. But I do know you are good. I praise you for creating my life, giving me breath. You gifted my first child and transformed motherhood for me. As Jonathan was placed in my arms, I began to recognize your love for me as a parent. Therefore, I praise you in my suffering now after the loss of Jonathan. because I know you didn’t stop loving me. Again and again, you extend grace to me. You gave me a husband who not only committed his life to love me but knelt down and said vows to the seven-year-old son who looked up him with eager and nervous expectation. You blessed me with Brian, Jonathan, Daniel, and Natalie and even if the worst comes true in my life, you are still a good God.
Lord, you gave me your passion and creative spirit. I am in awe of scripture, you don’t leave me guessing. You tell me the beginning, middle, and end of your story. I know all I experience is temporary. Leave your mark on the world through me.
Turning Your Page
What are your current judgment of God during this pandemic, world suffering, and personal trials? Do you find yourself saying, I must have done something wrong, or what kind of god allows pain? Are his actions in your life measuring up to your beliefs and expectations of how a good God should act? God does not ever give Job a reason for his suffering, but he does establish authority in Job’s life, the lives of his friends, and over their circumstances. Is that a God you can live with? Job determined that yes, he could still worship a God that both took away and gave him good things. What do you say to the creator of the universe in your suffering?
What are your beliefs about God? How did they form? (example: I was raised in a Christian home, but also learned a lot about God through nature and reading on my own.)
How are your friends, family, and coworkers responding to God during COVID-19?
List the ways God is providing for and being active in your life. Spend time writing down praise for who God is.
How can you develop a COVID-19 praise over curse response?
Today I choose to say, “You give and take away, but still, I will praise your name.” Amen
Interview August 25th at 7pm EST
My guest, Kathy Collard Miller. She is a lay counselor, author, speaker, and a person who struggled with anger and depression. Next week, we will discuss how God transformed and shaped her brokenness. and therefore he can shape us as well. Just like Job, we don’t always know why we suffer. Kathy’s testimony is an opportunity to see that our emotions are not beyond redemption. Be encouraged by this sweet and Holy Spirit-led woman. She has a catalog of resources to help you on your journey. Check out her ministry at Heart Change: Thirsting for God’s Living Spring
She will be offering giveaways of her two most recent books:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 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. For as we share abundantly in Christâ€™s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort andÂ salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort” ( 2 Corinthians 1: 3-7 NIV).
What an amazing passage! We do not suffer alone. What an precious gift your friendship is to my family and I. Learning to comfort in our affliction means that we look beyond our circumstances to God’s purpose in our sufferings. I share in Christ’s sufferings, but I also share in his comfort. As an added bonus I get to share that comfort with you.
When the seizures started yesterday morning I begged God to take them away. I thought that they had stopped completely several years ago and their return was more then I could bear. “Even in this, I have a purpose.” Was God’s answer to me. I have to decide if I trust him with that purpose. Do we look at our weaknesses as afflictions or as God’s opportunity to work in and through us?
One of my favorite women Joni Eareckson Tada, lives out God’s purpose through many hardships. At the age of 17 she broke her neck in a diving accident and became a quadriplegic. She has experienced cancer and difficulty in her marriage. Does she suffer? Definitely! But oh what she is allowing God to do with that suffering. Painting with her teeth, ensuring that others get the wheelchairs they need, speaking, singing, writing, and serving God in whatever way he calls her to.
So God has a purpose in my seizures! May Jesus comfort you in my affliction that you may not grow weary in your own sufferings. Hugs and encouragement to all of you. I love you dearly!
I’m never going to tame suffering. It is an ocean of unpredictable waves.
In my youth, I surfed like a barney, thinking I knew the right moves. But I was a rag doll with a Christian vocabulary tossed from my flimsy board of faith. A Maverick of despair pinned me, revealing my desperation for a savior. Still the waves kept crashing, drowning me in sorrow, Until God rescued me and set my feet on the ground solid with his love. We trained for hours. I looked silly hopping up on my board of faith, awkwardly balancing between grace and works. Up daily for dawn patrol to study the Hall of Faith surfers, men, and women, though scarred by Great Waves, who rode life to the fullest impact. They testified to the reward of daily discipline and increased my quiver. The right board for the right wave. Self-control stretched and retrained my weak muscles. Jesus taught me to respect suffering; lean into the lessons rather than fight their power surge. I now know what it is like to run my fingers down the barrel, and relax into the beautiful hollow of not being God. I use suffering from top to bottom, carving hope from impossible odds. I respect other surfing sufferers, rooting them on to ride well. I persevere when rung through the washing machine of trials. Experiencing epic peeks with God towards the glorious impact of gnarly suffering.
Day 16 (Originally posted on Facebook, 16 days after my son’s death)
Job 3:11 a, 26: “Why did I not perish at birth, and die as I came from the womb?. . . I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil.”
Throughout my scripture reading I have always struggled with Job and other bearers of great suffering. Why would God allow Satan to test Job? He even goes so far as to point Job out. Can you imagine the God of the Universe pointing you out for Satan’s “special” attention? “Have you considered my servant …___________?”
No thank you!
“She has the patience of Job” is used when describing someone who is enduring great suffering. What do patience and suffering have to do with each other?
Patience: from the Latin word patiencia- “endurance”, from pati- “to suffer”.
the quality of being patient, as the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like.
an ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay: to have patience with a slow learner.
quiet, steady perseverance; even-tempered care; diligence: to work with patience. (Dictionary.com)
Alright, so suffering is in the very meaning of patience.
Job suffered the loss of all his children, his livelihood, and his health. He even had to suffer through the speeches of three friends who have been nicknamed “miserable comforters”. The closest that the devil can get to having Job curse God is to curse his own birth. But, at the end of the day God had final say over even that. “Where were you when. . .” (38:4) In other words, I am God and you are not.
God doesn’t always tell us why we suffer, but he did not spare his own son, who was without blemish, and look at the results of Jesus’ suffering the cross. Many are saved. I have seen enough examples throughout scripture and in life to know that suffering comes, and that I always have a choice as to how I will respond to it. To truly love others, patience must be the first part of my response. 1 Corinthians 13:4 says love is patient,” . . . Without patience love doesn’t stand a chance. Patience, at its core, means that I am giving up my right to have my way; that I am “bearing provocation, annoyance, misfortune or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation or the like.”
Barbara Johnson, one of my all-time favorite humorists said, “Patience is the ability to idle your motor when you feel like stripping your gears.”
Today I practice idling my motor, accepting God’s will for my life. The result is ALWAYS that many are saved. Just ask fellow sufferers, Joseph, Moses, Job and Jesus. Our suffering produces good things when we obey the will of God.
In a previous post on perseverance I spoke about pain as a necessity so that we pay attention, change, and care for our bodies.Â Some of us,Â have pain that goes above and beyond the norm.
I just found out that my discs are deteriorating and my hip sockets were not formed right so my cartilage is wearing away. The orthopedist called me a “tween” I am in the teenage years of hip replacement. Right now the goal is pain management but I have surgery in my future. Daunting prospects, because I’ve cared for patients who have the level of pain I currently have and watched their spirits deteriorate along with their body. But, I’ve also watched spirits increase and abound in other patients who chose to open themselves up to Christ being enough in their pain. So how do we meet pain with the balm of spiritual discipline?
1. Acknowledge the pain and our needs
2. Put it in right context: believe
3. Repent of any sin contributing to our health
4. Surround ourselves with a cloud of witnesses
5. Act on the opportunities given for health and wholeness
6. Bless others who are suffering
I know I’m only scratching the surface today, but I’m working through this as I go. We’ll talk more as
I journey through.
Matthew Henry’s commentary on 2 Chronicles 21;12-20, a rather gruesomeÂ prophecy given to King Jehoram, but unheeded,Â is contrasted withÂ very good news for those who believe even while they suffer.
Good men may be afflicted with diseases; but to them they are fatherly chastisements, and by the support of Divine consolations the soul may dwell at ease, even when the body lies in pain. To be sick and poor, sick and solitary, but especially to be sick and in sin, sick and under the curse of God, sick and without grace to bear it, is a most deplorable case. Wickedness and profaneness make men despicable, even in the eyes of those who have but little religion.