Christianity is hard and uncomfortable. Pursuing God through our suffering results in blessings and knowing Him more intimately.
I laid awake last night pondering the brokenness and sorrow surrounding us. The desperation is palpable. As I prayed, a verse nestled deep in my soul sprung to mind and repeated until I fell asleep.
I would have despaired unless I had believed I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
Psalm 27:13, NASB
When I got up this morning I went to the book shelf and retrieved the New American Standard Bible my parents gifted to me on Christmas day, 1990. Most other versions don’t include the part about despairing. NKJV says, “I would have lost heart,” but ESV, NIV, HCSB and NLT skip straight to being confident about seeing God’s goodness while here on earth.
Most days I feel that unwavering assurance, but what about the days when that conviction wavers? When the days turn into weeks or months? When you yell at the sky WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?!
Uncomfortable: Pursuing God In Spite of Suffering
Some of the people I love are hard pressed on every side. I wish I could swoop in and take on their struggle. But who am I to say I could weather a storm better if God has given a season of testing to someone else; to my friend…to my child? Stepping back, I am humbly reminded I am not their savior. I have no idea how God is working sadness or brokenness or devastation for His glory. He has used painfully uncomfortable times in my life to produce a courageous heart. Can He not do that for them?
C.S. Lewis said, “If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.”
Why Christianity then?
Pursuing the God of the bible has not saved me from heartache in this world; instead it seems to draw it like a magnet! But I have experienced God’s goodness. I have been wrapped in His peace that surpasses understanding. There was a time when I felt Christianity was only the best option and no other religion or belief was worth pursuing. In essence, if this world was all there was, I would still have lived a good life. I had no clue how thinking in those terms revealed the depth of my distrust. Only through the foundation of the scripture was I able to stop doubting and believe (John 20:27, NIV) when I encountered heartbreak, fear, and loss.
Uncomfortable: Blessing from Suffering
It’s not all bad either. There is much good. In just my small sphere of life, I have witnessed God restore broken friendships and shattered marriages. God literally raised my son from the dead when his heart had not beat for nearly 10 minutes. I swore off volunteering in children’s ministry at church, yet through the power of the Holy Spirit, God softened my heart and is not only using me to guide young minds toward the gospel, but He is blessing me in the process!
I am sincerely grateful for the glimmer of hope that has carried me for so long; yesterday’s belief has sustained me. Now I want the raging wildfire that doesn’t cower at challenge or shrivel up when tragedy strikes. On good days, I have prayed “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!” (Psalm 139:23, ESV). May I not recoil and complain when He does just that. Suffering is a necessity to achieve gratitude and grasp the fullness of life that is found in Jesus Christ.
I love Brennen Manning’s eloquent thoughts on the matter. “It is hard to be a Christian, but it is too dull to be anything else. When Jesus comes into our lives with his scandalous cross in the form of mental anguish, physical suffering, and wounds of the spirit that will not close, we pray for the courage to ‘stand fast a little’ against the insidious realism of the world, the flesh, and the devil.”
Uncomfortable: Intimately Knowing God
My son asked me this morning, “How can I make daddy laugh?” I laughed. “It’s taken me 20 years to learn that art; it’s not exactly something I can explain. You have to know him,” I said. “I do know him!” he argued. I said, “It’s the same with God. In order to know what pleases someone, what they enjoy, what makes them happy, sad, excited – what makes them tick – you have to spend time with them. As you get to know them more intimately, you learn how to say something at just the right moment to bring a smile to their face.”
To be loved and pursued is at the core of every human being. It is a longing placed there by God. He fulfills that daily through His word and any other means He chooses to use to make us aware that He is the God who sees. He is here. There is no one like Him.
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Because the Lord loves you fiercely, you are pursued fiercely. When circumstances arise that feel like attacks against you, know that God is using them to bring you into a deeper relationship with Him.