Tag Archives: Suffering

A Foot Upon the Thorn

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

Rom. 8:16-17

We live in the midst of the fallout of the fall: sin has affected every area of creation and all aspects of our lives. Disappointment, pain, and trouble are significant ingredients of our daily lives. Ill-timed, unexpected tragedies can shape our Christian lives for the better or make our hearts hard through bitterness. The choice is ours: better or bitter.

If we want to be better, we do not play the victim, but recognize that our Lord is sovereignly operating through our circumstances to conform us into image and likeness of his Son. Myrrh and frankincense, suffering and glory, cross and resurrection go together. There is no growth in the Christian life without a willingness to walk in the way of the Cross.

Every one that gets to the throne must put his foot upon the thorn. The way to the crown is by the cross. We must taste the gall if we are to taste the glory. When justified by faith, God led them into tribulations also. When God brought Israel through the Red Sea, He led them into the wilderness; so, when God saves a soul, He tries it. He never gives faith without trying it. The way to Zion is through the Valley of Baca.

You must go through the wilderness of Jordan if you are to come to the Land of Promise. Some believers are much surprised when they are called to suffer. They thought they would do some great thing for God; but all that God permits them to do is to suffer. Go round everyone in glory; everyone has a different story, yet every one has a tale of suffering. One was persecuted in his family, by his friends and companions; another was visited by sore pains and humbling disease, neglected by the world; another was bereaved of children; another had all these afflictions.

Andrew A. Bonar and Robert M. McCheyne, Memoir and Remains of Robert Murray McCheyne, (Christian Classics Foundation, 1996., electronic ed. Chicago: Moody Press, 1947), 216.

Jesus Understands Our Pain

Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death.

Heb. 2:14 NLT

As a pastor, many parishioners ask, “How do you know that God cares?” We know God cares because Jesus came among us, he experienced our suffering, and he knew all our temptations and trials. God in Christ did not remain aloof, cast an disapproving eye, and remain indifferent to our desperate plight. Out of love, Jesus set aside his heavenly status and was rejected, betrayed, and humiliated. Jesus understands every life struggle that we have ever experienced or will ever face. Jesus understands everything.

Jesus Christ did not remain at base headquarters, receiving reports of the world’s suffering from below and shouting a few encouraging words to us from a safe distance. No, He  . . . came down where we live in the front line trenches  . . . where we contend with our anxieties and the feeling of emptiness and futility, where we sin and suffer guilt, and where we must finally die. There is nothing that he did not endure with us. He understands everything.

Helmut ThielickeChrist and the Meaning of Life, trans. John W. Doberstein (New York: Harper, 1962), 18.

Enclosed in God

God in and Through Our Circumstances

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

Gen. 50:20 NIV

We live in the midst of the fallout of the fall: sin has affected every area of creation and all aspects of our lives. Disappointment, pain, and trouble are significant ingredients of our daily lives. Ill-timed, unexpected tragedies can shape our lives for the better or make our hearts hard through bitterness. Our choice: trust that God is sovereignly working or become angry that life is not going our way.

The Bible teaches that is not God’s will that people sin. However, when people sin against us, their actions become God’s will for us. Because of the Cross of Christ, we can trust that God has something bigger and better planned through our being ill-treated, misunderstood, hurt, and disappointed.

The Lord is working his purposes in and through our circumstances: the molding of our character, the testing of our faith, and the ministry of Christ’s life. Through trials, the Lord is giving us our heart’s desire: Christlikeness. “And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering” (Romans 8:17 NLT).

Now it seems to me as if you and I are enclosed in God. An arrow comes from the enemy’s bow. A man hates me writes an anonymous letter. Someone defrauds me. Some woman sets an unkind story afloat about me. The evil travels toward me. If God liked, He could let the arrow pass this way or that. But if my God opens and permits the evil to pass through His encompassing power to my heart, by the time it has passed through God to me, it has become God’s will for me. He permits it, and that is His will for my life. I do not say that the man will escape his just doom. God will deal with him. I am not going to worry myself about him.

In early days, I have taken infinite pains to avert the evil that men wished to do me, or perhaps to repay them, or to show that the evil was perfectly unwarranted. I confess that I have ceased to worry about it. If you silence one man you will start twenty more. It is ever so much better for peace of mind to accept the will of God, to accept His permission and His appointment, to look up into His face, and say, ‘Even so, Father.’

F. B. Meyer, The Christ-Life for Your Life (Chicago: Moody Press, no date), 121.

Why Do You Turn Your Face Away?

The Face of God

“Come,” says my heart, “seek God’s face”;your face, LORD, do I seek! Do not hide your face from me; do not repel your servant in anger. You are my help; do not cast me off; do not forsake me, God my savior! Even if my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will take me in.

Psa. 27:8-10 (NAB)

Why do you turn your face away? We think that God has turned his face away from us when we find ourselves suffering, so that shadows overwhelm our feelings and stop our eyes from seeing the brilliance of the truth. All the same, if God touches our intellect and chooses to become present to our minds then we will be certain that nothing can lead us into darkness.

A man’s face shines out more than the rest of his body and it is by the face that we perceive strangers and recognise our friends. How much more, then, is the face of God able to bring illumination to whoever he looks at!

The apostle Paul has something important to say about this, as about so many other things. He is a true interpreter of Christ for us, bringing him to our understanding through well-chosen words and images. He says: It is the same God that said, ‘Let there be light shining out of darkness’, who has shone in our minds to radiate the light of the knowledge of God’s glory, the glory on the face of Christ. We have heard where Christ shines in us: he is the eternal brilliant illumination of souls, whom the Father sent into the world so that his face should shine on us and permit us to contemplate eternal and heavenly truths – we who had been plunged in earthly darkness.

What shall I say about Christ, when even the apostle Peter said to the man who had been lame from birth Look upon us? The cripple looked at Peter and found light by the grace of faith: unless he had faithfully believed he could not have received healing.

When there was so much glory to be seen among the Apostles, Zachaeus, hearing that the Lord Jesus was passing by, climbed a tree because he was small and weak and could not see the Lord through the crowd. He saw Christ and he found light. He saw Christ and instead of robbing others of their goods he began to give away his own.

Why do you turn your face away? Let us read it thus: even if you do turn your face away from us, Lord, its light is still imprinted upon us. We hold it in our hearts and our innermost feelings are transformed by its light.

For if you truly turn your face away, Lord, no-one can survive.

St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, Explanations of the Psalms

HT: Universalis

By His Permission and Appointment

christ_pantocrator

God’s Permission

Does not the Most High send both calamity and good?

Lam. 3:38 NLT

Now it seems to me as if you and I are enclosed in God. An arrow comes from the enemy’s bow. A man hates me writes an anonymous letter. Someone defrauds me. Some woman sets an unkind story afloat about me. The evil travels toward me. If God liked, He could let the arrow pass this way or that. But if my God opens and permits the evil to pass through His encompassing power to my heart, by the time it has passed through God to me, it has become God’s will for me. He permits it, and that is His will for my life. I do not say that the man will escape his just doom. God will deal with him. I am not going to worry myself about him. In early days, I have taken infinite pains to avert the evil that men wished to do me, or perhaps to repay them, or to show that the evil was perfectly unwarranted. I confess that I have ceased to worry about it. If you silence one man you will start twenty more. It is ever so much better for peace of mind to accept the will of God, to accept His permission and His appointment, to look up into His face, and say, “Even so, Father.”

F. B. Meyer, The Christ-Life for Your Life (Chicago: Moody Press, no date), 121.