This past Sunday in my connection group at church, we watched a video featuring Matt Chandler, a pastor from Texas. After he had given a teaching from Philippians that centered on suffering, he faced a traumatic trial of his own, malignant brain cancer.
He spoke on the subject of suffering on previous videos, and then he lived it.
This particular video was about facing brain cancer with a godly perspective after having a life where he tended to receive blessing after blessing. The way he said it is: “Before this, everything I did turned to gold.”
We as the viewers could see the large scar on his hairless head where he had had brain surgery.
One point he brought out is that some of us think that if we’re good and do what God says, He owes us and we’ll bypass suffering.
I realized that at times I’ve given in to that kind of thinking.
Another delusion I’ve had about suffering is this: I’ve suffered enough. After surviving my childhood, I surmised that I had faced beyond my share of suffering for a lifetime, and a gracious God would surely keep me from enduring more of it.
The day I heard of my younger sister’s suicide, the thought went through my mind, Haven’t I suffered enough? That was thirtysome years ago when I was in my twenties.
Since then more trials, traumas and tragedies have come my way including the suicide of another family member three years ago, severe mental illness in other family members, loved ones turning away from the Lord and rejecting me, and the list goes on.
I can still slip into this is not fair, why me? and God, haven’t I been through enough? thinking.
As I thought this week about the first delusion in regard to suffering pointed out by Pastor Chandler—that if I’m good and do what God says, (which is the goal of my life) He owes me–a poem I wrote years ago came to mind. The theme of the poem came down to God doesn’t owe me; He owns me.
The Word of God affirms that fact in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NIV)
…You are not your own; you were bought at a price.
I don’t get to tell God what to do because He owns me. He’s in charge of me.
The good news that this pastor brought out is that suffering isn’t random—that God has a plan within suffering. He also stated that suffering is not punishment, coming against the third delusion I have believed.
As I look back over my life, I can see the good that God has brought from suffering. He’s drawn me closer to Himself, He’s helped me to have more compassion for others who suffer, and He’s used suffering to make me more like Christ.
Other promises in regard to suffering that have cheered me this week are:
… after you have suffered a little while, (God) will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast (1 Peter 5:10).
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all (2 Corinthians 4:17).
Many adversities come to the one who is righteous, but the LORD delivers him from them all (Psalm 34:19 HCSB).
Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you (Hebrews 13:5 NIV).
Fear not [there is nothing to fear], for I am with you; do not look around you in terror and be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen and harden you to difficulties, yes, I will help you; yes, I will hold you up and retain you with My [victorious] right hand of rightness and justice (Isaiah 41:10 AMP—my life verse).
As I listened the past several days to a speaker on a CD that a friend gave me, he spoke these words which I applied to suffering: “There is no security in what God is doing. There is only security in who God is.”
How true I’ve found that to be. When I try to tell God what to do, how to do it, or what not to do, I feel frustrated and fearful. When I embrace all of who He is, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude and surrounded by His grace.
Thank You, Lord, for all You have allowed me to suffer and for all the good You have brought from it. Help me to know You in a deeper way and to trust You more as I face the troubles of this life. Thank You for being there, hearing my prayers, and showing You care. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
Song: “Blessed be Your Name” by Matt Redman