Nothing brings out true colors like the palette of suffering. I wrote about this earlier and it still remains one of the most popular posts. Suffering is an excellent schoolteacher, both in your own life and in the life of others.
SUFFERING IN YOUR OWN LIFE
I took a wrong move on a horse–she went zing, I went zam–and soon enough I was introduced to sciatica. I knew about sciatica, but I did not know sciatica. It is an intense electrical leg cramp from the thigh down, numbness crawling through my calf and toes, the damaged nerve angry and slow to heal. Thankfully, it is expected to heal and I can already see a lot of progress.
Not much gets our attention like physical suffering. This sciatica pain is hard to ignore! One thing that this pain is teaching me is what I really think about health and healing. As a Christian, I believe God made our amazing bodies to be self-regulating (it can throw a fever when needed) and self-healing (it can repair its own cuts). That doesn’t mean every physical ailment will be healed this side of the veil, but in a perfect world (someday!), that is how our bodies were designed to operate.
I also believe that God gave us herbs to use for healing; it is His gift to us, His medicine. We lack so much knowledge in that realm because, truthfully, plants can’t be patented. So we steal from God’s design, formulate pharmaceuticals based on them, and then not only provide an inferior product, but charge exorbitant amounts for it. And then tax everyone to the grave to pay for it all instead of teaching things like how to dig up a dandelion and make a tincture.
I know this. And yet I STILL cried like a baby for a drug, any drug, get me a drug! All it took was this very light and very momentary pain (my spirit knows this to be light and momentary even though my body begs to differ) to show for how little I was willing to throw out my beliefs about healing. I took a couple of doses of supposed painkiller and it did nothing except hack through my liver. And I am glad for it! What has helped me the most, what has led to fluttering through the numb areas and more time up and walking rather than writhing on the ground, are two things: chiropractic, and homeopathy. In other words, health care that at its core vibed with my previously stated belief that our bodies were meant to be self-healing and self-regulating, and supporting its effort to do so is what I really want to do.
Why does this matter? Because conflicts clarify! You may *think* if such-and-such physical ailment happened to you, you might do this-and-that. But sometimes all it takes is a dose of reality to really (a) support and strengthen your beliefs, or (b) mash them around and come up with some new ones. For me, going through this pain very much strengthened how I wish to support this earthly body.
Besides clarifying health care beliefs, physical pain also gives you an opportunity to show how self-centered you really may be. When you are sick, do you deserve the care you receive, or do you accept it with humility and appreciation? Are you annoyed when “proper care” is not forthcoming? Do your needs trump everyone else’s? Joni Eareckson Tada gave an excellent message sharing her story of how God used (and uses) her physical ailments to heal the things that concern God the most, and it is not always the physical problem.
The spotlight on idolatry is at hand with emotional pain. Whether someone has hurt your feelings or you’ve been at the end of unjust accusations, what is revealed is to where or to whom or to what you run to to ease the suffering. I’ve been known to reach for the bag of chocolate chips (you know, the kind I keep on hand “for baking”) when I’m frustrated or mad. This is a far cry from departing to a quiet place to speak to my Father, which was the example Jesus left for me. Other folks try to salve their inner wounds with alcohol (deadening the pain), too much exercise (pursuing the endorphin rush), or with controlling others (exalting themselves). Some overeat, some overreact, and some hide behind excess laughter or flattery.
When we run with our heart-hurts to somewhere other than the cross, we are showing with our feet where our spirit is lost.
Emotional pain is just another tool in the Master’s hand. He will use it to chisel away and reveal any hypocrisy or idolatry. He will use it to bring greater humility and a compassion for others groaning under similar conditions. And He expects the church to minister to even in emotional pains, to offer support and counseling on a foundation of Biblical truth. Even if our physical bodies fail us (and they will), even if our minds rust or our emotions crack (yep), our spirit is being renewed day by day and we can hold fast to that.
2 Corinthians 4:16 For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.
SUFFERING IN THE LIFE OF OTHERS
Pain in the life of others is for your benefit and instruction as well. How you respond to another person’s suffering clarifies the condition of your heart, and in essence holds a mirror up to it. Many people are grieving over the fall of Doug Phillips. But there is also much glee (which I won’t link to).
To have any sense of smug satisfaction because of the pain of another is a reflection of how little the Gospel is understood. There ought to be no self-righteousness, no pride, no thought of how much better our own lives are because of, we believe, our own efforts or that we are more faith-filled or more knowledgeable or more careful. Instead we put our hands to our hearts and mouths, there but for the grace of God go I. Not only that, but we all in some manner HAVE been there, done that.
1 Corinthians 6:11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.
Romans 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God…
To have any ugliness at all in our hearts reveals that we believe we are, in essence, pretty good and decent people (unlike, say, some *others* we are not as bad as). We’ve replaced the mirror of the ten commandments with following our own hearts to hell.
Jesus answered to those that may have any semblance of haughtiness at all:
Luke 13:2-3 And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.
1 Corinthians 10:12 Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.
WAYS TO SUFFER RIGHTLY
Run to the Father. FIRST. Cry to Him for mercy, pray for discernment, allow Him to reveal to you what lessons He intends through this. Yes, you can even pray for healing! Do not be as a donkey, having no understanding and needing the bigger bit; let Him reveal to you what He sees in your heart, and deal with any ugliness at the cross.
John 6:68 Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.
Remember that we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Even creation groans. It is one thing to know we live in a fallen world; it is quite another to physically or emotionally enter into that understanding in a whole new way. Let your suffering remind you that we are not to set our affections on things here below, but on things above. Remember that in eternity, our time here really is as a vapor, and our afflictions are really light (compared to the afflictions Christ bore on our behalf) and momentary. Praise the Lord that He works everything for our good!
Colossians 3:2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.
Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
Reflect on what your suffering and the suffering of others is revealing to you about YOU. Conflicts do, indeed, clarify. And compassion for others flows when we understand our own failings and know that we are all sin-filled and worthy of eternal judgement, not just temporal and earthly pain. Repent, and thank God for the gift of repentance.
Isaiah 53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
1 Timothy 1:15 This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners…
Don’t waste your pain. Take the lessons you learn from it and not only strengthen the body of Christ but use it to make clear the gospel. Others shall surely suffer from the same affliction(s) as you; you are called to minister to them, to pray and meet what needs you can, and to gently turn them continually to the cross.
Hebrews 6:10 For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.
Suffering is a hard education, but it is one that God uses to spur us to holiness. In this way, we can even give thanks in this time of pain.
Some falsely teach that a happy home is painless, that with a word or a decision you can just be happy. And many people come here searching for how to make that “happy home” because in some way suffering has entered their lives (I am glad you are here, by the way). I must tell you, however: it is not that a happy home will never grieve, never fight sin, never see physical pain or financial ruin. A happy home is never based on our circumstances, it is based on the Word of God, and He says that a happy home has Jesus as Lord. In the midst of suffering, and suffering WILL come, lift your heart to praise God. He still reigns and is still working all things for our good and His glory, and that is what matters the most in this teeny amount of time we have here.
John 16:33 These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
Psalms 144:15 Happy is that people, that is in such a case: yea,happy is that people, whose God is the LORD.