My mom is in failing health and many of my days are spend caring her for her and my dad and ministering to their needs. Sometimes it feels like too much. Sometimes it feels like I can’t do it another day, go to another appointment, or make another trip to their house.
There are days when seeing her deteriorating condition is very discouraging and downright depressing for me. It is in these times that I have to remind myself where I am to look when I am feeling discouraged or dismayed.
The Bible gives us the obvious answer: we must look to the One whose promises are sure, whose power is unsurpassed, whose wisdom is eternal, and whose love is infinite. Whether we look to the provision of our heavenly Father, the Person of our Savior Jesus Christ, or the promises of Holy Scripture the point remains, hope is found in God alone.
After all, Jesus Christ is God the Son, God in human flesh. And Holy Scripture is God's book, written by the Holy Spirit (cf. 2 Peter 1:21).
There are times when we are being "sifted like wheat," and there are times when we are called upon to reveal Christ in us to other people. All these days are to be lived with the Lord's intention in mind. There is always more at stake than whatever makes up our trials and adversities. What is at stake is the proof that our faith will not fail.
When you are in the thick of it, remember that Christ is praying for you, and your faith will not fail. It will strengthen and hold. And Christ will make it possible for you to strengthen other believers because of your experience. That's what I truly believe.
I was talking with a friend the other day, and sharing my story with her. I am thankful I had the experiences I have had in life, because I believe others are emboldened by this walk of faith God has had me on. I believe that each experience we have brings us closer to Christ, and my prayer is that you will cling to Christ! I pray you stay so helpless and dependent on Him that you attempt nothing in your own strength. He has promised to show you the plan He intends, but the main priority is to cling to Him.
I've added some excerpts from one more passage I'm praying for you today:
Psalm 46 --
God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, Even though the earth be removed, And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though its waters roar and be troubled, Though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah
The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah
Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah
I pray that you find Christ to be a refuge in the center of the storm. Continue to draw near to Him and just pour it all out to Him. He is a very present help in time of trouble.
Often counselors of all kinds are approached by people dealing with issues of guilt. Some are long standing issues, others are new and fresh. I thought perhaps I would take a few days and post some things about dealing with guilt biblically.
I think we will agree that we all have guilt to some degree. You may know people who say that guilt is unimportant, that guilt is unnecessary, or that it is the creation of religion. What we know medically is that guilt left unresolved can lead to ulcers, migraines, digestive difficulties, and others. What we know emotionally is that unresolved guilt will distort other problems.
Guilt is not new. It is spiritually a result of sinning against God and becoming aware we have violated God’s principles. An example from Scripture would be Adam’s son Cain. He knew true guilt long before he ever killed Abel. Cain knew he was guilty of bringing the wrong kind of sacrifice to God. He brought grain instead of animals and was angry because God was pleased with Abel’s right sacrifice and not with his. (Genesis 4) True guilt comes from divine judgment. God righteously judged Cain as guilty for disobedience, anger and murder and sent him away to wander the earth.
The Lord Jesus Christ also spoke about guilt in several passages of Scripture (Matthew 5:22; Mark 3:29; John 9:41; John 15:22).
A person’s belief system has a direct impact on if they experience guilt and how they respond to it. Your view of guilt will determine how you respond when you are wrong and confronted.
Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful. Proverbs 27:6
Have you ever confronted someone about sin? If you have ever taken that risk, you are a true friend. We know it is a risk to confront because we are never sure what the reaction will be. There could be denial, an angry response, or both! If the person you confront does not have a high view of God, their response to guilt will be minimal. He or she will not be very affected by what she has done wrong and will be more likely to brush it off as no big deal. If the confronted person has been brought up in an extremely legalistic fashion, the confrontation and resulting guilt can tear them apart.
The person who has little response to guilt may have a secular world view. They will want to only deal with the effects or the feelings of guilt, not guilt itself. Often, there are attempts rationalize the sin in an attempt to explain it away (“I had a bad day”; “You make me so angry!”) to relieve the resulting guilt from their actions. Some people take the corporate sin approach, “Everybody does it.” The most common method currently is to call sin sickness- mental illness, mental disability in which case a person cannot be guilty for their actions because, after all, they are “sick.” Maybe they have received bad genes, “It is not my fault, it is bad genetics.”
Another way folks deal with the feelings of guilt is to desensitize the conscience by continuing in sin until you feel no guilt. Many of us know people who try to numb the guilt with chemicals like illegal drugs or prescription medications, and alcohol abuse.
Attempting to create a good self-esteem is also a way people try to absolve guilt. The thinking is if you just need to feel better about yourself. The better you feel about yourself and the more pumped up you are about how good you are then the guilt will go away; the erroneous thinking is that you can smother guilt it in good feelings about yourself.
Finally, the favorite method of many people to dealing with guilt is to blame shift the reason for the guilt onto someone else. (Genesis 3:12) This is where I sinned against you but it is your fault. A typical rational in cases of abuse.
None of these worldly ways of dealing with guilt recognized the cause of guilt is an offense to God. All of the above secular approaches disregard the conviction of the Holy Spirit and the individual’s accountability to God.
The definition of guilt is liability (you are responsible) or culpability (you are guilty) to punishment for wrongdoing. This is not just “feeling” or “result” or effect.” Not how I feel about my liability for wrongdoing, this is a fact. The Biblical view of guilt is not dependent on how we feel about it. Our feelings may or may not follow our understanding of what true guilt is. The fact of guilt is that we are talking about offending a Holy God!
...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23
By the way, psychology tells us that we all need to be loved, that it is our greatest need in life. Society wants us to believe that if we all felt enough love for one another we would not hurt each other. This is untrue- the reason we hurt each other and feel guilt is because we are sinners in need of a Savior. What our greatest fundamental need really is to be saved first, and then to walk in a way that honors God- for that is love.
The love of Christ will then motivate our hearts, the conscience is activated, and we understand what real guilt is all about. Then, because of that understanding we are driven by the Spirit of God to repent of the real things we have done that bring with them the realization of guilt.
In times of trial and suffering, we often wonder what God desires to produce by them. We tend to focus on being done with this time rather than on what God is doing rather than understanding that the trials we face are to bring about a complete and perfect faith.
If we could visit James 1:2-4 for a moment, I want you to see that the subject of this passage is not perseverance but faith. James says the goal in our trials is that our faith become perfect, complete, not lacking anything. “Perfect” in this verse means lacking zero faith.
This by the way is why and how we can rejoice in our trials- because they are producing in us a faith that is absolutely completely perfect – a faith that is not lacking anything in any respect. Think about that for a moment. What would that be like- to be so full of faith in God that when trials come our way we have no doubt about them, or hesitancy in going through them?
Faith like this can only be produced by testing and trials- i.e. suffering. This is why we can consider our trials with joy and welcome adversity as a friend- because they are God’s means to an end. Trials can mean the end of self-sufficiency and the beginning of dependence upon Him.
I love it when someone says to me “I can’t go on this way anymore!” I tell them they are right, and thank God they don’t have to! Jesus is here to help them change!
Each trial is a building block of faith. Each time we successfully navigate through the trial (by God’s grace) God proves He is faithful. We experience His sustaining power. He has carried us and directed us. We see He is true to His Word. We see He loves us.
So when the next trial comes we can go into it knowing that He is at the helm, He is only going to allow it to go so far and that it will not steal away our faith in Him.
It is somewhat like riding the waves in a boat in a storm. Each time I successfully navigate the swells my confidence grows that it will all hold together in Christ. By the same token, suffering is a confirmation of your faith. It is wrong to tell a Christian that they are undergoing trials and sufferings because they maybe are not a Believer.
This is what Job’s friends tried, remember? They wanted Job to think that he was cast off by God due to his suffering. God brings us trials and sufferings to show us that we are Christians! Remember that He is maturing our faith in these times. We certainly do not enjoy these times. We don’t say “Yippie! I am suffering! Oh YAY!” but there is a certainty about them, a confidence that God is maturing and completing His perfect work within us. He is making us more useful to Him as we learn and grow spiritually during those times.
Suffering shows us there is simply no one like God!
John 15:20 “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also.
People of faith all over the world suffer today because of their love for Jesus Christ, risking their own lives for the promotion of the gospel. Rarely do we hear of anyone dying in
However, there is suffering for Christ going on in the homes of believers every day; husbands who ridicule their wives for believing in Christ and children who are God-haters and give their godly parents all sorts of grief. If you don’t think the kids persecute the parents, you are wrong. I see them in my office. Consider the parents who have raised their son or daughter to believe in Christ from infancy. The child decides at some point in their teenage years that they are going to reject all this teaching and begins to live and flaunt a worldly lifestyle. This creates constant tension, anger and dissention in the home every time the family is together.
I have heard children telling their parents they are stupid fools for believing in God and Christ. They tell their parents they hate them because they are not allowed to run around half naked like their friends, or go places other kids can go or see movies or television. These kids can be vicious, cruel, hurtful and hateful to mom and dad.
People in these positions are suffering and Scripture is very helpful to us in understanding suffering for righteousness sake. A careful student of the Word will not be surprised because of how much the Bible says about it. (1 Peter 5:6-10; 1 Peter 4:15-16; Luke 6:22)
The hardest part seems to be the response to the persecution we do endure. For all we know about suffering we struggle mightily with the response to it.
“But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled” 1 Peter 3:14
This can be great comfort to a wife whose husband is unsaved and is mocking her and threatening her because of her new found faith.
1 Peter 3:16-17 (NASB)
…keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong.
I tell people in these kind of situations that it is always, always better to be suffering on the side of righteousness. If someone is going to try and inflict suffering upon you, you want it to be because you are acting righteously before God. It is following the example of our Lord Christ who said,
“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” Matthew 5:44
And the Apostle Paul who said, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” Romans 12:14
This means to pray for them, bless them with kindness and forgiveness and forbearance. Refrain from taking vengeance and responding from the flesh.
This is not possible for us to do without the direct intervening power of the Holy Spirit. You must first be completely dependant upon Him for the strength to carry out an obedient response. The next thing that is required for success is that you change your focus- from self to God.
When my heart is not focused on “me” and I am instead thinking about “how can I glorify God in this circumstance?” I will begin to accept and understand certain things that God wants me to learn through the suffering. Then I must put into action the things that I know are right to do. I must be respectful, humble, demonstrate faith and trust in God.
As much as we dislike suffering, it is the perfect place for God to do some of His best work in the hearts and lives of His people. Because it shows us the attitude of the heart.
More next time!
While we are often our own worst enemies, bringing trouble upon ourselves due to something we do, some sin we commit, or a mistake we make; we also experience suffering because of other people.
When those we are closely connected with in some way sin, we suffer. They may sin directly against us, or they may sin in a way that affects us.
For example, the sin of a spouse affects us as it damages our relationships, and trust, and confidence in them. The sin of our children affects us. We grieve as we see them making bad decisions, going the way of the world, and sometimes rejecting all they have been brought up to believe. In some cases, the sins of children seem to becoming more complex, aren’t they? U-tube, myspace, school shootings, and beatings of other students… things our parents never had to deal with we find ourselves facing. Some of these bring untold amounts of grief and pain. Sometimes we suffer because of the sin of those who have some form of power over us; like an employer, an official of the government, or a policy maker.
Suffering for the sin of others is what bothers us the most it seems. We cry about injustice and how it is unfair, and our rights being violated. One of the most revealing pieces of home work I hand out in counseling has to do with the area of personal rights. Often when a woman completes this assignment she is amazed at what has been revealed about them! This is because so much of what we claim as rights is not ours biblically! We don’t see this because the world is constantly beating that drum of “rights” or we refuse to believe that we can be denied these things.
I often wonder if any one of us could stand in the face of the injustice our Christian predecessors suffered. Paul says in 2 Cor 11 he was beaten times without number- and he didn’t quit telling everyone about Jesus. If we were beaten just once could the world withstand our outcry? We get upset for being cut off on the freeway! And yet Paul did not stop telling people about Christ after the first beating, the second, third beating or what ever number he was on when he wrote this verse.
Not only can we suffer for the wrongs done by other people, we can and do suffer for doing what is right for other people! There are times in life when doing the right thing is going to cause us to suffer. The early Christians knew this for they suffered greatly for righteousness sake. Paul also suffered for righteousness (2 Cor. 11:23-28) as he was beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, left for dead…it is amazing what he went through for the sake of the gospel! I suspect we only have a glimpse of the kind of suffering he endured.
One of the more difficult circumstances we deal with is when one person gets saved after marriage. Often there is a complete turnaround in the person who becomes a Christian and the unbeliever, who does not understand what is happening to their spouse, becomes angry and even hostile.
In know of cases where the newly converted person was formerly quite the partier and since coming to Christ have lost the desire to drink and party. The unbeliever does not get it, and simply wants their husband or wife back. They want them to stop all this “nonsense” and go back to how they used to be. This same scenario happens when one person is saved out of a religion such as Catholicism or a cult. When all attempts to “reason” with their spouse fall on deaf ears the usual course of action becomes insults and accusations of being a hypocrite and a holy roller. The more the converted refuses to respond in kind and seeks to respond biblically the worse the abuse can become.
Often these marriages are difficult and full of discord. I have had many women ask me if they should remain married to their unbelieving husbands since they persist in drinking and carousing and carrying on and want no part of the Christ life the wife is living. They don’t want to go to church, but will allow the wife to go. Usually they see some value in letting the kids go to Awana or Sunday school but not always. The husband wants his wife to join in, to be their partner again, to return to the former things they both enjoyed and the wife cannot do it in good conscience and the husband is angry and confused. The marriage as they knew it is gone, and there seems to be little left between them.
When I am asked, the only counsel I can give them is what Paul gave in 1 Cor 7:10 where Paul instructs them to remain married even if it is to an unbeliever, and in 1 Peter 3 men and women married to unbelievers are both instructed how they may “win” their unsaved spouse to Christ. But too often this takes years if it happens at all, and there is much suffering and adversity along the way.
There are certain kinds of suffering that go along with an unequally yoked marriage. There is little fellowship between the couple except on the superficial plane. The believing spouse keeps an aspect of their life separate from the unbeliever; there is no unity in such a marriage on the deepest level. This is true suffering.
Yesterday we began to look at suffering, which is something many people are dealing with today. How do you suffer?
You may have gone through some of the methods of the world for dealing with suffering already. Have you found any of them to be helpful? Or are you walking through this suffering season with the underlying question of: “Why God, why?” How you view suffering has great bearing on your responses to it.
There are various reasons for suffering, and just as many responses to it. I would like to continue today with some of the ways we respond in thought, belief and behavior to suffering.
I distinctly remember a time in my own life when I wrote, “I am suffering under the weight of my circumstances. This doesn’t feel good. I feel like I want to quit and give up. I feel like this is too much. And yet I know it is not, that God is right here with me. I know that He is keeping me.
When I am in the depths of sorrow and discouragement I must be able to preach to myself! I must be able to draw from the well of truth that I have in Christ and His Word. When I am suffering I must know and believe that I am being kept by Him. These are the resources that I have to build up before I am in the midst of the suffering or I will have little to hold on to. Nothing in this world sure will hold me fast and steady. I have to cling to Jesus.”
I had to keep going back to 1 Cor. 10:13 and remind myself that there is a way out of trials is Jesus Christ. He is the way through the trial and the suffering. My wise husband says “God isn’t as concerned with what you go through, but how you go through it.” And I would add, Who you turn to as you go through it.
As to why we suffer… The reasons for suffering are more than I can detail here but some were are very familiar with. Sometimes it is illness, yours or someone else’s, financial hardship, loss of a loved one, and the list could go on and on.
Regardless of what the type of suffering is, it is important to understand that God is in charge of it. God is an active participant in our trials and sufferings and is orchestrating what kind of suffering we undergo.
There is so much pain in my world. It seems most everyone I know is suffering in some way these days. My friends and I have parents and other loved ones who are ill or dying and it causes them emotional pain as they watch these people who mean so much to them suffer physically. Children suffer through difficult years, spouses suffer emotional turmoil, financially many people are suffering due to hard economic times.
How can we minister to those who are suffering? While it is not necessary for us to experience all kinds of suffering to minister to one another, God in His providence allows us to endure trials of many kinds so we can do just that. in 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 Paul says this:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. for just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also are you sharers of our comfort.
My own life has not been without its challenges! There have honestly been times I despaired of life itself the darkness has been so deep. I have wanted to cry out to God and tell him that this is all too much, and indeed there have been times I have done just that. There have been times I honestly believed that it was too much. I did believe that I could not take another thing happening to me.
But as I by God’s grace have overcome each of the things that caused me to despair, I have learned that what I believed was false. During these times-all of these times- God has been completely faithful. In the darkest of hours, when I told Him I just can’t take another thing God, You have to lay off! He continually reminded me of 1 Corinthians 10:13
No affliction (temptation) has befallen (overtaken) you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be afflicted (tempted) beyond what you are able to bear, but with the (affliction) temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.
According to the 1 Cor. verse our sufferings are common. Is it a comfort to you to know that no adversity that has overtaken you is new or original? The world leads us to believe that each person’s problems are unusual or unique. But the truth is that no matter how tempted I am to believe that my situation is different or abnormal, the Bible tells me to think carefully and biblically about it and to realize that God says they are common.
Our trials are common and God is faithful and He will not afflict you to the point in suffering where you lose Him. He is holding you, and He is keeping you. What is it about suffering that is common? The situations are common, and our thoughts, feelings and responses to suffering are also common. These are some things that I have decided about suffering:
Suffering happens to everyone according to 1 Cor. 10:13. I don’t know anyone whose life is untouched by suffering or trials of some kind. Even those
Suffering comes in all forms Jas. 1:2. “Various” in this verse means diverse in nature. It is non-specific as to what the trials are. The NIV says “trials of many kinds” that says it well I think.
Suffering is wrenching, anxiety creating, and disaster making Job 9:16. I think our response to suffering dictates some of this, but when bad times hit the physical response seems to begin the same for everyone I know.
Suffering causes us to fear. Psalm 105:38 A variety of words in Hebrew have direct reference to this kind of fear.
Suffering causes us to lose faith or gain faith, to doubt or have hope, to trust or to flounder. Job 3 is an example of this point. He wished to never have been born, v3, why he didn’t die at birth v11, in v 20,21 he complains that he wants to die, but God will not take him. As we read through the subsequent chapters we see that he has lost faith because he does not understand, he has lost hope because even death seems to elude him, and his faith begins to flounder. We could find verses, passages and chapters in Job that display each of these aspects of suffering. In no other book in the Bible do we see suffering as we do in Job.
Suffering will cause you to either look to God or be angry at Him Job. Which of these is your most common response? Does it cause you to run to Him or run away from Him?
I find suffering causes us to evaluate what is truly important to us Phil. 3:7-10. In those times of suffering, how much money we have is not important, our social status is not important, having the newest car is not important. What we find is truly important to us is resolving the problem at hand.
Suffering causes us to be self centered, be self-pitying. Ps. 25:16,17 We look at others who we believe have it so much better than we do, and wonder why them and not us? Especially in the case of unbelievers. We think that we are somehow entitled to relief or should never suffer because of all we do for God. We feel sorry for ourselves and sit in a pile of self-pity, waiting for things to change and begin to go our way.
Suffering causes us to isolate Ps. 6:6. I like to be alone to wallow in my misery. However, that is completely counterproductive!
Suffering causes us to wonder if God loves us. Ps. 22:1-2 Many women have said they wonder if God loves them as they suffer with a sick child, unbelieving husband, or other long standing crisis. They cannot see God through the pain of their circumstances.
So you can see that when we suffer it can really shake our faith to the core and cause us to throw everything we know to be true by the wayside. Over the next few days, I want to discuss how we can suffer biblically. Meditate on these things; ask yourself how many of the above things you are prone to do when life deals you a bad hand.
Only by examining your thoughts and heart and seeing this through the faithful and unchanging lens of Scripture can we continue to glorify God in the midst of suffering.
Foundational to any desire to change habits is the ability to preach truth to yourself and get beyond the emotional strata.
My rant of the day encompasses how many people (especially women) live by their feelings rather than living by what they know to be true and right.
We eliminate our time with the Lord because we don’t feel like it right now, or we aren’t finding something that trips that emotional trigger so we decide that putting all that effort into reading and studying is not for us at this point in time. After all, who wants to do all that work and not feel any better at the end of it?
I find it very easy to decide not to go to the gym some days because I don’t feel like it. I rationalize that I am moving boxes and running up and down steps more so that should make up for it, right? There are a million more examples I could give you for how we abandon thoughts for feelings.
How much like petulant children we are! Whatever it is doesn’t meet our need of the moment so we abandon it and search for something to make us feel better, loved, needed, wanted, good and on it goes.
I am so thankful Jesus did not have such an attitude about His life! I often ask my counselee’s about what their fate would be if Jesus would have lived by His feelings that Good Friday…When He was arrested, scourged, carried His cross, and nailed to that cross. At any moment He could have called out for rescue and in His humanity I can only imagine He wanted to because He most certainly did not feel good during any of the events of that day.
We have examples in Scripture of how Jesus preached to Himself, but more than any other, this one stands out to me, “Not my will Father, but Your will be done.” That and that alone kept Jesus on that cross. Oh! That you and I could have such an attitude about our daily circumstances! Take a moment and ponder what your life would be like if that were your moment by moment prayer, the phrase you preached to yourself on an ongoing basis. “Not my will Father, but Your will be done.”
In the face of desiring God’s will for us, more and more of our own our wants and needs fall by the wayside. They become unimportant and trivial and I would even say some of them are just silly. In the grand plan of our wonderful God and Father we already know that there will be pain and hardship along the way. We won’t always get what we want or we think we need but it really won’t matter.
This is not pie in the sky, Paul, Peter, James, John and most importantly Jesus lived it. When I am thinking eternal thoughts I am living it too. None of these people could ever have withstood the rigors of their lives if they did not preach the truth to themselves and live in truth rather than feelings. They would have been crushed and defeated and discouraged to the point of giving up. But their lives were not rooted in or built around how they felt they were grounded in truth and in doing what honored God in spite of how they felt.
Their examples are there for us to follow, to learn from and to imitate. The weekend starts today, can you make it your goal to practice “Not my will Father, but Your will be done” this weekend? See what a difference it makes in your attitude and thoughts.
Practice it this weekend and pop in and leave me a comment or two about it. I want to hear your thoughts from this exercise. It is time for you to talk back to me!
Until Monday, unless He comes!