Thursday, June 30, 2016
I love our house church family. More and more, I'm learning to hear Jesus as He speaks to me through the members of His Body as we gather together around Him.
Most recently, I heard something that really gave me a fresh perspective about pain and suffering.
One of our sisters was sharing about how she had been angry at God. She was upset because it seemed to her that her sister was suffering horribly in areas where she herself was enjoying the blessings of God. This disparity made her angry and she let God know that she needed Him to be as good to her sister as He had been to her. It just didn't seem fair that she should be so blessed and her sister should suffer so horribly without any end in sight.
Eventually, my friend said to God, "If you don't fix this and bless my sister, I'm not sure I can continue to trust in you."
That was quite the ultimatum. I'm sure some of you can relate.
From her perspective, there was an injustice that needed correcting. God loved both of them the same, and yet one of them was being blessed and the other was in pain. Why was that? How could God allow this to continue?
But then my friend gained a new perspective on the entire situation. She slowly started to hear from God the phrase, "I am" in various ways; as she read scripture, as she prayed, and as she spent time with Him, the realization of God as "I am" began to soften her heart and it gave her a fresh angle on everything.
To her, that realization meant that God was so much bigger than the momentary "goodness" or "badness" of a particular person's experience in a given space of time.
But, to me, as she was sharing this with all of us on a Sunday morning, what I heard the Lord say to me was this: "Get to know me better. All of these experiences you have - Blessing, Pain, Joy, Suffering - all of these are opportunities for you to know me in a deeper way."
Immediately, my mind went to the verse which says, "Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart." [Ps. 37:4]
Right away I realized that the verse wasn't saying, "Make God happy and He will give you the stuff you want", which is honestly how I think most of us read that verse at first.
Instead, I started to see how this verse was simply saying: "If you make God your delight, then you will receive more of God as a reward."
In other words, "Is it your delight to know God more? Is the desire of your heart simply to know Him in a deeper way?" If so, then you're in luck! Because God's promise is to fulfill that desire and to show you more and more of Himself as you seek Him daily.
Suffering, then, becomes another opportunity to know God's heart. Blessings are also an opportunity to know something about God. Our joys reveal more of God's character, and our sadness points us to Him as well.
Too often, we become fixated on avoiding pain and maximizing our pleasure. But that's a very carnal way of living, and it reduces our experience of God to a simplistic paradigm which says: "If I'm blessed then God loves me and if I'm suffering then God is upset at me."
Nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus is with us always, no matter what our experience is. He walks with us through the valley of the shadow of death, and he dances with us in our seasons of joy.
Jesus told us plainly: "In this world you will have trouble", and then He added, "But take heart, because I have overcome the world."
The troubles still come our way, but our gift is that we get to go through those hardships with Jesus alongside us.
"It rains on the unjust and the righteous as well," Jesus said. The difference for us is that we get to know Jesus better along the journey of life, whether in joy or in sorrow.
I hope that encourages you today.
If it does, please share this with your friends on Facebook or Twitter. There might be others who need to hear this blessing too!