The Blessing Found in Suffering

When a tragic, unexpected death happens, do you shake your fist and proclaim “Not today, Satan! We will make the devil pay!” or do you trust God’s ways are higher than yours and say like our Lord, Jesus, “Not my will, Lord, but Yours be done” and trust that He will use that trial for your good and for His glory?

Suffering is a reality for everyone on this earth, including believers. To deny that, is to deny reality of the fact that we live in a fallen world and Christians are not exempt from the results of it. Remember, the Apostles suffered greatly and many of them died horrendous deaths as martyrs. But it was all for God’s glory and a part of His sovereign plan for their lives. 

James 1:12 shares us a beautiful promise about suffering:

“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him” (NIV).

God will use all things to conform us to the image of Christ and often in the life of the believer that includes pain and suffering. In times of suffering, we can pray for God’s mercy to come and cry out for His help in time of trouble, yes, but we must remember Jesus promised that “in this life, there will be trouble” (John 16:33). Yet, we know that He overcame the world for us and we will one day taste of that victory in full when we meet Him face to face! 

That is why we must keep our eyes fixed upon the hope of eternity and not on this life. And that is why faith in God is so important because it is the rock on which we stand when trials and the storms of life come because they will. We must remember that our faith in Him means that because of the cross, we are forgiven and now we can have the hope that He never leaves our side and walks with us through the valley and the mountain top experiences and we have the ultimate hope that there is a glorious eternal life that awaits us in Christ Jesus. That is our anchor…the hope of eternity. There is a day that awaits believers where all pain and suffering will cease. But until then, we continue to declare “And if not…He is still good” and trust our life in His sovereign hands no matter what comes our way. 

Father, please help us find your mercy and goodness when trials and the storms of life come our way. If we are prone to grumble and complain, may the Holy Spirit convict our hearts and remind us to be thankful for your promise of eternity because of the cross. May we look for opportunities to comfort those around us who are suffering as well, so we can help hold each other up. We live in a fallen world, and although we cannot escape suffering, we know that heaven is our home and that the crown of life awaits those who stand firm in the faith, trusting that you have overcome the world and there is no reason to fear. We give you praise and thanksgiving that you will never leave us alone to walk through suffering alone. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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God’s Work in Progress

I have always been a list maker and fueled by accomplishment. Being successful and driven became the meaning behind every breath I took; I found purpose in my performance and productivity. I loved the high from “the hustle” and having my schedule full to the brim. I spent years upon year upon years crowding the margins of my existence with:

Dance class, gymnastics, cheerleading, running track, Student Council, Marching Band, Pep Band, Concert Band, Art Club, Peers Group, musicals & plays (“I can’t. I have rehearsal.”), auditions, performances, church choir practice, tutoring, youth ministry, college and career ministry, worship team rehearsals, Bible studies, prayer meetings, church leadership meetings, drama practices, event planning committees, speaking engagements…

…just to name a few.

This vicious cycle of constant hustle-mode was all I knew for well over 20 years of my life. I still wrestle with temptation to find my worth in my productivity and seeking my happiness when everything is “perfect.” I am what you may call a recovering “Type A” person. 

Then came the day, a little over five years ago, that my husband and I decided it was best for our family for me to leave my job after our first son was born and become a stay-at-home mom. Even though there was always a daily task-list before me:

Laundry, feeding, burping, diaper-changing, vacuuming, mopping, dishes, feeding, burping, diaper-changing, lunch, emails, phone-calls, feeding, burping, diaper-changing, dinner, feeding, burping, diaper-changing…

…I didn’t feel accomplished at all.

It felt like a non-stop whirlwind of tasks that never got crossed off. My days felt like a constant work-in-progress and I felt so defeated and disappointed in myself for not working harder to get it all done.

That is an exhausting way to live and if you are not careful, that type of mentality will creep into your spiritual life and soon you will be trying to work to earn God’s favor and love. Have you ever experienced these thoughts when it comes to your walk with God?

 I didn’t pray enough today. I haven’t read my Bible in over a week! Man, why can’t I get over this sin?! I am such a failure! Am I even saved?

But as Ephesians 2: 8-9 tells us, we know that we cannot earn our salvation because it is a gift from God:

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”

NIV

Just as God is sovereign in salvation, He is also sovereign in our sanctification. He is the one who is in charge of seeing us mature on our walk with Him.

The same grace that saved us is the very same grace that keeps us and molds us into the image of Christ, day by day.

From the moment of your conversion, you became God’s work-in-progress and the greatest news of all is that He doesn’t grow weary, stressed or exhausted with you. He will complete the work He began in us!

That is why I love this encouragement from the Apostle Paul in Philippians 2:

“….being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 1:6, NIV

Your salvation has been gifted to you for the sake of Christ, for His glory, not ours. The gift to have faith in Jesus… He began that work!

Your inconsistences and failures are not going to change. Your disobedience, your lack in trust…none of that is going to change the work nor thwart God’s plan in your life. God starts it, God finishes it.

We simply need to lean on His strength and grace and ask for wisdom to walk in obedience. The Holy Spirit is our Helper and He will help you walk in God’s will. You don’t have to muster up your faith muscles to see that happen. You simply need to trust that God’s plan with your life will be accomplished, not because there is anything good in you, but because of His goodness and faithfulness! 

Do you struggle with trying to earn God’s love?

When you fail and sin, do you hide from God or try to fix it yourself by “trying to do better?”

Beloved, you do not have to run away from God. He sees it all and knows that you are going to undoubtably mess up. That is why He sent His Son Jesus to earth to live the perfect life for you; to fulfill the law completely for you. His death on the cross paid for your punishment of the curse of the law that you will never be able to uphold.

Come boldy to the throne of grace today and receive new mercies that Christ died for you to have. Lean on His strength and grace today and see the work that He started in you continue until His glorious return or when you meet Him face to face. Trust that He is working and yield to it. 

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