Do not worry about tomorrow. Each day has enough suffering of its own. ~ Jesus
I’ve been considering the role of suffering in our lives. Our family has been enduring some trials for a season. This has me reflecting on the way endurance brings about unexpected blessings. Like you, I’d rather tap out and avoid the pain. Yet, when I look at the deeper good God has produced through this hardship, I can’t help but honor the challenges and the way He has used them to produce growth, dependence, and patience, among other things.
When Jesus’ disciples encountered a man who had been born blind, they asked the question, “Who sinned? This man or his parents?” (John 9:2)
Someone’s Got to Take the Blame
Isn’t that often our innermost thought?: “Who sinned?” We want to blame ourselves or someone else when we aren’t experiencing, health, wealth, and popularity.
We don’t expect trials. Instead we avoid them like the plague, thinking, “If I have enough faith, live well, and make the right choices, I’ll avoid suffering.” Our comfort-driven mentality is a set-up. Worse than that, we often falsely believe, “If God loves me, He’ll spare me any suffering.”
When relationships fail, circumstances overwhelm us, or our inner world becomes unsettled, we might try to blame ourselves, someone else, or God. I sure have been there. I’m learning, though, to look beyond the moment to the larger picture. God, being loving and redemptive, takes tragic circumstances and brings good from them. God knew that this blind man would meet Jesus and that encounter would lead to healing. He knows where each of our trials will lead us as well.
Sometimes God takes awful circumstances and uses them to display His works – to show His love and to make His presence known to us and those around us. When Jesus’ movement in the midst of our suffering is tangible, it speaks volumes.
Jesus didn’t leave us with a hopeless statement as the final word. He adds, “Take heart. I have overcome the world.” Through our abiding relationship with Him and the power of the cross, we are more than conquerors.
In the face of external trials or internal struggles, I have some helpful “go to” strategies:
I Cast My Cares on Him Because He Cares for Me
In the Psalms we are shown the holy practice of bringing every emotion to God in prayer. He honors the lament of his people. Our loving Father wants us to bring our fears, burdens, anger and despair to Him. As we wrestle through these feelings with Him, we develop greater intimacy and dependence. The Psalms give us a common ground and words to express our aching heart. In Scripture we are reminded of God’s goodness and faithfulness.
I Look to the Day at Hand
Jesus knows we are human. We can plan and think ahead. In times of trouble, and as a usual habit of the mind, dabbling in the future is not really our place. God meets us each day with both His presence and His provision. We often project the worst case scenario when we experience fear. Did you ever notice how thoughts of God’s goodness are rarely included in your projection? I often remind myself, “Today is Monday, June 9th” … or whatever day it is. I tell myself to stay in that day – the day the Lord made. When I reduce my problem down to the day at hand, it invariably is manageable.
I Fix My Eyes Above where My Real Life is Hidden with Jesus
I used to run long distances. Whenever I had a lag in my energy, I would think about the next milestone. I would take my mind off the current lack of stamina and fix my eyes ahead. Paul reminds us that our real life – the one Jesus died to procure for us – is in heaven, not in the details of this earth. Our life is with Him. Someday we will be face to face with Him for eternity.
Meanwhile, in the here and now, the kingdom of Heaven is at hand. We have the Holy Spirit. We have complete, unhindered access to the Father. Peter sank when he took his eyes off Jesus while attempting to stroll on water. When we fix our eyes on Jesus instead of the tumultuous waves around us, we rise above the circumstances that otherwise threaten to drown us.
I Rely on the Body of Christ
Christianity isn’t a solo mission. Though the practice of solitude is a beautiful component of any healthy walk with Jesus, we don’t walk alone. God gave us the church as a whole. When I’m in deep yogurt, I reach out. Sometimes it is an act of my will to call a friend, ask for prayer or share my heart. I feel like pulling the covers up and coping in the quiet of my heart and mind, but in dark times, I need you. We need one another. Reaching out gives us the ability to share our burdens and receive from Jesus through those who love Him.
I Cut Back on Commitments
Making room in my schedule gives me room to grieve, rest or think about alternatives in my difficult circumstances. We need to operate at less than 100% when we are burdened or hurting. Suffering depletes our usual energy and reserves. God tells us to cease striving and know He is God. When a good portion of our brain is wrapped up in difficult emotions, we have to step back and say, “no.” Also, Cutting back also reminds me the world doesn’t rotate around me. I am allowed to quietly come to Him and take His easy yoke where I find healing and renewal.
You Are Not Alone …
Whatever trial you are facing right now, I hope you have found both encouragement and some practical ideas to help you hang on through the hurt while drawing nearer to God in the process. I would love to pray for you as you walk through challenges or pain.
Would you like to receive weekly encouragement for your faith journey? Get a little inspiration, one book recommendation, and one recipe a week in my weekly letter.
This post was originally shared in 2016. I have rewritten it, changing some things, and am sharing it today to bless anyone who is struggling through trials and needs a dose of hope to help them through.
I could really use some encouragement right now. I am in an emotionally abusive relationship. I have put 100% of my faith in Jesus for salvation. I know my home is in heaven. We have been to marriage counseling, but he has managed to convince the counselor that he is all right and I am all wrong. Part of this is clearly my fault as I allowed him to push my buttons and got upset in the counseling session bc of some very hurtful things he said about me and because the counselor is being blinded by my husband. Tho I am having trouble forgiving myself for allowing my buttons to be pushed, I am choosing the pathway of love and forgiveness and grace for my husband and the counselor. Life just really hurts right now. I know my Abba Father cares. I’m worn out in every way.
I rarely share here about my experience of living through and coming out from an abusive relationship. I don’t know your specific situation or the pain you endure, yet I know the way abuse eats at us bit by bit until we lose the sense of value God has given us. We forget that we are treasured. I hear your heart – that you know God as your Abba. I encourage you to continue to revisit passages in His Word like Ps 139, Ps 23 and Zeph 3:17 to hear Him as He confirms that you are beloved. He made you with care. There will never be another you. He cherishes you. Abuse grieves His heart. When you have continually and daily soaked yourself in the love God has for you, the trembling and hurt in your heart can be safely poured out in prayer. You will experience the strength of your connection with Him. It’s not that simple, of course, but dwelling in His love and presence is the place of healing and safety we need. The love God has for us needs to appear bigger than our circumstances – because it is.
That being said, we don’t evade the practical. God is with us, but we still have to brush our teeth if we don’t want cavities. God is with us, and we have to decide what we will do in light of others mistreating us. We have to determine what we will or won’t stand for. Instead of waiting for the other person to change, getting angry when they can’t see their part, or feeling hopeless, we need to assess our options prayerfully.
Remaining stuck is one choice. I did that for a season. At a certain point I had to remove myself to safer circumstances. That sounds cut and dry, but since I had been beaten down, it was a miracle that I was able to step away. I didn’t do it to force his hand, serve him right or manipulate him into doing things my way. I separated because it was the right and good thing for both me and him.
I can’t prescribe what you should do. What I can do is encourage you to continually seek God about your situation – the God who literally adores you beyond what words can say. I encourage you to find your hope and strength in Him. I nudge you to take your eyes off your husband and turn them to Jesus and yourself and find out where you have freedom to choose and where God is leading you up and out of oppression. In Gal 5:1 Paul reminds us “it is for freedom Christ set us free, stand firm then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Jesus gave His very life that you might live free. We will suffer in this life. His presence gives us inner freedom and the power to choose well so we can be free from outward oppressors as well. I hear in your heart a desire to walk in forgiveness – not holding grudges or judging. That is the sweetness of your love for God shining through. Forgiveness does cost us and it hurts – as it cost Jesus and hurt Him. Forgiveness doesn’t mean we allow someone to continue on in ways that are abusive towards us. Imagine what you would allow one of your dearest friends or a child to endure before you stepped in and tried to stop them from being hurt any further. Turn that same wisdom towards your own situation and set clear and loving boundaries as to what you will or won’t allow to be done to you. You can do this with love and forgiveness.
You are in my prayers today, Faith. Thank you for courageously sharing your life here. Come back anytime.
Naomi Lisa Shippen says
The Eastern philosophy has it right when they say “Life is Suffering”. As you said, when things go wrong, we look for someone to blame instead of accepting that suffering is a part of life. But suffering can lead to a greater awareness, and we appreciate the good things in life more after we have experienced the bad.
Naomi, thank you for your thoughtful input. I have suffered a great deal in life. I’m not sure if I would say life is suffering, but I’ll say it is surely pocked by it. Life is also joy, and freedom, and contentment, and most of all – love. Still, suffering will be in every life. As you so wisely say, the hard times help us appreciate the goodness all the more. So grateful you popped by.