The God-given-value of suffering is not a very popular subject, is it?
I remember once, when I was the editor of the newsletter for my church’s Women’s Ministry, I submitted some samples for a series of articles on the subject of suffering.
I wanted to use much of Isaiah and Jeremiah’s writing as an encouragement to the many women, whom I personally knew, were going through tough times.
(The idea was soundly rejected.)
Our leader at the time said, “We don’t want to hear about this stuff. Write about happy things.”
I thought at the time, “Hear that Isaiah? Just like your crowd who said, ‘speak to us smooth things’ even though Isaiah knew what was coming, and was trying to warn them; prepare them.
We’re not much different.
The subject of suffering is definitely not popular. Yet, look around you. This poor world is bleeding like never before. (And think of what is to come.) Do we not have an obligation to teach all of the Bible’s truth?
To help the hurting see the deep value of their suffering?
I know our hearts and minds recoil at the idea, but don’t we do people a greater disservice, and perhaps even harm, to spoon feed them only “a saccharine-gospel” with heaping amounts of nothing but the syrupy sweet stuff piled on?
When is the last time you heard a sermon series on Jeremiah or Isaiah?
(I’m not talking about the once-over-lightly-touch.)
I mean an intense study of their books. When is the last time your pastor did an in-depth-series, on the life-transforming-power of suffering—from God’s point of view?
For myself, my answer, not once in the last thirty years!
And, you know what?
I am profoundly sick of all the sugar.
I know sugar is very popular. (Oh, yeah.) Walk down the aisle of any Christian bookstore and the titles shout out to you from shelves (usually at eye level!) about a God whose love is demonstrated by giving you health, wealth and a painless journey.
(And what about the next time the bottom drops out of your life?)
Sugar and ashes?
Not a great combo.
For a decade before my accident, I had been listening to a steady stream of sermons made of candy-apples from cotton-candy churches. It all sounded so good—until I was living out my own private nightmare.
Then, I desperately needed substance—big heaping handfuls of tough-as-leather-hope—so I could grapple with my daily realities.
Because, in the ashes?
Eyes swollen shut from tears?
Guts falling out on the floor?
Confusion and pain tearing your heart to pieces?
Trust me, you do not want sugar!
What did the old song say?
Oh, yeah… “Just give me Jesus.”
Because Jesus was on very intimate terms with sorrow and suffering.
And He’s on intimate terms with me—in mine.
I SEE IT ALL DEAREST
Do you think I don’t know what is happening in that heart of yours?
(…a little closer.)
I see it all Dearest, your pain, your confusion, those tears you think you hide (but not from Me.)
Oh, yes, a heart can weep. Your soul mourns.
I see it all—your suffering.
You wonder at My silence, don’t you?
How can I know about your pain, and seem, not to care?
(Is that about it?)
Ah, Dearest Child… your greatest growth comes through these times of silence and suffering. You come to Me. Search for Me… in your days of gladness. (Yes, I know.) But, never with the intensity; the fervency, that your suffering leads you to do.
When you hurt, ahhhh, then how you run to Me! How you seek Me out! How you grow, in depth, compassion, and understanding. Your repertoire of comfort is expanded, and therefore, you are a greater comfort to others.
(I know the cost is high.)
Worthwhile things are always born out of suffering.
(Think about it and you will see the truth.)
Suffering always precedes comfort.
Pain is always the price of purity.
How could you have the encouragement, without darkness, silence, and fear?
(I promise you.)
When suffering has polished, perfected, and purified?
Then, will come rivers of blessing for others.
(Is this not what you asked Me for?)
“Fear not, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed…” Isaiah 41:10