Finding the Good in Suffering

What word comes to mind when you reflect upon suffering, trials, storms, pain, difficulties, and struggles? Most likely, the word “good” seems a bit out of place to describe such life challenges. Yet, we see in the life of Job that although he experienced tremendous pain and loss in his life at the hand of the enemy, God allowed it to happen and used it for good so that Job would know the Lord more deeply. 

The “double for his trouble”(that Job received double the material blessings for his suffering) teaching that you hear so often in the prosperity gospel message tries to take the focus off the entire point of the book of Job that reveals to us the beautiful attribute of God’s sovereignty over all things that happens in our world, including pain and suffering. When we try to give more power to Satan than we should, we infer that he “got one passed God” like God was completely unaware it was going to happen. The fact of the matter is that God allows suffering and pain to come into our life for a reason.

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!

The Apostle Paul in the book of Romans reminds us that even in the midst of our suffering, we can keep our mind set upon the future glory that awaits us in heaven one day:

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

(Romans 8:18, ESV)

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 and know that He is working all things for our good because we love Him and are called according to His purposes (Romans 8:28).

Let’s pray:

Father, 

Please help me find Your mercy and goodness when trials and the storms of life come my way. If I am prone to grumble and complain, may the Holy Spirit convict my heart quickly and remind me to be thankful for Your promise of eternity because of the cross. May I look for opportunities to comfort those around me 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. Help me see the good that will come out of me walking through every dark trial. I give You praise and thanksgiving that You will never leave me alone to walk through suffering by myself. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Teach Us to Number Our Days| Using Our Time Wisely

A couple weeks ago, a dear sister from my church reached out to me and asked me if I knew of someone who could disciple her or if I happened to have time to walk alongside of her. Since I recognized the rarity of such a request, I wholeheartedly embraced the opportunity to walk with my sister as we grew closer to Christ together through His Word. We decided to focus on a study of the attributes of God. Each week will be a new attribute. Week one was on the aseity of God, which simply means the self-existence and eternality of God. God had no beginning, and He has no end; He is eternal and all source of life comes from Him. 

Conversely, we as humans know nothing of life without time from the moment we are born. Eternity is so incredibly foreign to us as we experience the constraints and consequences of time here on earth. Although God exists outside of time, He is the creator and cause of it and has a purpose for it. The Lord won’t keep eternity from us forever but longs for us to have it too in Christ. One day we will get to taste unending days that ever-increase with beauty and joy with Him, but until then, we must see time as a gift from God and learn how to use it wisely all for His glory. 

I am reminded of a verse in Psalm 90, which is a prayer written by Moses. Moses asks the Lord:

“So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom”

(Psalm 90:12, ESV)

Understanding that God is sovereign over all things, including your life, means that you realize that you cannot exceed your lifespan by a single moment. Wisdom is knowing that time here on earth is fleeting, and we do not know what tomorrow brings, so we should not take a single breath for granted. Wise Christ followers are mindful that wasting time limits our fruitfulness and effectiveness for God’s Kingdom. Distracted disciples don’t further the Kingdom of God, so we must learn how to prioritize our time rightly for God’s glory. The Lord has given us work to do and that is to see the gospel spread to the nations and raise up more disciples. Ultimately, numbering our days should be a thrill and a joy. We should wake up everyday longing to not only spend time with the Lord, but to move forward with His mission to give Him glory through all that we say and do.

What has become a distraction for you recently that may be getting in your way of being productive for Christ? Are you giving more of your time to worldly, temporal pursuits? Do you find yourself making excuses and giving into laziness when it comes to prioritizing your time to put God first in your life? Often where we spend most of our time is a big indicator of what/who has your heart and devotion. Let us ask the Lord to help us be cognizant of how we are spending our time and how we can wisely prioritize the gift of time. One day we will be free from the bounds of time where we will get to spend forever with the Lord, but until that day, let us give God our best with the time we have here on this earth. 

Let’s pray:

Father God,

Help me to see time, not as a thief, but as a gift from You. Although You exist outside of time, You have caused time to exist and have a purpose for me to fulfill while I am here on this earth. I ask that You would help me overcome the temptation to waste my time or give into laziness. Like Moses prayed, teach me to number my days that I may use them wisely and for Your glory. I want to make every moment full of God-honoring choices that point those around me to You that they may come into a saving relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Help me to untangle from worldly pursuits that are not fruitful and give my all to your Kingdom work and purposes. My life is in Your hands, and I am grateful for every breath that comes from You as it is another opportunity to praise You. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

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Hope for the Hopeless

For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness”

(Romans 8:24-26, ESV).

My husband, Paul, and I recently celebrated twelve years of marriage. Although I enjoy reflecting and focusing on all the wonderful and joyous memories together over these last twelve years, it can be said that our faith has been tested under waves of chaos and storms and under the weight and pressures of life.

It would be amazing to have a life full of happy times only, but it’s in the fire, the trials, and the storms of life that we are truly strengthened. We can choose to rise above the chaos or allow hopelessness and despair to overtake us. 

Our faith in Jesus Christ has given us hope to remain steadfast because we know He is faithful. This hope is what has been our anchor through all. 

This anchor is what holds you to your trust and faith in the Lord. Hope isn’t something that can be created or conjured up. Sure, we can give ourselves a pep-talk when we are feeling downcast or be encouraged by a friend to keep putting one foot in front of the other, but true hope is given to us by the Holy Spirit. He endows us with the faith that God’s promises are true; He is not a liar- He can be trusted completely and that ultimately, His sovereign hand is working in our life; we will not be put to shame.  

Having an eternal perspective lifts your eyes from the cares of this life and helps you move forward when you are going through a storm to remind you that ultimately, this place is not our home; Being heavenly minded during earthly trials is what fuels your hope in God.

Romans 8 speaks of this kind of hope:

“For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness”

(24-26, ESV).

We eagerly wait for the return of Christ and the day we will abide with God forever in our heavenly home. No matter how dark things may become around us in our world or in our personal lives, we must ask the Holy Spirit to fill us with hope. We must renew our minds with God’s Word so we will be able to seek and understand God’s perfect will in our lives more clearly. He has a purpose for us to fulfill here on earth and that is to share with others His glorious Gospel so that they may also find the hope that is available to God’s children.

As a child of God, we may feel hopelessness in our heart, but we must move beyond our feelings and remind our heart of the great hope we have in Christ. The Holy Spirit can help us in our weakness. Let us ask Him for help when hopelessness tries to overwhelm us, moving beyond what we see and connecting ourselves to the hope that is attached to our trust in God’s promise of eternal life in Christ.

Father God, 

I am experiencing a heaviness, a weariness in my soul. Our world is in a constant state of chaos it seems, and my own soul is in turmoil from the weight of the cares of this life. But I refuse to live by what I feel for I know You are faithful and will not let me drown in the waves of the storms of life. Holy Spirit, fill my heart with a hope that can only come from heaven. Help me fix my eyes on eternity and give me the boldness to share the Gospel with others so they would know of this hope that heaven awaits those who repent of their sin and put their full trust in Christ alone. Thank You for never leaving me in my weakness and for strengthening me with Your grace each day. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

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Eternal Gains

A year and a half ago, my brother-in-law was involved in a tragic drowning accident. He was only twenty-five years old and had only been married for a little over a year. I watched my husband, his parents, and my sister-in-law experience the deepest pain imaginable – pain so difficult that it physically hurt. Through this great loss, we’ve learned to walk through the pain with Jesus, trusting that He will continue to heal our broken hearts and believing we will see our precious brother again in heaven someday.

As Christians, we are not ones who grieve without hope because, ultimately, our hope is set in eternity. Because of the cross, we do not have to taste death because our spirit lives on and we live forever in eternity. 

It is the cross that accomplished the forgiveness of sin and made a way for us to have peace with the Father, which is the core of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Believing this gospel sets our hope towards the life that is to come. This place is not our home.

The Bible is full of truth about eternity and wisdom on how we should live our lives while we are still here on earth. Jesus doesn’t promise that we will escape pain here on earth, but He does promise that He will be with us always (Matthew 28:20).

The Apostle Paul shows us in Philippians 1:21 how we should view our life here on earth:

“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

NIV

While we are here, we know our mission is to live to glorify Jesus and tell others about Him by preaching the glorious good news to all those God places in our path. When we face great pain and loss of loved ones or are facing our own mortality because of a terminal illness, we can find hope and rejoice that heaven is our reward.

The honest question is do you focus too much on this life? Do you believe it is better here on earth? Are you only concerned about your legacy you will leave?

When we die in Christ we live forever.

Yes, there is pain.

Yes, there is great sorrow and many questions as to why now, Lord? We have lost loved ones what felt like way too soon. We’ve had a lot of ‘whys’ just because we are human, and humans have a very difficult time processing death. But the Bible is very clear about the glorious hope we have that awaits us as believers in Christ and the truth of God’s Word is what gave us great peace in the midst of our pain. Our faith is forever set on our sovereign Lord, knowing the cross has the final word in the end.

Death doesn’t have the victory because in Christ, we are given eternity with Him!

Death doesn’t lose its sting on our human hearts, but our spirits should be so full of joy at the thought of being in the presence of Jesus where there is no more suffering. What great gain!

Take some time and pray this prayer if you are struggling to fix your eyes on eternity: Father, help me to see this life with eternal lenses and embrace the promises of everlasting life with Christ. Help me through times of pain and suffering as I hold onto the hope I can find in Jesus. I will continue to hide my life in Christ until I take my last breath here on this earth or until Jesus returns in His glory.

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From Suffering to Glory

Even though I have so many wonderful memories during the holiday season, this time of year also holds some painful memories of experiencing the bitterness of death and loss. Sadly, I know this is the case for so many people. For me, November is the month that my dad was murdered (actually it will be 11 years on the 17th) and the month my husband and I lost our first baby early on in my pregnancy. Those were times where I had to endure some pretty heavy emotional suffering. Even though I was a Christian during those times, the pain was still very real and I struggled in my faith. I had to constantly press into God’s truth and surround myself with other believers who loved me and encouraged me during those dark times.

Pain and suffering are not something any of us look forward to, but while we live here in this fallen and broken world, it is inevitable. It is so easy to get caught up in the storms of our life and lose sight of the hope that is available to us through Jesus Christ. He is the anchor in that storm and promises to never abandon us. 

The suffering may not disappear, but the good news is that Jesus is right there with us to walk through it together. In the midst of the pain, the temptation is to give all of our focus on the battle we may be facing. I believe it is so important for us to keep a heavenly and eternal perspective when we are in the midst of a painful situation or even a painful season. We have to remember that our life here on earth is not all that there is to our existence.

There is a life to come where we are promised no more pain or suffering when we see Jesus face to face and when He returns in all of His glory. This is the glory that Paul tells us about in Romans 8:18:

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

Romans 8:18, NASB

We will experience God’s glory in all of its fullness one day and what a glorious day that will be! Let us hold fast to that hope of eternal life that awaits us, free of all pain and suffering!

So take heart! We must press into God’s promises of what lies ahead.

Jesus is the anchor of our souls; He helps us not waver and is secure and strong.

We must remember that this place is not our home…we are just passing through!

The suffering you are experiencing cannot stand against God’s glory. Let us keep our minds fixed on heaven and fixed on Jesus Christ our Savior, in the midst of our storm.

Sadness and grief will come, sometimes like a tidal wave, but you have an anchor of glorious hope and His name is Jesus!

If you are currently experiencing a trial that seems too much to bear, take that pain to the throne of God. He hears every cry; the Holy Spirit is our great Comforter. Also, fight the temptation to isolate yourself and try to find a friend whom you can share your heart with and confide in. God never intended for us to walk through the valley alone. He is always with you, and He will send someone to be a listening ear and shoulder to cry on if you ask Him. 

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“You Put My Tears in Your Bottle”: Drawing Close to the God Who Sees Our Pain

I laid on the cold, sterile exam table feeling uneasy from the moment I parked my car.

I thought to myself, “Paul and I were just here 2 weeks ago. We got to hear the baby’s heartbeat for the first time and got pictures to show our family. Why did the doctor need to see me again for an ultrasound?”

I told my husband he didn’t have to come with me to this appointment since it would just be a quick routine checkup on the baby’s growth, which is what I was told. Since this was my first pregnancy, I didn’t think anything of it when I put the appointment on my calendar, but the closer I got to the doctor’s office on my drive there, I was starting to worry and question why I needed to be seen again so early on.

Within the first few minutes of the ultrasound, the doctor got very quiet and simply said, “Oh, I hate when this happens.”

“What?” I asked, my heart racing faster and faster.

“There is no heartbeat. I’m so sorry.”

That Kind of Faith

I sat up, tears streaming down my face and let out a big sigh. She asked if I was going to be okay.

With a shaky voice, I pointed her to the One that has always been near to me during times like these.

“I have been through a lot in my short life. I have had some serious valley experiences.  My dad was murdered several years ago, two divorces ripped a part my family, serious family illnesses, anxiety, depression…but my faith in God has always gotten me through it. This will be no different. Jesus is faithful.”

She sat across from me still, nodded her head, and said “I’m glad you have that kind of faith. I will give you some time alone…just get dressed and come out whenever you are ready, and we will talk about our options.”

“I knew that I was not alone in my sorrow. God saw me in my pain and did not overlook it.”

Although this baby went on to be with the Lord early on in my pregnancy, Paul and I did not believe this would be the end of our story; we strongly believed God would give us a child, and we would rest and trust in His timing. God was faithful to us and we now have two sons. But do those two sons erase the pain of losing a baby? No.

Although God answered our prayers to have children, He still saw all of those tears and was with me as my heart and body healed. I looked to the only One who could keep me from being crushed under the weight of my grief. I knew that I was not alone in my sorrow. God saw me in my pain and did not overlook it.

“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.”

Psalm 56:8, NLT

The same was true, years before, after I received the news that my dad had been brutally murdered. Honestly, my faith met at a crossroad during that time in my life. Instead of allowing the weight of that loss to completely crush me, I chose to look to Jesus. I chose to call upon the Lord and to stand upon Christ, my solid Rock, and believe He was good and He was in control. I chose to have faith in the One who is near to the brokenhearted.

“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit”

Psalm 34:18, ESV

Clinging to Jesus in the Whirlwind

My family and I are currently going through another valley experience right now, and we are choosing to stand upon God’s Word and cling to Jesus for He is our anchor in this storm. Just a couple days before Independence Day this year, my husband received the devasting phone-call that his younger brother was involved in a tragic drowning accident while he was on vacation with his newlywed wife and friends. These past few weeks have been a whirlwind of emotions and physical exhaustion. From the mere shock of this tragedy to consoling parents, friends, and relatives to responding to countless messages, texts, and phone-calls to the planning of funeral arrangements and the days following all of these events.

Although I felt the sting of this tragic loss, I watched my husband, his parents, and my sister-in-law experience the deepest pain imaginable – pain so difficult that it physically hurt. The night Paul received the news, I held him as we both cried, huddled on the couch. He kept grabbing his chest and saying, “I miss him so much. This hurts so bad.” We are all putting one foot in front of the other and walking through the pain with Jesus, trusting that He will continue to heal our broken hearts and believing we will see our precious brother again in heaven someday.

 I don’t know if you have ever experienced so much emotional pain that you physically hurt, but in those moments, as humans, we struggle to bring real comfort and healing, whether to ourselves (self- help isn’t the answer, friends) or to others. We can offer our condolences, bring them food, send cards, pray for them, and hold them when they need a shoulder to cry on (all of which we have thankfully experienced these last few weeks), but truthfully, only God can help to bring the comfort, healing, and peace we need during times like these. After all, two of the Holy Spirit’s names are “The Helper” and “Comforter.”

Jesus tells His disciples about the Holy Spirit in John 14:26:

“But the Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby), the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name [in My place, to represent Me and act on My behalf], He will teach you all things. And He will help you remember everything that I have told you.”

AMP

The mighty, all-powerful God who created the entire universe is the same God who draws oh so close to us in our brokenness and pain. The Holy Spirit (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby) is our gift from the Father and is nearer than our very breath. Just like John 14:26 says, He will also help us remember what Jesus has told us in Scripture.  

In this season of my life, as I ask for strength and grace to help my husband and our family walk through this valley, the Lord is doing so by bringing me to the truth of His Word. After a couple days passed after the news, I was finally able to take off my mom-hat for a few minutes and be alone and process all that had happened. I broke down sobbing in the shower. Although we weren’t siblings by blood, he was my little brother for the last ten years. The pain hit me like a tidal wave, and I cried out to the Lord like I had done countless times before when the heaviness was trying to overwhelm me.

Not only did I sense the nearness of God in the moment, the Holy Spirit brought a verse to my mind that flooded my heart with hope. As soon as I left the shower, I grabbed my phone to look up the Scripture. The Holy Spirit was reminding me to keep my mind fixed on eternity.

“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.”

1 Thessalonians 4:13-14, ESV

What a beautiful reminder to all of us who might be experiencing pain right now! We may feel pain and sorrow, but that does not mean that we have no hope! Our life is only a vapor (James 4:14), and this place is not our home. We have a promise that one day every tear will be wiped away and pain will be no more:

“[Jesus] will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 

Revelation 21:4, ESV

The Bible is full of truth about eternity and wisdom on how we should live our lives while we are still here on earth. Jesus doesn’t promise that we will escape pain here on earth, but He does promise that He will be with us always (Matthew 28:20).

In your pain and sorrow, cry out to the Lord and walk with the Holy Spirit. Allow Him to bring you true comfort and peace, all while guiding you into truth about the Kingdom to come. Soon and very soon we will be with Him forever, where His perfect love will be all we ever experience. Until then, keep drawing near to Him and He will faithfully draw near to you, just as His Word promises us. 

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