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.
If you have found this inspiring, share the encouragement…
Pursuing God has not saved me from heartache... instead it seems to draw it like a magnet! Click To Tweet
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.
I lay awake at night pondering the sorrow of this world, too. Everything is getting darker because Christ is about to show up. Yes, we experience agony as Christians because if we ourselves aren’t suffering, the people that we love are, and if we don’t have stone cold hearts, we will hurt.
The church is definitely being pushed to the margins of society. It’s a painful but exciting time to be alive. “I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also.” John 14:3b
As a Christian mental health therapist I am intimately aware of the pain and wounds of many, many people. I have seen God use their situations for His glory. And I have seen the pain last for years. We can’t begin to understand God’s plans or timing but we can seek Him and grow closer to Him in all situations.
Lamentations 3:21-33 is a constant source of encouragement. Remembering that God’s mercies and lovingkindness are fresh every single day gives hope for the future and peace for the day.
This is beautiful. I continue to puzzle why so many Christians attempt to gloss over the suffering in life, as though it makes God “look bad” if they admit they hurt!
Thank you for being real.
You don’t see David glossing over his sorrow in the Psalms! If anything, he was a major whiner – haha! But he always ended with hope and trust in the Lord. “You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” Psalm 4:8
That verse in Psalms is so comforting! God is good & we definitely know Him mire through suffering. Every pain has purpose.
Recognizing God doesn’t waste suffering or pain revolutionized the way I view Him. “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious that gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praises and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:6-7
I love the C.S. Lewis quote. It’s so true. There is sooooo much good in our relationship with Christ, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the relationship is easy for us. My human side likes to get in the way….A LOT. Beautiful words and a much needed reminder.
Girl, I hear you about the human side getting in the way. Galatians 5:17 & 24 – “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. (24) And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” It ticks me off when I keep returning to unhealthy old behaviors. It’s like learning to speak a foreign language. We have to translate all the human/fleshly things through the foreign filter of the Spirit. Yet the more we seek the Spirit, the more immersed we are and it becomes like that second language. Keep up the good fight!
This was comforting to me, not because I like suffering but all the pain has worth. God has a plan for it, we might not know how or explain the reason to a questioning friend, but we are promised He’s working for the good of those who love Him.
As Lysa TerKeurst says, “God is good. God is good to me. God is good at being God.”
Amen. “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73.:26
What usually encourages me whenever I encounter hard times is the promise of God in Isaiah 43;2. He said when you pass through the waters I will be with you, and when you pass through the rivers they will not sweep over you.When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned, the flame will not set you ablaze.
This verse always assures me that no matter the gravity of the pain it will surely be over one day because God himself will be there for me.
Yes! I also love Habakkuk 3:17-19 – “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; He makes my feet like the deer’s; He makes me tread on my high places.”
Emily, your words speak truth. Suffering is, indeed, that which pushes us towards Him. Obviously, we have a free will and we can refuse to bend, but oh the blessed peace and comfort that comes when we say, “I surrender all.” Thanks for this reminder, that even the hard days have a purpose. – Amy
Refusing to bend reminds me of the Aesop’s story of The Oak and the Reeds.
I love the C.S. Lewis quote about Christianity- so true! And when you talked about our core need to be loved and pursued- “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.” There is truly none like him! Thanks for sharing this! Also, I love how the KJV puts Psalm 27:13- I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. 🙂
Thanks for commenting, Annie!
Comments are closed.