Disproportionate Suffering

“Some Christians are called to endure a disproportionate amount of suffering. Such Christians are a spectacle of grace to the church, like flaming bushes unconsumed, and cause us to ask, like Moses: ‘Why is this bush not burned up?’

(Exodus 3:2-3)

“The strength and stability of these believers can be explained only by the miracle of God’s sustaining grace. The God who sustains Christians in unceasing pain is the same God — with the same grace — who sustains me in my smaller sufferings. We marvel at God’s persevering grace and grow in our confidence in Him as He governs our lives.”

— John Newton, author of “Amazing Grace”

All of us know a brother or sister who seems to be a target of an undue amount of suffering. It seems like they’re always in the furnace. All we can do really is to shake our heads and then give them double honor for their faith in God’s grace and providence.

Ministering to these sufferers can be a challenge.

What can we say to those who seem to be on “God’s anvil?” How can we bless those who are in pain?

Perhaps a simple word of calm encouragement is the most effective. In the midst of some awful difficulties, I once had a dear brother who gently and carefully quoted Philippians 1:6 to me over and over whenever we met and whenever we parted:

 “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”

Philippians 1:6

It was a precious thing that he did. I didn’t mind it all, as a matter of fact I grew to like it. At first, I’ll admit it was strange, but my faith began to ‘mix’ with the Word and I began to believe it. It’s now my favorite verse in the Bible.

He refused to preach (or counsel) at me.

He had the maturity to see what God was doing and to make himself available to God on my behalf. Perhaps that patience he showed should be for us the method of choice? I look forward to seeing him someday, someway.

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.”

Romans 5:3

A keyword in this verse is “rejoice.”

It is a good reminder that the pain we feel is not the end. These trials have a limited duration (although it seems far away). There is coming a day when we can navigate through these issues and come out on the other side. “We will shine like the stars” (Daniel 12:3).

Much wisdom is needed in our ministry to disproportionate sufferers. We should have a fear of intruding on the work the Lord is doing. We must be patient and humble in this matter. There is no rushing God, after all, it’s His work. Most importantly we must be very much ‘present’ for our friend.

But not only that! We even take pride in our problems, because we know that trouble produces endurance,

Romans 5:3

A “word” spoken out of place can cause even more ‘heartache’ for the sufferer. Let us be careful. At times it’s better not to say anything, and that’s alright. Job’s friends were best sitting in the ash heap, saying no word.  

The Lord God gives me
the right words
    to encourage the weary.
Each morning he awakens me
    eager to learn his teaching.

Isaiah 50:4, CEB

Ask the Father to guide you. Be gentle. Be there. Hw will give you (in His time) a good word for them.

Trying to Find a Sound Mind

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

2 Timothy 1:7

I hate to be the one who tells you this, but there will come a time when life doesn’t seem to matter anymore.

When you’re profoundly depressed issues like taking a hot shower and eating something besides top ramen seem impossible. I’m embarrassed to say I once went 34 days with a shower. I laid in bed pretty much unable to function.

I suppose that is the insidious truth about chronic depression, I know it well. God seems far, far away. Life doesn’t matter anymore. I am way beyond ‘salvageable.’ I obviously don’t say it, but I feel like I’m destined for destruction.

Just a word here about Satan’s battle for our souls.

He is evil far beyond human comprehension. His schemes and plots are his attempt to destroy me and to extend his darkness by his attacks.

The devil is already condemned and his power is defeated. Using God’s weapons (Ephesians 6:10-18) we can protect our family and friends. We set free the captive, heal, and preach the gospel to those who can’t see yet. But that war is still demanding and it’s a real challenge at times. Especially for us.

But there is much I can do.

Yes, it’s true–life can seem insurmountable. We must grab the truth that clinical depression kills people. It slowly devours “a sound mind.” It cripples before it takes away your life. There is nothing quite like it; people tell you it will pass, and that you’ll see the sun again. But at the time that seems to be the worst advice ever given.

We need to understand that afflicted souls are special to God.

And that alone truly comforts me. Sometimes it seems like there is an invisible tether that holds from completely dropping off the edge. When I do pray–it is desperate and brief. (More like a quiet scream for help.) There are no frills and no eloquence, but I know I’m being heard by Him who guards my soul.

People for the most part, are of little help. And I admit that my attitude can be less than stellar. “Unless you have been lost in this section of hell yourself, it’s best if you just shut up.” (I don’t really say this mind you, but I’m terribly tempted to.)

There are a few that understand and only a few can speak clearly.

When I was very sick once I woke up to find another pastor praying prostrate on my bedroom floor. He didn’t have to do or say anything else. He was very quiet. He left without saying some ‘pious’ word to me, yet what he did was wonderfully done. God used Him.

“I will trust Him. Whatever, wherever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him; if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. My sickness, or perplexity, or sorrow may be necessary causes of some great end, which is quite beyond us. He does nothing in vain.”   

John Henry Newman

Speak often with the Lord Jesus, and learn to listen to His voice. I read the Psalms–they give me a spiritual ears so that I can hear Him. I find a voice that can speak to God. Reading the Psalms imparts things that I can’t have any other way.

That “sound mind” promised in 2 Timothy 1:7 needs to be believed. It must become activated by faith. This promise is for us who struggle this way.

After all, we’re the ones who really do need it.

 

The Valley of Tears

He Sees Every Tear

“As they pass through the Valley of Baka, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools.”

Psalm 84:6 (NIV).

In Hebrew, the word “baka” means tears.

In Psalm 84, the sons of Korah write their praises of God and note that those whose strength is in the Lord will travel through the Valley of Baka and find His peace there. For some of us that Valley of Tears seems never-ending, but we must remember we are not alone in it. I wrote this poem to remind myself of that truth. I hope it blesses you as you pass through the valley of tears, too.

The Valley of Tears

My Savior will dry all my tears
The Lord God knows all my fears
As I trudge onward many years
I pass through the Valley of Baka

Great pain and agony oppress
I feel heavy weights of duress
Praying for dear Jesus to bless
I pass through the Valley of Baka

I see that this valley is long
I need You to make my faith strong
That Lord I might sing a praise song
As I pass through the Valley of Baka

 

 

D

Jumpstarting a Prayer Life

We must (MUST!) pray as believers in Jesus. Prayer is the oxygen of our spiritual life. We must breathe, or else. When I go to my doctor she puts an 0ximeter on my finger so she can assess how my lungs are using oxygen. I suppose if we would put it on our “spiritual finger,” might it reveal something?

We don’t know exactly how to pray, I think communicating with God isn’t natural. We must be taught. The disciples wanted desperately how to pray–they didn’t know how, (Luke 11:1-2). So, we too must have Jesus teach us.

We can only learn how if the Spirit teaches us.

Also, we must practice praying. We may do it terribly rotten, but we should never give up–it’s not natural–it’s supernatural. But we learn by doing. We may get discouraged but keep at it. Even if you’re a pro, the Holy Spirit will make sure you keep learning. Our walk should always grow deeper.

For me praying the Psalms is good practice, and there are 150 of them. The Jewish people have a 4000-year start on us–they’ve used the Psalms as their prayer/praise book. My sense is that this covers every human need–the entirety of our spiritual walk!

I think that Psalms 103 might be a great place to get started.

I’ve been told by some that the “Lord’s Prayer” is quite useful as well. I guess if you honestly take it phrase by phrase, something good will happen. I’m still learning (and I suspect I still will).

Below we find a way to jumpstart our prayer life. I hope you can use it.

One more thought. “Conversational Prayer” is a good thing for me lately. Talk with Jesus as if He was in the same room with you (He is) and just converse. Share your ups and downs, and it’s okay if you feel messed up. Relax. He’s your Father!

He absolutely loves talking with you.

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