Suffering Is the Promise AND the Blessing
This is the continuation of a series of Podcasts started in Episode #585.
Some think that if we follow God, we’ll live free of suffering. Yet we’re actually promised suffering! What too few also see is the blessing of suffering!
(Rebekah) There are a lot of people that feel like, “Well, if He’s so sovereign, why do all these awful things happen?” Which goes back to your other thing of, “If God wanted it to be different, He could change it.” And are we willing to accept that we, we don’t always get the answer of why things happen. These terrible things do happen but what I see is that usually there will be stories that come out after of people who were spared, who were supposed to be there and the car didn’t start or whatever the situation, they were not there. And they were spared. But we oftentimes don’t see that, because we see the…
(Martha) We really believe that if we follow God that we have the right to not suffer. And that He should grant that we don’t have to suffer. But the suffering is promised. And the suffering is the blessing.
(John) Because I can look at it and say, “How in the world could Your sovereign hand and Your sovereign choice equal my pain?” If I’m in pain, then this is wrong. Pain is wrong. And that’s a, that’s really, that’s a death place. That’s a deadly path. If I believe it’s about my pain or believe about my suffering or believe about my discomfort or whatever, and I lay that on the scale of His sovereignty, I’m in big, big, big, big trouble.
(Martha) And most believers put categorically, any suffering is not of God but is from Satan. And immediately they start warfare, instead of seeking the sovereign God. And it is the path of death. It’s death to relationship with Him.
(John) Totally! Absolutely.
(Martha) Good point.
(Rebekah) I think perhaps it goes also back to John, what you said earlier, what we were talking about, about how God can, God’s sovereignty is even over the messes that we make. These horrible things that happen at the hands of evil, evil people. God doesn’t do it, but it’s “what can He sovereignly make of the carnage that evil men create?”
(Martha) And you know, the name, I think it’s Adonai, means ‘the revealing One.’ God’s intention in this creation, and you and me personally, and in the whole creation, is that He would be known. And if you don’t know Him through suffering and how He redeems suffering, you don’t know Him!
(John) Well that’s the truth.
(Martha) If you don’t accept the pathway through a suffering to the end, sticking with it to the end, no matter how agonizing, no matter how horrible, and no matter how much you doubt Him, to keep on saying, “I am Yours! And I will believe that You’ll take care of me. I will!” It’s a choice of the will. Then we miss out on knowing Him. And the knowing is, He really is God! And He really has my best interest at heart. And He really has every solution to my crises. A friend of mine has what looks like a terrific crisis, and the Lord spoke very clearly to me. “This is not a crisis.” And I went to John, who’s praying with me for this situation, and he said, “That’s exactly what I feel.” Can you imagine what this person felt when she was told this is not a crisis? And it’s the biggest crisis of her life. And her God is revealed. And we, His entire reason for you and me, the reason for us, the reason for the world is that God would have children who know Him. And by knowing Him, believe Him. And by believing Him, love Him. He wants that, and He’s built this whole, whole thing to reveal Himself. Because we don’t know Him. From Eden, we don’t know Him. He’s not who we think He is. He’s not who we accuse Him of being. And many times it’s the suffering that is the very vehicle for Him to expose Himself, His love, His faithfulness. Oh! The translation all through the Old Testament, some bibles say His faithful love, His steadfast love, His unfailing love. We don’t believe in that. We gauge the love by how much blessing we have and how much ease we are given and how much prosperity we have. We gauge His love that way. But to know His love and mercy in the middle of suffering is what He’s after. It’s His goal. I remember when I was diagnosed with breast cancer and the friend came up, told us before. And I, she was saying the typical things, you know, “It’s going to be all right” or whatever. And I said, “You don’t understand. I don’t care if I die. I care if I have Him and I am pleasing to Him and so I don’t care about anything else. I don’t have to be healed! I’d like to be.” And I am. But that’s not what I’m after. I’m after His pleasure, to be with Him at the end of the thing. We have to have our eye on the end of it, because that’s eternal. This is pfffft! A minute. That end, when we stand before Him, is the eternal. That’s what I’m living for, counting on, dying for.
(John) Leprechauns and unicorns are myths and fairytales, and that’s not the world we live in. We don’t live in a sparkly, sugar-sprinkled world. That’s not it. And if we expect it, if we expect everything to go smoothly and beautifully and calmly and sweetly, and we don’t expect any trouble or trial or test or hardship or pain or circumstance that crosses me, I will literally falter and fall right there. Because that’s not the reality of this world.
(Martha) Isn’t it Theresa Avila who had the donkey and cart and it turned over in the stream? And she said to God, “No wonder You have so few friends. You so mistreat the ones You do have.” (laughs) And that was honest.
(Rebekah) Well, given the state of the world, what the state of the world has always been and what men are capable of, and quite frankly how powerful nature is and God’s creation is, I wonder if we’re so focused on what we think we didn’t get that we don’t even see what we have been spared. What we have been protected from. The amount of damage that we may have gone through is but a fraction of what this world is capable of doing to an individual. We are frail entities, and the world is capable of quite a lot of damage that some people do undergo but many of us do not. And we miss that because we’re focused on what we didn’t get.
(Martha) I’m a big admirer of Johnny Erickson-Tata, who’s paralyzed. Totally paralyzed. And what her fruit is… it’s absolutely amazing that she made out of this terrific limitation. I mean an ultimate limitation. Painted with her toes, made beautiful paintings, wrote books, and God gave her a husband, who’s willing to take care of her 24/7. And I could weep over that because that is just the Father in heaven taking care of this woman who has accepted her suffering and lived for Him regardless of it. In defiance, almost in defiance of her condition, she’s born fruit for God enormously.
(Rebekah) I would also just to go back to what I said, it’s not to invalidate anyone’s suffering. Whatever suffering, each person’s suffering, I believe that suffering’s not relative. It’s empirical to what the context of your life is. So if you have a very blessed life, something that may seem like not a problem to me, in my life, could be a huge problem for someone else. And so, it’s not to invalidate the suffering that people have. It’s that our suffering is within the context of the life that we know and there’s a whole lot more that we don’t, that we don’t know and a number of people are spared from. Thankfully. So it’s not to invalidate the real suffering that every single person has. They, every single person goes through this life and endures trauma, and it’s within the context of what’s traumatic for an American who lives an upper middle class life is completely different than the trauma that someone born in Iraq or a place, a war torn region endures. We can’t even comprehend it because it’s not the context of our life. So it’s, I think to try and compare suffering is also where we get off the rails.
(Martha) Victor Frankl’s book about Auschwitz and Dachau (Man’s Search for Meaning), it said the most incredible thing in the beginning of his book. He said, “I’m not going to recount the suffering. That’s been done by others.” He said, “For each person, suffering fills your soul full. Your suffering is full no matter if it’s for less than ours.” And that was a profound recognition that my suffering, to me, is the biggest. And yet it might be nothing compared to others, but it’s, we face our own suffering with God.
(John) Again, there’s your sovereignty. You know, sovereign choice of my suffering. You know? I got a question for you. Is the Romans 1 spiral down not just a refusal to receive and embrace His sovereignty?
(Martha) Absolutely, John. I never thought of it in that context.
(John) I haven’t either.
(Martha) Absolutely. Oh, wow. They know that God is God, but they don’t honor Him and give thanks. And so the suffering is because they refuse the sovereignty and wonder of God. That is incredible. I never, never put that together. Wow!
(John) That’s a big one, no?
(Martha) Absolutely enormous. Wow.
(John) If I accept His sovereignty and authority, I don’t experience any of that. I’m blessed. I’ve chosen. “Choose this day who you will serve…” That’s a choosing, and then all the blessings of Deuteronomy, what is it? Deuteronomy 28? All the blessings? Versus Deuteronomy 30 which is I get all the curses. And that’s about, it’s just Romans 1. I mean, if you look at where it ends, it ends pretty desperate.
(Martha) Devastating, yes. Well, John, it’s right here in Romans 1. “Since what can be known about God is evident among them, because God has shown it to them. For His invisible attributes, that is His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, from since the creation of the world, being understood through what He has made.” Okay. “As a result, people are without excuse.” We know the sovereignty of God. We are without excuse for ever denying the sovereignty of God. It’s evident and so we are without excuse. God considers, “If you don’t know My sovereignty…”
(John) It’s in our DNA. If He’s the one who created us, it’s literally in our DNA. And if we deny it…
(Martha) It’s in us and around us and before us, and there is so much proof, He says – God says – “There’s proof. And you haven’t reacted to My sovereignty, then you’re without excuse. You can have no excuse.” That ‘I didn’t know God was in charge!” No one can say that. God Himself declares, “I have revealed My sovereignty by creation, and if you deny it, you will go down this moral, what do you call it, moral…
(John) Decadent spiral of hell.
(Martha) Yes exactly. And you end up literally insane.
(John) At the end is crazy.
(Martha) Umhmm. It’s mental illness.
(Martha) And insanity. So it’s, we have chosen to not believe His sovereignty when we do know it. And so we end badly! And have, we leave His sovereignty.
Suffering Is the Promise AND the Blessing – Episode #590 – Shulamite Podcast
Some people really believe that if we follow God, we have the right to a life free of suffering. Yet we are not only warned of suffering if we follow Jesus, we are promised it will happen. The surprising thing that too few discover is the blessing of suffering!