suffering

The Pressure's On

The other day I was scanning through the radio stations, which is a rare occasion for me. I came across a Christian station and decided to listen to it, and a song came on whose lyrics caught my attention. The words were, "When the pressures on he's making diamonds out of dust." I know, it's cliché, but it's an awesome picture of God's grace and also how it requires pressure to make dust into something beautiful--into something of great worth.

Whenever we come under pressure and face hard times our flesh immediately cries out for it to stop, simply because it's not easy. When life get's uncomfortable our immediate response tends to be "I want out". We will get all kinds of crazy stuff thrown into our daily lives that may feel overwhelming and at times unbearable that make us want to scream "Uncle!", but we have a promise we can cling to; Jesus promises that he will never leave us. You see, over and over again we find all throughout history God bringing people through things, not taking them out. He even sometimes places people right in the thick of things. Why? Because like the image of pressure creating a beautiful diamond, that is what happens to us.

Some key things we need to always remember and allow to take root in our lives are that God loves us (John 3:16), he is for us (Rom. 8:31), and he has our best interest at heart (Rom. 8:28, Phil. 4:19). He doesn't bring us through pain and suffering just because. It is always to build us up, to refine us, to create something even more beautiful, so that we can bring Him glory.

Take a look at this verse, “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love." (Romans 5:3-5)

You have permission to believe the next time something difficult shows up that it’s not as an accident, but an appointment from God to take you to new places you could never have gone otherwise.

We need to learn to change our perspective when trials come because they will for sure come. Warren Wiersbe explains, that we must learn to see that the trials we face are not "accidents but appointments." You have permission to believe the next time something difficult shows up that it's not as an accident, but an appointment from God to take you to new places you could never have gone otherwise.

Wiersbe wrote, "At least in the world we know, it takes trials to make something beautiful and useful out of the raw materials of life. The student’s struggle with truth develops his intelligence; the athlete’s struggle with his records and his opponents helps to develop his muscles and coordination; the musician’s struggle with more difficult pieces develops his playing skill; and the soul’s struggle with the trials of life helps to build character.”

What a cool picture of how our life is made up of raw materials just waiting to be cultivated, like clay in the potter's hands we are being molded and shaped. Like a piece of gold we are being refined of in the fire. Like the dust under pressure we are being made into diamonds.

In closing think on these words of encouragement from Paul, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18

 
 

What to do When Life Gets Hard

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I love the reminder fall gives us. As I feel the temperature dropping and see the leaves changing I am reminded of the ever-changing seasons of life, more so our spiritual lives. It’s a funny idea that God who never changes, created us and the world around us to constantly change. Every Christian goes through high and low seasons and it is what we do through those seasons that determines the strengthening or weakening of our faith. We all love the high seasons when doors are constantly opened for us and everything seems to go right on track. When we sense a freshness in our spirit. When we always sense God guiding us and walking with us everywhere we go.

It is the low seasons that we don’t like very much. When we feel like God is far from us, and don’t sense His presence guiding us. When nothing good seems to come our way, only bad news after bad news. It is in these times that we can begin to doubt, when we can begin to listen to the lies of the enemy trying to scare us from pushing through. But it is also in these times when we can choose to cling even tighter to Christ.

This can be seen so clearly in the life of Paul. If anyone can boast about suffering it’s this guy right here. He was shipwrecked as a prisoner on a ship, bitten by a deadly snake and survived, stoned, beaten and whipped, imprisoned without a trial, yet he was the very one who penned the words to “live is Christ, to die is gain, but if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ.” Phil. 1:21-22 Even in prison he was praising God, and because of that prisoners and even the guards heard of the Gospel message. Paul lived with an eternal mindset believing that the things he did on this earth in whatever circumstance he was in could help further the Gospel. That is what he lived. He lived a life worthy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Paul lived with an eternal mindset believing that the things he did on this earth in whatever circumstance he was in could help further the Gospel. That is what he lived. He lived a life worthy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

What an encouragement that whatever suffering we are facing in our lives it can be used for God’s glory. I know it sounds strange and a little confusing, but think of it this way. When people see you going through hard times, and you say no matter what that you will praise God that speaks something to them. It also speaks something to the devil. It tells him that it doesn’t matter what he tries to do to you because you will still praise God. It tells him that you will not stop following after God and leading others to Him.

In my devotion this morning a line stuck out to me it said, “Suffering emboldens us because when we are face to face with our worst case scenario, we see Jesus staring back at us.

“Suffering emboldens us because when we are face to face with our worst case scenario, we see Jesus staring back at us.”

I have been in a place like that in my life where it seemed like nothing I tried to do alleviated any of the pain or heaviness I was feeling, and it was then when God was who was left standing there. This caused a huge shift in my life. I determined to cling so tightly to God, to walk with him daily in prayer and reading His word. And wow, what a change that brought to my life. It was through a season of suffering that I learned to rely on God and nothing or anyone else.

So don’t let hardships of any sort that try to come against you stop you from running to what God has for you. If something is difficult, or scary that probably means that you should run even harder towards it because the enemy will try anything to keep you from what God has in store for you. And don’t be afraid of losing because we have the ultimate finisher on our side, the one who always finishes victorious!

Read these words from Paul in Philippians 1:20-30

"Paul’s Life for Christ

20 For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. 21 For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.22 But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better.23 I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. 24 But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live.

25 Knowing this, I am convinced that I will remain alive so I can continue to help all of you grow and experience the joy of your faith. 26 And when I come to you again, you will have even more reason to take pride in Christ Jesus because of what he is doing through me.

Live as Citizens of Heaven

27 Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News. 28 Don’t be intimidated in any way by your enemies. This will be a sign to them that they are going to be destroyed, but that you are going to be saved, even by God himself. 29 For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him.30 We are in this struggle together. You have seen my struggle in the past, and you know that I am still in the midst of it."

until next time
until next time

Pain: The Undesired Gift

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Many times when we go through difficult seasons we ask the question “Why?” Why is this happening? Why me? Why now? Why this? In almost every case we don’t get the leisure of knowing why God is allowing us to experience pain or suffering, whether it is physical, mental, or emotional. When you are going through a difficult time almost always there is something to learn. There is a way to grow from that experience. Think about it, plants need the rain to grow. We have to go through trials to grow in our faith.

Recently I learned about a man named Dr. Paul Brand. Dr. Brand is the one who discovered that leprosy was not a case of rotting flesh, but actually a lack of nerve endings. Because lepers have a lack of nerve endings they are oftentimes unaware that they have injured themselves and thus become maimed. This caused him to come to the conclusion that pain is necessary in life. In fact, he believed that pain is a gift. Does that sound like an oxymoron to you? When I think about gifts, pain is not one of the words I would associate with it. Gifts, good gifts, are supposed to bring joy to the receiver. Many times they are things that a person has asked for and desires to have. Pain isn’t something I think of wanting or desiring to have.

But pain is a necessary part of life. Even James wrote in the Bible, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4)

I have gone through some difficult times in my life in the past couple of years. There were times when I couldn’t see the light at the end. I was in the middle of a storm not knowing how long it would last or why I was going through it, but in that time I discovered my need to lean on God. Friends and family can give support, but only God is the true comforter and healer to our spirit. He is the one in whom we find our strength.

Even when life is great, I still need Him more than anything.

I learned that God allowed me to go through some pretty difficult times, so that I would learn to lean on him. I had become too used to only going to God when I really needed Him, not when life was easy and going great. God brought me there, so I would realize my own barrenness and how much I need Him every single day. Even when life is great, I still need Him more than anything.

I have grown closer to God more in the middle of storms in my life than in any other times because it is then when He is all I have left to cling to. Every time He has brought me to a difficult time, it has been to bring me closer to Him and to help me become stronger in my faith. 1 Peter 1:7 says, “These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” Being tested isn't fun and it's uncomfortable and at times unbearable, but like fire purifying gold, we have to go through struggles and difficulties to become stronger in our faith. In the end it is all worth it, even though at the time it may not feel like it.

And through our experience with suffering we are able to comfort others. 2 Corinthians 1:4-5 says, "He (God) comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ." Perhaps God is allowing you to experience suffering/pain, so that you can help someone. Perhaps it is to make you stronger, so you can do something He has planned for you. Whatever the reason, God is there with us the entire time. He knows our pain and He is there to comfort us and give us strength to make it through whatever difficult situation we may face.

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