Understanding the need to suffer...
“For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake,” Philippians 1:29
Nobody likes to suffer; however, suffering is a promised constant in the Christian life. Suffering takes on various forms and none of us are able to escape it. Suffering is a fact of spiritual life.
I've shared before that I lost a sister to cancer. She was very young, age 45, and had just begun to get her life back in order. She was back in church, introducing her children to faith and worked as a geriatric nurse. She was amazing.
I often wondered how God could allow this mother of four who finally got her life together, nursed the aged, and stood up against alcoholism, to die so soon after her transformation. It wasn’t fair. And, believe me…she suffered.
If God is so good, why do good people die and really lousy individuals live? If God is in control, why do 14 year olds have babies and children get raped? If God is Sovereign over every little thing, why is a country founded on His teachings in such disarray?
Where was God when bombs hit Pearl Harbor and the Nazis corralled His own people into ovens? If our founding fathers were Christian, why did they slater entire tribes and nations to claim ownership of someone else’s land only to claim they were the rightful owners?
Where is God? Why doesn't He do something? Why hasn't He done something over the course of the decades? What about chemical warfare in Syria? What about the church bombings in Egypt? If God cares, why are people suffering?
God does care and He reveals His concern by empowering individuals to step up to serve Him. With service comes suffering.
I know God exists and I know God cares because He touched a little seven year old girl’s heart and said, “Follow Me.” He spoke to a twelve year old and said, “I want you to care about and care for the oppressed.” He moved in the life of a nineteen-year-old newlywed and said, “Serve Me with your whole heart.” He physically protected a thirty year old and reminded me I am His. He whispered to a 40 year old assuring me that women not only matter very much to Him but church tradition lied to me for most of my life. He never cared that I wasn’t a male. My gender had nothing to do with my calling from Him. But, I would suffer because of my gender and because of the closed minds of others.
He met a 52 year old in a church parking lot and shouted, “What are you waiting for? Serve Me! Strive to please Me! Put Me first and the naysayers will fade away!”
God loves. God empowers. He calls. He teaches. He protects. God corrects and He demands our attention. God throws in some suffering just to remind us: He is God.
God isn’t absent. He has been working in the lives of willing individuals. God hasn't changed and He hasn't moved. If we haven’t moved towards Him, we don’t understand Him at all. If we’ve moved away from Him, we can simply turn around. But, know this – any movement towards Him and for Him will require suffering. The bible says it, so it is true.
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