I’d like to go ahead and at the beginning of this whole message share what I’ve learned about God in suffering, and then I’ll share how I learned.
What I’ve learned about God in suffering can be summed up in three words, yet, they have become so much more to me than only words. They give experience to every one of His promises, every outcome of obedience to His principles, every encounter with Him in His Word, and every single moment with Him in prayer. These three words encapsulate the nature of God regardless of my sins, my iniquities, my transgressions, my strongholds, or my areas of sheer doubt or weakness. Truth is … I am who I am today because of these three words…
He is faithful.
Will you take a second to say those three words softly out loud? If you are in a coffee house, or in your kitchen, sitting in your car, or standing in your garden, will you consider saying softly,
He is faithful.
Say them slowly either out loud or just quietly in your thoughts until they begin to do what they always do — bring calm and rest to your mind and to your heart.
He is faithful.
For some of us, this may borderline sounding too easy of an answer. After all, sometimes our suffering is so heavy with heartache and excruciatingly thick with sorrow that to say those words is one thing, but to place belief in them can be quite another, right? I understand that, and so does Jesus. He suffered and Scripture says He learned obedience by what He suffered.
Jesus “learned obedience” not in the sense that He was prone to disobedience and had to bring rebelliousness under control, but in the sense that He fully entered the human experience. As a child, He obeyed His parents (Luke 2:51); as an adult, He obeyed the Law (Matthew 5:17) and fulfilled all righteousness (Matthew 3:15). All His life, Jesus completely fulfilled the Father’s will (John 8:29; 15:10; Hebrews 10:9). He “learned” obedience on earth by experiencing it.
It was 2018 when I went through a bout (like almost the entire year) of suffering that literally took hold of my emotions and my mind and my body. In that one year, from January – September, life was nothing but experiences after experiences of suffering but it was because the enemy had been given permission to ‘sift me like wheat.’ And his sifting is relentless. It’s mean and meant to be! It’s cruel to the core and he uses people, uses circumstances and situations, uses your past and your present … all of it, to hurl hurt directly at your spirit. Your mind. Your feelings. Why? Because of this one reason – he came to steal, kill and destroy the influence, the impact, and the obedience of a believer. And he knows exactly who to use and what to orchestrate so that his efforts are aimed precisely for the purpose of wearing us down.
Daniel 7:25 tells us the goal of the enemy in his efforts – to “wear down the saint of the Most High God.” And he wants to wear us down emotionally by arranging things in and around our life that overpowers our feelings. He will wear us down mentally with an overload of regret, shame, anguish, stress, worry, doubt, paranoia, “too much” thinking all aimed right at our minds. Remember this: Satan’s battlefield is our thought life – our mind. But he will also wear us down physically by attacking our bodies through illness, disease, stress that interferes with our health, and through situations/circumstances/issues that we never saw coming. He knows he can’t rob us of our salvation, but he will do all he can to dim our light in this dark world. He tries to silence us and what better way than to debilitate, right?
Then in November of that year, came a devastating punch…that’s the only word I can think of to use to describe how he tried, once more, in attempting to take me down emotionally. I ended up needing some solid Christian counseling and I am so glad I went. He helped me so much in aligning my thoughts to what was not only biblical, but would bring me the greatest peace and healing in my life. Never try to avoid counseling. It’s a powerful tool the Holy Spirit uses when it is with a Christian who counsels with the Scriptures as the foundation.
But then, into the winter of 2019-March of 2020 I faced some very scary and painful physical challenges. My shoulder became frozen and totally immobile. While going to therapy for the shoulder, I began to not be able to swallow. I would wake up in the middle of the night for 2 weeks unable to catch my breath. I knew something was wrong, but the pain and treatment for my shoulder was what I was focused on. Until one night I went to bed and I had not had solid food for 11 days, only living off Ensure and bone broth and small small portions of ice cream. It hurt terribly to even try to get melted ice cream down.
But I went to bed one night, (laying practically straight up because once I would lay down, I’d struggle in breathing), but before I closed my eyes, I cried out to the Lord. The next day, I got down the road on my way to work at 7:50am and almost passed out driving…my breathing was so labored, that I called Rip and pulled right in to a MEA clinic in Madison. He met me there, and I told the doctor the problem. She told me to go directly to St Dominics hospital for a CT Scan. I got there, they did all the IV and prep work on me to prepare me to go in, and when I saw that I had to lay completely flat for the CT Scan, I told them I couldn’t do it….that I can’t breathe laying down. They sent me home and that was a Friday. The doctor was gone for the weekend and I didn’t know what to do. So…
I got on the bed and again, cried out to the Lord, asking Him to help me understand what was wrong. I fell asleep listening to healing scriptures on YouTube and when I woke up at 4:00am, the thought that came to mind was to go get all my meds together. When I did, I realized that for the past 2 weeks, I had been taking an oral antibiotic at 2:00am and not my hypothyroid medicine. I called another doctor the next day and he diagnosed the problem – Erosive esophagitis. My esophagus was so inflamed that I couldn’t swallow water without hurting. However, once I was diagnosed, and started taking the medicine my esophagus needed, healing came fairly soon after.
Then, only a few weeks later Rip walks down the steps to our carport and while I am washing dishes, I look out the window and see him standing perfectly still and holding on to the side of our storage room. He couldn’t walk at all. So we moved quickly into two knee replacements and these past 9 weeks have been recovery for him.
So, after almost a year of emotional, mental and relational suffering, what followed was physical suffering like I had never had before. Thank God by the time Rip was needing surgery, I was healed and strong to help him.
Here is a true part of life …
We must have suffering.
Suffering brings us to the point or rather the place where we find ourselves so humbled before God. We find ourselves not just bent, but broken. And God, well, He does His finest work in us when we are. Suffering is meant to teach us, too, about the power of His presence in our life.
We can either suffer through it, or we can suffer through it with God.
I learned through personal experiences with God, in my suffering, these truths –
- He is near to the broken-hearted – “The Lord is near to the heartbroken And He saves those who are crushed in spirit (contrite in heart, truly sorry for their sin),” Psalm 34:18.
- He is the lifter of my head – “But You, O Lord, are a shield for me, my glory [and my honor], and the One who lifts my head,” Psalm 3:3.
- He cares deeply and affectionately – “casting all your cares [all your anxieties, all your worries, and all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares about you [with deepest affection, and watches over you very carefully],” 1 Peter 5:7.
- He shows kindness – “But You, O God, the Lord, show kindness to me, for Your name’s sake; Because Your lovingkindness (faithfulness, compassion) is good,” Psalm 109:21.
- He helps and rescues – “For he will rescue the needy when he cries for help, The afflicted and abused also, and him who has no helper. He will have compassion on the poor and needy, And he will save the lives of the needy,” Psalm 72:11-13.
- He is near – “You are near, O Lord,” Psalm 119:151
- He is faithful – “For the word of the Lord is right; And all His work is done in faithfulness,” Psalm 33:4.
When going through any suffering, the safest and most reassuring place we can go is to the Living Word of God, because that is where we encounter Him. Where His love cloaks us and where His peace comes on us like a gentle rain. Nothing refreshes us and nothing renews us like the words of our Father.
And when you hear them, when you feel the voice of the Lord through peace and joy, when you read verses that take hold of your energy and hope, … you smile and you thank Him. You also realize, all over again, that there is something so grandly personal about His glory which is this – that smack dab in the middle of your suffering …
He is faithful.