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.

Is He Your Friend, or a Doctrine?

“A rule I have had for years is: to treat the Lord Jesus Christ as a personal friend. His is not a creed, a mere doctrine, but it is He Himself we have.”

  ~D.L. Moody

Friendship with God can be a liberating secret. It releases us from the terrible bondage of religion and ritual with all its negative connotations. Intimacy with our Lord will carry us beyond creed or doctrine to the place of true communion.

It’s not that the Law is bad, but in the intense light of God’s grace it’s a poor substitute. We value legalism, and that is precisely what we believe when we bypass the relationship. Doctrine is a good servant, but a poor master.

Grace always trumps legalism. Love surpasses rules.

We evangelicals talk big about “a personal relationship.” That is indeed crucial. But few be the believers that walk in a daily friendship with their Savior. That is truly a tragedy.

“I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends since I have told you everything the Father told me.”

John 15:15, NLT

Friendship with Jesus will bring true guidance. He shares secrets and wisdom with his friends. We are brought into a true knowledge of the Kingdom through the relationship of friendship with the King. We are not slaves– or drones, slavishly serving out of slavish fear.

We are now His friends.

Jesus wants to confide in us; sharing mysteries hidden by time and sin. And his kingdom is full of great perplexities! He is looking to bring us into a willingness of daily communion.

He will heal our wounds, and forgive all our sins. He is truly our savior as well as our friend.

Friendship comes with a price. It means we are now tethered to the Lord. That can get old, especially when I want to do my own thing. I will continually have to lay something down and choose to accept tether and follow Him.

But my soul now has a best friend.

Your Shepherd, Forever

 1-3 God, my shepherd!
    I don’t need a thing.
You have bedded me down in lush meadows,
    you find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word,
    you let me catch my breath
    and send me in the right direction.

Even when the way goes through
    Death Valley,
I’m not afraid
    when you walk at my side.
Your trusty shepherd’s crook
    makes me feel secure.

You serve me a six-course dinner
    right in front of my enemies.
You revive my drooping head;
    my cup brims with blessing.

Your beauty and love chase after me
    every day of my life.
I’m back home in the house of God
    for the rest of my life.

Psalm 23, Message

The Lord wants to escort you to someplace wonderful, it’s where there is a rich rest and a sweet intimacy– in spite of fierce conflict.  Everything you need is revealed in Psalm 23, and it’s beautiful.

It is more than good poetry. It’s a way of life.

There is a preciousness just beyond our ‘status quo.’  It is abundant life for eternity.  When you have apprehended it, you will understand what I am talking about, and wonder why you’ve missed it for so long. Eternal life has already begun even though many of us don’t walk as if it did. We have eternal life, right here—right now!

There is a place which we can enter where Jesus is all there is. 

His dear presence pervades everything, and there is no doubt about His lordship.  He rules completely, and He is “all-in-all.” A believer who is filled with the Holy Spirit knows this.

There’s evidence when you have appropriated this deeper life. There will be a surrender of all you have, and you will fully understand what it truly means to be His follower and part of Jesus’flock.  There will be a complete renunciation of all rights to yourself.  With an insurmountable joy, you will give it all up just to walk with Him.

Live on earth as if you’ve already died, and are now living in heaven with Him.

There must be a definite place to turn your rights over to Him. Perhaps His love has already pressed you into this.  Often there will be disillusionment and cynicism about this planet and its ugly ways.  You want to escape all its dullness and jadedness.  You will step into ‘life-effervescent.’  He intends to walk you through many issues, but if He is close I will suggest you trust Him fully.

If you struggle with a mental illness: clinical depression, bipolar, anxiety issues, or schizophrenia, I want to reassure you, that you are not a “lesser” Christian.  And my comments include you.  You are not on the ‘scrap heap’ of the Spirit.  In so many ways, you can enter in while ordinary people will struggle.  And you do need to step into this and discover a life worth living.

A “Psalm 23 life” is yours for the asking. Take it up, humbly and true. It’s your birthright to be with your Shepherd forever.

Notice Leah’s Eyes, [Handicaps]

Portait of woman wearing scarf with eyes closed

Stuck in the wonders of scripture we can start a great study of Leah and her sister Rachel. Let’s start by saying two daughters of Laban have become Jacob’s wives. We must step into Genesis 29 to see more.

Jacob longs for Rachel. She is his “soul mate” and because he’s in love, the customs and technicalities of the day somehow get by him. Because of this, he will have to take on Laban’s subtle trickery, where daughters get exchanged, and he must sort out who is who.

Laban’s deception really does create a crisis. 

But it seems Jacob just rolls with it. I suppose deception has always been Jacob’s strong suit. (But when we see a deceiver gets deceived, that can’t be all bad).

Jacob is so in love with Rachel that he works for seven years for the right to marry her. This may be a bit outrageous. But we really must weigh these issues. I believe Jacob really is a monogamist at heart (shh… don’t tell him). He can only see that one girl that he is crazy about, his true love, Rachel.

But it’s Leah that I think about. Her own issues are unique. Genesis 29 explains it a bit cryptically,

“Leah’s eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful in form and appearance.” 

Genesis 29:17

I must tell you that there is confusion by commentators about the “weak eyes.” Some take it literally (as in, she is very “near-sighted,”) others who look at the original Hebrew find the words to be a bit looser and vague. They think that this is a polite way of saying she really wasn’t pretty. IDK, but I think I can gain from either interpretation.

I think I may understand Leah.

She is wounded, and life requires that she live as unwanted. She is a woman of tragedy and broken hopes and dreams. She will always live as a reject. At best, she will always be a distant second, and perhaps a bit scorned and neglected for this.

Leah is the champion for the challenged.

I so love Leah and I do understand her. Her life is a long tragedy and very full of sadness. For the next 30-40 years she will always be a cast-off, someone who has been broken on life’s hard wheel. I look at her with a painful bit of understanding. She is a fellow struggler and a survivor. Her sad life is comparable to us who have to fight so hard over our own illness or handicap.

I’ve no idea what her issue was. But I do know that she must’ve been challenged by this terrible weakness. I understand this. My own life has been “topsy-turvy” and a really hard struggle. Somehow it seems we must work through these things way too much. It doesn’t seem fair. 

For those of you who are confined to a ‘chair,’ and the others who must deal with mental illness. Leah should be our hero. For those who have been betrayed by addiction, or who have felt rejected through a bitter divorce– Leah speaks to us. She is for every loser and for failures of all stripes. But through all of our setbacks and messes, we must realize that God does love us– even as we weep.

We may have Leah’s eyes, but we also have His grace.


“When you encounter difficulties and contradictions, do not try to break them, but bend them with gentleness and time.”

–Francis de Sales

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