It seems like, as Jesus said, in this world, we will always have trouble. Our lives will be punctuated with sorrow and discouragement, pain and fear. And for some, life offers fewer intervals between each onslaught.
Chronicity is a word linked to so many medical disorders: anxiety, arthritis, diabetes, depression. No-one wants to hear it, or live it.
Deprivation has a habit of following people through life no matter their ultimate success. It often comes back to roost in failed relationships or addictive behaviours.
Being busy distracts us from the worst discouragements. We ‘take charge’, ‘think positively’, distract, divert, relax in a world of entertainment and therapies.
But deep in our souls, we hurt.
We go to Church and ask someone to pray – for healing, for a different life, for ‘a breakthrough’, for peace. Some even ask for miracles. After all, If God is worth believing in, surely He can meet these deep human needs?
And yet rarely do we see God respond in the form of miracles, signs and wonders today.
Is He disinterested, bored, angry?
Are we simply lacking in belief?
Or perhaps, He already has provided a solution to all of life’s’ troubles in Jesus.
Through Jesus’ death and vicarious sacrifice for sin, we are offered forgiveness, peace, unconditional love, and eternal life.
Following Jesus does not offer us a way out of life’s troubles, nor does it take away our capacity for human suffering. But it does mean that we suffer differently. We are shown a light-filled path which draws us upward towards the hope of Heaven where there will be no suffering.
“Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He 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, 3-4.
A light-filled path through suffering may not be terribly appealing. We want to hear words like heal, cure, recover, and have become conditioned to seek instantaneous solutions and the most efficient and effective remedies.
But often Jesus asks us to embrace our troubles, to endure hardship (2 Timothy 2,3), to suffer with Him (Romans 8,17).
His grace is enough (2 Corinthians 12,9).
He has overcome the world, with all of the troubles of mankind (John 16, 33).
Our suffering has a purpose.
Jesus invites us to understand this purpose, the eternal weight of glory He has planned for us.
Hope in Suffering
Hope is a bright blue sky.
A cloudy sky painted with a rainbow
A moonlit sky, casting light over our path, illuminating things previously hidden to us. Hope opens our eyes to the light of eternity and births in us eternal values.
A glimpse of glory.
A life-changing perspective.
To embrace suffering is to learn to live in this light. To allow it to fill the dark places of our minds and hearts each and every day. Eternity seeping into our ordinary.
To grant to those who mourn in Zion, to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified. (Isaiah 61.3)
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Faith in suffering
Discouragement tests our faith.
Our faith is precious to God (I Peter 1,6) but must be proved.
Faith begins its journey in our hearts as a flicker. The faint murmuring of those words ‘I believe, Lord, help my unbelief’.
Faith needs fuel, stoked by all kinds of suffering, challenges and grief.
Sometimes, when we look into the eyes of those who have suffered in faith, we see that fire. The witness of a deep faith is authentic and powerful.
Love in suffering
In the waiting, and in the shadows of our suffering God is creating something rather beautiful.
God is perfecting our character with perseverance. A work of love and art. Instant gratification panders to Me, but Jesus knows our ‘Me’ is too self-destructive, too impulsive, far too preoccupied with self to save ourselves. Embracing suffering leads us on a path of dying to self and living for Jesus. Embracing suffering in faith is perhaps the kindest, the easiest, the only way to truly nurture our souls.
Even in the worst of life’s traumas God’s love can reach us, like a blanket of warmth and security in a cold wind. In the generosity and thoughtfulness of family and friends who come alongside. In the beauty of creation which God gently places before us as a daily gift.
In our suffering, God’s love often reaches out to others too. In forgiveness, tolerance and understanding.
I pray that whatever your discouragement, you may find hope, faith and love in Jesus.