Strength for Your Suffering
I am writing this on a morning when I’m really struggling to not despair over the physical pain that I am experiencing. I have been battling refractory celiac disease and chronic Lyme disease, for the past 20 months. It was not until recently that I found out I had Lyme disease along with a number of other small bacterial infections. My physical ailments have been greatly challenging. One of the most difficult aspects of it is my inability to eat without severe symptoms of pain. It is not uncommon for me to only consume 300 calories or less a day and fasting has become my middle name. For so long I have thought that my greatest enemy was food and battling symptoms. If I can just avoid food, then I can avoid pain and then life will be bearable. Can anyone else see how illogical this is?
So often I hone in on finding a way to get out of this trial as quickly as possible. I reason within myself and I vigorously search the internet for the fastest ways to cure what some would label as incurable diseases. It is at this point that I have already lost the battle to have an eternal perspective that ensures victory.
YOUR GREATEST NEED
Satan is so crafty and our flesh is so sneaky that all it takes is a simple loss of focus and our mind becomes a city broken into without any walls. If you are walking through intense suffering, if you are battling persecution, if you are experiencing deep loss and pain, your greatest need is not comfort. Your greatest need is obedient endurance.
The Bible says that all believers will face suffering. It is written all throughout Scripture and we are fooling ourselves if we believe that a life of taking up your cross and following Jesus will be a life of ease and comfort and luxury. Did Christ come that we might have life and have it abundantly? Yes, He did, but we will not fully reach that life of abundance until we are in the presence of the one who granted that life. We must prepare ourselves on a daily basis to die to self and to strengthen our faith.
I want to share with you some truths to help you grown in mental strength in order to patiently endure your suffering and yield a greater faith. These are not some self-help steps. These are God-ordained truths to strengthen your mind, in order to sanctify your soul.
01 CALLED TO SUFFER
I am called to suffer. The sooner a believer in Christ can wrap their mind around this truth, the less pain and anger will control you.
For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps (1 Peter 2:21).
Through many trials and tribulations, I must enter the kingdom of heaven (Acts 14:22), and this will be painful. There has not been a saint yet to enter the kingdom of heaven without suffering. Every one of Christ’s children has experienced pain, loss, persecutions, rejection, mourning. Every one has faced suffering. Do not be fooled into thinking that once you give your life to Christ that it will exempt you from suffering, in fact it may bring more of it because the world will hate you as it hated Christ.
02 CALLED TO OBEY
I am called to obey. Let’s continue reading in that 1 Peter passage:
Who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously (vss. 22-23)
We have been called to suffer and we have been called to follow Christ’s example of obedience. He obeyed in every respect. He did not give into feelings. He did not complain. He did not question or whine or throw a pity party. But here is what He did do: He entrusted Himself to the Father’s will. He did not just entrust Himself once but did so continually. "Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:8)."
Eliminate these phrases from your thinking and your vocabulary: “I can’t,” “I feel,” and “God doesn’t care.” I can assure you if you are going through suffering, these phrases will run through your mind and they are some of your greatest enemies. Refuting these lies is where the battle is won. “I can’t go through this anymore.” “I don’t feel like going to church.” “How can God care for His child if He lets His child go through something like this?” You know who else battled these thoughts? Jesus. "And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and began to pray, saying, 'Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me...(Luke 22:41-42a).'"
Do you think that Jesus wanted to face the greatest pain ever known to mankind? I am sure He didn’t feel like going to the cross. I am sure He must have felt like this was the impossible task and couldn’t do it. And I am sure that He felt forsaken by God because He cried out that God had forsaken Him. Do you know how He refuted these thoughts? He was completely resolved to the will of God: “yet not My will, but Yours be done (Luke 22:42b)." Which leads to my last point…
03 CALLED TO ENDURE
I am called to endure. Your greatest need and your greatest good in the midst of your suffering is to become completely resolved to the will of God. Is this not how Christ became obedient to the point of death on a cross? Did He not endure because of the joy set before Him? And this attainment of resolved will is not exclusive to the Son of God, for Paul experienced this himself.
Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me (Philippians 4:11-13).
You can endure suffering and it will result in joy and contentment, because as we endure we are transformed from one degree of glory to the next. I can promise you on the authority of Scripture, that the next degree of glory is far greater than any loss that you could have suffered on this earth, just read the book of Revelation if you don’t believe me!
I have not arrived at this state yet. I am learning and I am preaching this to myself. I am putting on the full armor of God and I am refuting lies on a daily, sometimes hourly basis. But I am encouraged, and I am pressing on. I am not giving up because I am looking to Jesus and the joy set before me. I long to hear “well done Thy good and faithful servant,” and when I see my Savior face to face, I shall see Him as He is and I shall become as He is. This is worth more than anything else that this world has to offer.
Read through Philippians 2. Compare your attitude towards suffering with Jesus'. Make a list and spend some time in prayer. In what ways have you followed His example and in what ways do you need to confess sin and ask for His help?
- Trust and Obey | Jerry Wragg
Article by Amber Ramirez | Amber is a wife and mother with a heart for encouraging women in the faith. Read more from Amber on her blog IntentionalLiving.