MichaelAngelogodshandandmanshandWe must die to live.  Our Savior drank the bitter cup of suffering.  Do we in the church really think we should never taste any of that suffering?  How can we say we know Jesus – the Man of Sorrows, if we don’t experience some of that sorrow?  God desires our intimacy, but He shares that intimacy on His terms. And those terms require us to in some way suffer as His Son suffered. The next time you get hit broadside with a bruising disappointment, remember the example of Jesus Christ. God is asking you to follow in His steps.  We may not be able to wrap our heads around things or understand His reasons.  But seriously, we are insane to fight Him on this issue!  Our suffering-even the anguish in our hearts-not only identifies with God’s pain over sin, but also identifies with the pain of others.  Our own suffering lifts us out of shallowness into humility.  This is a hard concept to understand—that God may actually ordain personal suffering.  I want you to meditate on some of the lyrics to the song Shout to the Lord…

I sing for joy at the work of Your hands • Forever I’ll love You • forever I’ll stand

Nothing compares to the promise I have
Nothing compares to the promise I have
Nothing compares to the promise I have in you
 
Nothing compares!  He is supremely valuable, and it’s worth anything to be His friend…

 “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”  Romans 8:28

  Let me suggest that these words won’t fully resonate in your soul until you truly value God above all.  You will know that your eyes have been opened when you have that value change (I want Him more than life).  When we embrace the Sovereignty of God, and trust He has a purpose for our suffering, something pretty incredible happens.  In the midst of our suffering, we have been privileged  to open a rare gift.  That gift, I guess one could say, gives us an authorative voice in the sense of being bold and strong in the center of our weakness – and God is glorified!  I beg you to think about this… unless we experience the same afflictions, how can we genuinely minister to a suffering, lost, broken, despairing, hopeless, confused, depressed, sick, poor, trapped, and hurting humanity?

 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”  2 Corinthians 1:4

Now let’s talk about humility.  First and foremost, God’s purpose in our lives is to bring us to the position of absolute nothingness, so that we recognize that all we have in this life is God and God alone.  Unless we are totally at God’s mercy for a breakthrough, we will never truly know anything about His faithfulness.  You’ve heard it before, “we need to see things the way God sees them.”  That’s a tall order – it’s so easier said than done.  But I believe, in the midst of suffering, seeing things from His perspective is what will guard us against discouragement.  Those who thus humble themselves, and comply with God when he humbles them, shall be thus exalted…

 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  Matthew 5:3

Those who are weary and heavy laden are the poor in spirit, and they shall find rest with Christ.  Becoming poor in spirit is certainly a byproduct of brokenness.  We discover how to put to death all confidence in our own righteousness and strength; we learn to depend only upon the merit of Christ for our support and identity.  Through our brokenness we come to realize that we are poor, always in want of God’s grace, always begging at God’s door, always hanging on in his house.

 Self-denial and humility are always the first lessons taught in the school of affliction. 

 These words seem to echo to me over and over… the Lord cannot fully bless a man until He has first conquered him.  We see that over and over in the Bible.  We looked at Joseph before, but now let’s look at Jacob.  He wrestled relentlessly with God.  The Bible tells us…

 “Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him.” (Genesis 32:25)

 In His kindness, God won the victory over Jacob.  Kindness?   It was only after Jacob’s humiliating defeat that he began to feel the joy of release from his own evil strength, the delight of God’s conquest over him. Then he cried aloud for God’s blessing and refused to let go until God gave it.  It had been a long fight, but for reasons known only to God, Jacob had been worth the effort.  Now he became another man, the stubborn and self-willed rebel was turned into a meek and dignified friend of God.  To save him from self-trust it was necessary for God to conquer him, to wrestle control away from him, to take His great power and rule with a rod of love.

So through Jacob, we learn that we prevail through weakness, not strength.  Also, we discover the degree of blessing enjoyed by any man will correspond exactly with the completedness of God’s victory over him.  Does that make sense?  It’s difficult to wrap our heads around the way God uses suffering/affliction, but I know that there are hidden potentials which will be realized in our lives only when we lay down our foolish pride and solely depend on our Creator.  I now can say with certainty that true victory can only come to us by the defeat of our old life.  God comes to our rescue by breaking us, and wiping away our self-reliance.  When we are emptied of ourselves is when He imparts His treasures of knowledge, and we are then able to draw closer to Him.

Listen to me… Stop striving! Worrying about your situation or striving against what God has placed in your life will only tighten the cord that is binding you.  God is using whatever trial that’s going on in your life to prepare you for something so much bigger than you and I.  He is using whatever it is to remove the things you have inside of you that are preventing you from accomplishing the great work He has planned for you to do since the beginning of time!  Oh yes my friend, there is a calling on your life and God will see to it that you discover what that call is and He will open doors in order for you to fulfill it!  All you have to do is let Him have his way.  This time of discouragement and disaster will become God’s opportunity to reveal His grace and glory in your life, in ways you have never known before.

Please don’t allow suffering to make you wallow in self-pity.  Stop you’re complaining, because the only thing complaining does is give a foothold to the devil.  When we complain, we start to worry; worry opens itself up to fear, and before we know it we’re speaking words of death instead of words that bring life!

Our problems cannot always be fixed, but they can be accepted as the will of God for us now, and later be turned into something beautiful.  Contentment in life happens when you know you are where you belong.  If only we would respond with faith and praise, we will find our needs supplied even in the most barren desert.