Seasons of Suffering

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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

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Looking for the Silver Lining


They say every cloud has a silver lining. I don’t know if that’s true, but I do know with life, it’s all about perspective. The things that appear to be good may actually be bad and vice versa. It depends on how we look at it.

On Sunday morning, Jason and I were scheduled to be at a church nearly three hours from our house. To arrive in time to set up our display before the Sunday School hour, we had to get up around 4:00 in the morning. I didn’t even realize 4:00 came twice a day. I was only familiar with the afternoon variety, and after acquainting myself with the morning variety, I think I’ll stick with my old ways.

As we drove along down the interstate, listening to music and drinking coffee (or hot tea for me), I discovered something wonderful about getting up before the sun. We had the opportunity to watch it rise, and let me tell you, it was breathtaking. The sky took on beautiful hues of pink, red, orange and yellow as it framed the dark silhouette of the majestic mountains. Wow!

Honestly, I can’t tell you the last time I watched a sunrise.  Granted, I’m often awake early enough to do so, but I don’t take the time to enjoy the show. Sunday, however, I had a front-row seat, and as I watched the morning unfold, I forgot about being tired. Gone were the wishful thoughts of having slept in for a few more hours. No, I cherished the moment. What I thought was a curse turned out to be a blessing.

The book of James puts it like this:

My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;
— James 1:2

I wasn’t joyful about getting up at 4:00 in the morning. Nope! But the sunset changed everything. It changed my perspective, my attitude, and my joy. I saw things in a new light. . .literally!

It’s hard to see the “silver lining” when the clouds are heavy and dark in our lives. It’s difficult to be joyful amid circumstances that are less than ideal. But if we’ll keep in mind that it’s all a matter of perspective, maybe it will be easier to wait for the morning. Yes, it’s dark in the early morning hours, but the sunrise is just around the corner. And I assure you, it’s worth it! Hang in there, dear friend. Your sunrise is on its way.

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Protection Versus Perfection - A Repost

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Last Sunday, I heard a quote that I have since traced back to its source (I think).  The quote can be found in a book by Paul David Tripp, and it goes like this:  "God will not protect us from what He will perfect us through."  No offense to Tripp, but to me, the phrase makes more sense when worded this way:  "God will not protect us from what He’s using to perfect us."  Same meaning, I believe, but the second way jumps out at me more and causes me to take note.

The Bible tells us over and over again that the Lord is our protector, our shield, our refuge, our hiding place, etc.  So why is it, then, that it seems we're so often under attack?  Why does He allow sickness to linger?  Why does He allow trials to come?  Why doesn't He protect us from the storms of life or the waves of the crashing sea?  I think the above phrase answers those questions, don't you?  If God chooses to not protect us from a particular thing, then we can rest in the hope that He is using that thing to perfect us. . .to make us more like Him.

I know what you may be thinking.  Some days we'd rather have the protection than the perfection, right?  We'd rather sit comfy in our haven of safety and enjoy life rather than endure it.  That's the human way--swayed by our emotions and current circumstances, often losing sight of the big picture and ultimate goal.  Think of it like losing weight.  We say we want to lose weight and place ourselves on a strict diet plan.  But when we've had a rough day, we'd much rather choose the double cheeseburger over the salad, right?  So, what is it that keeps us strong and helps us to choose the healthier option over the one we really want at the moment?  The ultimate goal.  The big picture.  The motivation to lose weight and get healthy.  If we don't lose sight of those things, we'll accomplish what we set out to do.

The same is true in our spiritual walk.  When we're going through hard times, instead of complaining to God about not protecting us, how about we try to keep in mind the end goal which is to be like Christ.  We all want that, right?  It's easy to admit it on the good days, but it's time we hold fast to that truth on the bad days too.  Not only will it give us the motivation to make it through, but it will also encourage us to praise God in the storm.  What a privilege to know that He is molding and making us in His own image, that He loves us enough to take the time to make us perfect and complete in Him.  Yes, He's a good, good Father!

My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
— James 1:2-4