October 28, 2015

Suffering is Not the Opposite of Blessing

Last week, when I was in the middle of discerning God's pressing and asking Him to simply lift my head to see Him, my Bible study teacher said, "Suffering is not the opposite of blessing."

My heart perked up at those words, because I know them to be true. In fact, suffering, if we trust ourselves into the loving hands of our Father, can in the end be one of our greatest blessings. Bittersweet blessings. Hard-won blessings. Internal-hope blessings. 1 Peter 1:6-8 says it like this: "In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love."
Suffering isn't always a result of circumstances or external pressure. Sometimes temporary pain comes from discipline, and, again, we are wise to consider God's discipline as His loving, protective hand.

Suffering is not the opposite of blessing. There is blessing in the suffering.

Thank you for your concern for me, both online and in person. I apologize if I alarmed you in any way. I simply wanted to give voice to the very real experiences of suffering, confusion, doubt, and spiritual attack that all of us have experienced or will experience at some point. I didn't want to give you the cleaned-up version after the fact. I wanted to put my in-process into words, because I know I'm not the only one. We all are in process, working out our salvation with fear and trembling. As long as we run toward God with our questions and pain, we shouldn't be afraid of the squeezing, the distress, the emotions, and the wrestling that come along with working out our salvation.

Suffering is not the opposite of blessing. There is blessing in the suffering.

I can tell you first hand that there has been blessing in my suffering. I hit a wall going 60 miles per hour and that wall was put there by a loving God to stop me in my sinful and self-destructive tracks. The aftermath of that collision felt as any collision would: disorienting and painful. But I finally came around to realizing that God loved me enough to stop me and--oh how important this is--to take responsibility for changing my heart and mind. There has been no condemnation in that wall, although sometimes I've felt overwhelmed at what God has shown me, things to which I'd previously been so blind. No, there has been love and hope and a reorientation around the God who rebuilds out of the rubble.

What has helped me? Four things: my tender husband caring for me; my loving friends listening, helping me process, and also saying hard things; my complete surrender (after a week of fighting) to the process of God's loving discipline and willingness to transform me; and the beautiful, life-giving words of Scripture.

Perhaps you're in a similar place--you've hit a wall going 60 miles per hour or your circumstances have overcome you like a ocean wave. Remember, suffering is not the opposite of blessing. Entrust yourself to the loving hands of your Father. He will bring hope and blessing in the suffering.

I leave you with the words that have most ministered to me:

"The Lord will perfect that which concerns me; Your mercy, O Lord, endures forever; Do not forsake the works of Your hands."Psalm 138:8

"Therefore my spirit is overwhelmed within me; My heart within me is distressed. I remember the days of old; I meditate on all Your works: I muse on the work of Your hands. I spread out my hands to You; My soul longs for You like a thirsty land. Answer me speedily, O Lord; My spirit fails! Do not hide Your face from me, Lest I be like those who go down into the pit. Cause me to hear Your lovingkindness in the morning, For in You do I trust; Cause me to know the way in which I should walk, For I lift up my soul to You." Psalm 143:4-8