We have all had times of suffering. Whether it is loss of a loved one or chronic pain, everyone has dealt with suffering at some point in their life. But there are some who have embraced the glory that comes with suffering in a way that most of us cannot comprehend.
So they went on their way from the presence of the Council,
rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name.
The disciples found honor in suffering shame for the name of Jesus. This always stunned me. I’m going to come right out and say it… I DO NOT LIKE PAIN! A friend and I were talking years ago about death. I told her I’m ready to die — I’m not ready to hurt. But the reality is that suffering is a part of living in this fallen world.
[clickToTweet tweet=”The question of suffering is not will it happen, but how will we respond when it does.” quote=”The question of suffering is not will it happen, but how will we respond when it does.”]
Grief counseling tells us there are 5 stages in grief (and dealing with personal suffering IS grief): denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. Over the years I’ve not quite seen this concrete of a separation, but I have seen a pervasive focus on “Why Me?” Maybe that’s denial, maybe it’s anger or depression, I don’t know. But in our culture of ease and comfort, we often have the hardest time fathoming that hard and painful things are or can ever happen to us. We get stuck in the Why Me mindset and the lack of clear answers to that question can spiral some into a bitterness that engulfs their spirit in darkness.
No one on this planet can answer the question, “Why Me?”
More often than not, I find that we are simply asking the wrong question. I have a dear friend who has struggled with suffering for a number of years and her first response was, “Why NOT me?” She has spent much of these years of pain and grief, yet sharing how God has blessed and strengthened her again and again and has seen many come to Christ through it. Her response to her parents’ hearts softening to the gospel? “It’s worth it all, to walk this path, if it means my parents will come to Jesus and I’ll see them in heaven!”
Another friend many years ago lost her infant daughter, and at the funeral her brother came to Christ. Her response? “It’s worth it, having God take my baby Home, if it means I can see my brother come to Jesus and live with them both for all eternity!
What is the heart of both of these attitudes? Faith! Trusting God in the middle of our trials, suffering and grief and knowing He is working an eternal weight of Glory from the midst of it. And being willing to be a part of His great plan to draw others to Himself.
The more we look at the world around us with eternal eyes, the easier it is to accept the suffering we all go through. We are not limited by the Here-And-Now mentality. We see more of the forest and not simply the trees. We begin to realize that God’s Eternal Eye View is bigger, fuller, richer than we ever imagined. And the sorrows of today become the joys of eternity.
How do we get to his place of faith in our own lives?
Oh now THAT’S the $64,000,000 question! Mary had the right attitude:
And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord;
may it be done to me according to your word.”
And the angel departed from her. Luke 1:38
Did you ever wonder why Mary was chosen (and maybe not you?) to carry the Savior? I think this attitude of being fully surrendered to the Lord is at the center.
Getting to this place of faith is not from spiritual To Do lists, or from refraining from XYZ sins, or doing a certain number of good deeds. Getting to this place of faith comes from an intimate walk with Jesus. Loving Him, wholly without reservation or hope of glory for ourselves. It’s letting the Spirit control the agendas in our lives and letting “(ourselves) decrease as He increase(s).”
I think that a major part is also learning to love as God loves, see as God sees, hurt as God hurts. I do believe that God’s heart is grieved by those who have rejected Him. He doesn’t hurt because He feels rejected (like we do, in our self-focused mindset). He grieves because He knows what that rejection means for their lives. He knows the end from the beginning and knows how eternal that ultimate and final rejection is. When we understand from HIS point of view, we can begin to look with eternal eyes on our own lives.
I wish I could tell you that I have come to this place in my life. I wish I could say that my faith is that strong that I embrace the final glory that comes from suffering.
But I do know this: there is such great beauty and power in that place of faith!
As you go about your life and struggle with those times of suffering, ask the Lord to give you His Eternal Eye View. Ask Him to let you see the end, which is His Glory. And pray that His filling of faith in your heart will give the grace to ask, “Why NOT me?”
Then step back and watch as His Spirit uses you for His Kingdom and brings His eternal weight of Glory through you!