Seasons of Suffering

Seasons of Suffering.png

While on my prayer walk yesterday, I saw something that made me smile and cry at the same time.  A young woman was jogging with her two dogs.  Not an uncommon sight on the Swamp Rabbit Trail.  But, as the woman passed me, I couldn’t help but notice the contrast between her two dogs.  The canine on her right was as white as snow and stood as high as the woman’s hip.   The dog on her left was a brown chihuahua whose ears barely reached the height of the woman’s socks.  I continued to watch, noticing that the contrast between the two dogs didn’t end with their appearance.

As the woman jogged along, the tall dog on the right moved his legs in a slow, easy stride.  He wasn’t so much running as he was gliding.  The chihuahua, on the other hand, was moving all four legs just as fast and hard as he could and still falling far behind.  I immediately felt sorry for the poor thing, and that’s when the tears threatened to spill out of my eyes.  I realized how much I could relate to that poor little mutt.

Like him, I know how it feels to see those around me effortlessly moving forward while I’m striving with every bit of strength and energy I have and still falling behind.  And I know I’m not alone.  Just this weekend, I spoke with several strong women who are waging war against sickness, disease, and other health issues.  As I conversed with these women and their families, a litany of negative words flowed through the conversations.  Frustrated.  Discouraged.  Helpless.  Hopeless.  Like me, these women long to do more, be more, live more, but their spirits are currently in bondage to a body that can’t keep up.  And so, we watch as others live their lives and try our best not to grow discontent with our current season of life.

As I watched the contrasting dogs and thought of these women (and myself), a passage from the book of Job crossed my mind.  We all know what Job went through.  In a single season of life, he lost his family, his livelihood, and his health.  If anyone had a reason to feel frustrated, discouraged, helpless, and hopeless, it was Job.  But look at what he said in the middle of such heartache:

Then said his wife unto him, Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die. But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips.
— Job 2:9-10

Shall we receive good and not evil?  It’s a fair question.  Why is it that we, as Christians, expect to get only good things from God?  Or, to put it more accurately, why can we not understand that often the things that seem wrong or evil are actually for our good?  It just doesn’t make sense to our finite brains, but that’s why God gave us His Word.  So we wouldn’t have to lean on our own understanding.  All we have to do is trust that what He has said is true.  

With that in mind, here are some encouraging Scriptures the Lord gave me this morning.  These verses apply to everyone, but I pray they will be a special blessing to all of you who are fighting illness or disease and are growing more discouraged with every passing day.  Let God’s Word assure your heart that He cares for you and that through this season of suffering, He is working all things for your good.  And remember, this too shall pass!

The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace. - Exodus 14:14

Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. - Isaiah 40:28-31

And the Lord, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed. - Deuteronomy 31:8

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. - Jeremiah 29:11

But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. - Philippians 4:19

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. - Psalm 23:4

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies; Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's. - Psalm 103:2-5

Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. - Isaiah 41:10

Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved: for thou art my praise. - Jeremiah 17:14

The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles. The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all. He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken. Evil shall slay the wicked: and they that hate the righteous shall be desolate. The Lord redeemeth the soul of his servants: and none of them that trust in him shall be desolate. - Psalm 34:17-22

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace. - Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

2 Comments
Print Friendly and PDF

Sometimes It's Best Not To Know

suave & refined.png

Recently, I invested in some intolerance tests to investigate if my diet, environment, or vitamin/mineral deficiencies may be contributing to my health issues. I wanted to be armed with the knowledge of how to best care for myself, hoping to regain strength and energy, both of which I desperately need these days.

The results came back in five days, but it might as well have been a lifetime. I was eager to see the results. I had high hopes the key to the “new me” could be found in avoiding a few things giving me grief. I knew the testing was extensive, but I had no idea the list of things to which I’m intolerant would be SO LONG!

The tests are broken down into four categories: food, environment, deficiencies, and metal toxicity.  The food category is organized according to levels and colors corresponding to a traffic light. Level 3 is red and means stop eating these foods as there is a severe intolerance. Level 2 is yellow, indicating the participant should slow down their intake of these foods as there is a decent level of intolerance. Level 1 is green, meaning proceed with caution. These items show a slight intolerance level and should be evaluated at a later time, after addressing the foods on Levels 2 and 3.

I cannot describe my horror as I scrolled down the list of Level 3 (RED) foods and saw the word, “cocoa.” As in chocolate! I’m pretty sure the blood running through my veins is nearly 50% chocolate. I love the stuff! I eat it all the time and have for as long as I can remember. Everyone who knows me knows chocolate is my favorite of all favorites. And now, it must be banned from my diet. Kill me now!!!

As I shared the results of the tests with Jason, he looked at me sympathetically and whispered, “You wanted to know.” He’s right I did. At least, I thought I did, but now that I know, I’m not so sure I want to.  After all, if I didn’t, I could continue to enjoy my chocolate in ignorance. But now that I know, I have a duty to do something with that knowledge. And I can’t say I’m particularly happy about it!

I wonder, though, if that’s why God often keeps things hidden from us. It’s not that He's sneaky or cruel. I think He does it because He knows we can’t handle the truth. . .at least, not yet. We think we want to know. We believe we want to see around the bend. But do we really? What if there’s heartache? Disease? A miscarriage? Bankruptcy? Or, heaven forbid, an intolerance to your all-time-favorite food? What would we do with such knowledge? How would we handle it? My guess is, not well! And God knows that.

They say, “Ignorance is bliss,” and in some cases, I can see where that could be true. Sometimes, it really is best not to know. As for my intolerance to chocolate (and a long list of other foods), even though I’m not happy with the results, it’s good for me to know because now I am armed with the knowledge to do something for my health.  After all, if the intolerances are as severe as they seem, I’ve been poisoning myself for a long time without even realizing it. So, in this area, ignorance would not be blissful. It would be deadly.

God knows best, dear friends. He will tell us what we need to know when we need to know it. And if there’s some area in which you feel He’s keeping you in the dark, please know that He has a good reason for doing so. Maybe you really don’t want to know. Remember, He has your best interest at heart. Trust Him. Sometimes it’s better in the dark.

If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee.
— Psalm 139:11-12

Relief From My Unbelief

Spring has sprung!.png

“There is great joy in serving Jesus.” I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard this statement. I’ve even said it many times myself. And deep down, I know it to be true, which is why I’ve had such a hard time reconciling the feelings of stress and overwhelm swirling within me over the past months.  After all, I’m serving Jesus to the best of my ability. I am doing all that I know to do to live for and honor Him. So, why am I not basking in joy? Why am I struggling to find my song?

As I poured out my heart to God about this, I felt so ashamed. I thought of how many Christians are serving in horrible places and dreadful conditions, yet they praise the Lord with every breath. Here I am with more blessings than I can count, yet I can’t seem to ease the ache within my soul. I feel so alone, so out of place. Some days, it seems as if the task of deputation is far more than my body and mind can take. I long for the peace of God to overflow in my heart and life. I crave the joy I know can only be found in Christ. To quote a line from a song, “I want to believe there’s beauty here.” Yet, I weep in the in-between moments when I finally have a chance to stop and catch my breath. When I can lay down all the masks and costumes of “the good Christian girl who has it all together” and just be me. The real me. The confused me. The disheartened me. The shamed me.

I know it’s a privilege to serve the Lord, and I count it as an honor that God would use me. So, why, at this point in my life, doesn’t it feel like a privilege? Why does it feel like a trial? Why is it causing anxiety and stress instead of peace and joy? And what kind of lousy Christian must I be to feel this way?

I’m happy to say God met my questions with some powerful verses that opened my eyes to some precious truths. While there is joy in serving the Lord, that does not mean we will always be happy with where He leads us. In fact, sometimes, we’ll be heartbroken and afraid. . .just like Jesus was. Yes, Jesus. He came to this earth to do His Father’s will. He knew He would have to die for our sins. He knew the price He would have to pay, and He was more than willing to do it. But that doesn’t mean He wanted to go through it. He prayed the cup would pass from Him.

And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. - Matthew 26:39

And he was withdrawn from them about a stone's cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. - Luke 22:41-44

Praying. Pleading. Sweating blood. If this isn’t a picture of someone who is dreading an upcoming season of life, I don’t know what is. On the one hand, Jesus wanted to do the Father’s will. On the other, He didn’t want to face such cruel agony. To quote another song, “His humanity cried, ‘Lord, any other way.’ His divinity rose up and said, ‘This price I have to pay.’” And if those two passages don’t paint a vivid enough picture, check out what Hebrews says.

Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him; - Hebrews 5:7-9

Did you catch that? Strong crying. Tears. Fear. Oh, that sounds so familiar. Jesus, in the center of God’s will, cried out to His Father. He felt overwhelmed by the task to which He had been called. I see no joy or peace in these verses, only fear and anguish. I see Jesus being obedient but not jumping up and down for joy at the prospect. I see an example that makes me feel less ashamed, less like the worst Christian in the history of Christianity. I see Jesus as a man. A man with emotions. A man living in the nasty now and now and deciding to keep serving whether or not He feels like it. I see a man desperate for different circumstances, for a change of heart and attitude. I see someone seeking for joy amid a less than joyful situation. I see myself. . . and I smile.

Jesus has been right here. He’s walked in my shoes. He’s felt my pain. He understands the tears I shed in secret and my seemingly fruitless search for joy and peace in my ever-changing life. He can relate to my roiling emotions and aching heart. And through His Word, He’s reminded me that it’s okay. He’s shown me that while there is joy in serving the Lord, there’s also suffering. At first, that doesn’t seem like much of a comfort, but if we know the truth of that going in, we’ll feel less disappointed and desperate. We’ll feel less alone in our struggles. When we realize that even Jesus Himself dealt with fear and the sense of overwhelm, it helps us know that we’re not as “off track” as we thought we were as long as we continue to follow Jesus’ example and be obedient. And if you’ll look back at that passage in Hebrews, it tells us that Jesus learned obedience through suffering.  

My life right now may not be all that I hoped and imagined it would be, but through it all, God is teaching me to be obedient. He is showing me how to put His will above my own, to set His purposes before my peace. And in the midst of it all, He’s reminding me I’m never, ever alone, and I don’t have to hide my pain. I can be honest with Him because He knows what I’m feeling anyway. There is a brighter day coming, but in the meantime, I find comfort in knowing I can be myself, and that myself is not such a bad thing after all.