We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.
2 Corinthians 4:8-10
I have read this scripture a 1,000 times. This is one of my go-to scriptures when I need encouragement and when I feel as though everything is working against me, not for me. Have you felt like that too? Your best did not seem to be good enough. Your friends and family were nowhere to be found. Your pain seemed unbearable and unhealable. You planned and strategized but your project still failed. This scripture comes right on time to remind us that we may run low, but we will never run out. You may "run low" on peace, joy, and health in times of trouble, but they will always be your portion. The fire will burn us, but it will not consume us. The water will rise above our head, but it will not drown us. We will not be defeated. That is why this scripture is a quick and powerful reminder to persevere and trust God always, because, in truth, things are never as bad as they seem. Your outcome will be better than your current circumstance.
Your outcome will be better than your current circumstance.
This is great news! It is so great, this is usually where I - and probably you too - stop reading. But, there is so much more to this passage of scripture that is meant to empower us and bring us joy. We must keep reading. This scripture goes on to convey that as believers, ministers, and Christ-centered leaders and teachers, we share in the life and death of Jesus. Yes, life and death. We know that Jesus came to give us life and life more abundantly, and that He is the way, the truth, and the life. We have no problem sharing in His beautiful life that touched and transformed so many people. Oh yes, we want that glory and honor from a life with Jesus. But, have you committed to sharing His death too?
Suffering was a part of the deal when we made Jesus our Lord.
You see, we don't get to choose only life. Suffering was a part of the deal when we made Jesus our Lord. Jesus warned us that suffering would come, not may come, and that we would be persecuted because of Him (Matthew 10:22). Think about it: What benefit do we have in only sharing in the life of Jesus when His death is what redeemed us? Of course, no one wants to suffer. Even Jesus prayed that if it be God's will, that His portion of suffering would be taken from Him. So, if Jesus tried to avoid great suffering, it is certainly in our nature to do the same. But also like Jesus, we can accept God's will and receive the power we need to endure suffering through the Holy Spirit and our desire to do God's perfect will.
“Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” ~Luke 22:42
Perhaps you are saying that it is a little unfair to compare our ability or willingness to suffer to Jesus, who was all man and all God. Well, let's consider the fully-human Apostle Paul. Paul suffered tremendously for the gospel. In 2 Corinthians 11:23-28, he testifies that...
I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not. I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm. Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of my concern for all the churches.
Yikes! I cannot begin to compare my suffering scorecard to Paul's. He's was right; you would be hard pressed to find someone who worked harder and gave more than he. Nonetheless, pain is pain is pain, right? It is senseless to try to compare one's suffering to another. Your pain is valid no matter how often you hurt, no matter who caused it, no matter the depth of the hurt, and no matter how many people have experienced the same thing you have. And, I want to assure you that God cares about your pain, even though there will be times that it feels like He does not care.
Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. ~1 Peter 5:7
I will be honest. Sometimes you may feel like God is not with you, because your pain and suffering has not stopped after fervent prayer and fasting, and you feel mentally, physically, and spiritually stressed beyond your capacity. I get it! Been there; felt that. But, what I have come to understand is that God is intentional about everything He does and allows to break us. Rest assured that everything you are going through - and the time and manner in which you suffer - is necessary. It is necessary for you to mature, to gain wisdom, to refine your faith, to learn more about God, to go deeper in your understanding of the gospel, and to let go of the "expired goods" in your life.
Rest assured that everything you are going through - and the time and manner in which you suffer - is necessary.
Another reason we suffer is for God to be glorified. If we were never stretched beyond our abilities and resources, then we would not give God credit for anything. When we are faced with a disease that doctors do not know how to treat, a broken marriage that counseling cannot restore, a position that is no longer in the budget, a case that seems unwinnable, and a business that seems unsavable, it is in that place that God is glorified for the work of His mighty hands. This is what means for the life of Jesus to be seen in our bodies. That anointed, powerful, miracle-working, soul-saving life of Jesus! Miracles, signs, and wonders are gifts from God to us on earth. The earth needs a move of God, not heaven. Do whole beings need a miracle? No. Do angels need a sign? No. Does heaven need another wonder? No. When we ask for God to show His glory and His power, we must realize what we are asking for. Remember, God's strength (power and glory) is perfected in our weakness, and we are certainly weak in times of suffering.
In 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, Paul says...
Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Delight in weaknesses? Delighting in suffering is impossible to grasp in the flesh, because it is our very flesh (heart, body, pride, etc.) that is in pain. Therefore, we must delight in our hardships in spirit and hold fast to the Word of God. Suffering, tribulation, affliction, and distress are all temporary. I understand you may be facing seemingly insurmountable circumstances right now, but do not give up on God and forfeit eternal euphoria for temporary trials. Jesus said that only those who endure to the end will be saved. Enduring is tough, tough, tough! But, God has given us everything we need to stand - His Spirit, His Armor, His Love, and His Word. God is so good! He requires a lot of us, but He also provided us with the proper tools to do what He requires. (Now, that's a great leadership model).
God has given us everything we need to stand - His Spirit, His Armor, His Love, and His Word.
Walking with God is both great sorrow and great joy! But, can I share with you what keeps me going? Here it goes: The God I am suffering for suffered for me first. Consider everything He has gone through. God was rejected and belittled by His chosen people, the Israelites, and we still reject Him today. Jesus was betrayed, tempted, lied on, rejected, misunderstood, threatened, beaten, whipped, spat on, criticized, mocked, denied, doubted, killed, He was single and childless, and sometimes heartbroken and lonely too. Can you relate? Well, not only can you relate to Jesus, He can relate to you. Yes, God knows what it is like to suffer through His Son Jesus. Yes, our God can relate to everything that presses, perplexes, or prods us. Who wouldn't want to serve a God like that? This realization brings me so much peace in the midst of my storms. Furthermore, I know that I will never have to make a greater sacrifice for God than the one He already made for me (us).
Our God - can relate to everything that presses, perplexes, or prods us.
For this reason, with faith, we can rejoice in suffering knowing that the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ - the full truth- are all revealed in our lives. So, when you suffer, do not give up on loving God and loving people in everything you do and with everything you have. Keep fighting. Keep pressing. Keep praying. Keep showing up...every day. Keep making the next right decision. (Great advice, Anna!) Someone else needs your light and encouragement, and God will be glorified through your continuous joy. I have never been encouraged by someone who had a complete meltdown in the midst of their sorrow. Have you? But a fighter's smile and words of encouragement despite what she or he is going through have always given me a new strength to stand.
I pray that your delight will be found in your assurance that you will not be destroyed.