I Will Praise Him Anyway!
Finding God's Purpose For Suffering
It seems as though the last five years of my life reads like a mid day soap opera. Moving from one tragedy to the next. In one way or another something is always going wrong. More recently I have had to deal with a crisis that has produced more emotional pain in me then anything I have ever experienced. As always, God was faithful. In the end however, it was his will that prevailed not mine.
C.S Lewis said that tragedy is more important then love. He felt it was through suffering that we learned sympathy and mercy.
"Tragedy is more important than love. Out of all human events, it is tragedy alone that brings people out of their own petty desires and into awareness of other humans' suffering. Tragedy occurs in human lives so that we will learn to reach out and comfort
others" --C. S. Lewis
I completely agree with him, yet I have seen people suffer and then become bitter through their suffering. Their ordeal shipwrecks their faith and they find themselves a drift in an ocean of doubt and disappointment. Instead of allowing their suffering to strengthen their character, and then in turn helping others. They wallow in self. They respond by shaking their fist at God. Accusing him of being unjust.
I would agree with C.S Lewis that when it comes to shaping character tragedy is more important then love. Not that love is unimportant, mind you, just less important. You see, love is often overlooked, forgotten, or taken for granted. Tragedy, on the other hand, is burned into our character like a branding iron. Its value lies in its ability to reveal the content of our nature, forcing us to examine ourselves. In the process, we better understand the nature of God. For the one who fears the Lord, suffering must be seen as a telegram directly from His hand. In so doing we mature, and our faith develops. In our suffering we are being changed, we are being conformed, pressed and transformed into the very image of Christ.
Job 1:8-Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job?
When it comes to suffering I think God would ask us the same question, " Have you considered my servant Job? His is a story of faithfulness, honesty, and humility. He is a man who suffered, but in his suffering he refused to curse God. Instead he held fast to his faith.
I can't help wonder how it would have been for Job if God had sent him a telegram explaining the purpose for his suffering. We know what God's purpose was because we read the book. However, Job had to go by faith. His pain had a greater purpose. A telegram would have went a long way .... I think it would have made his suffering a bit easier. Instead Job was left crying out to God asking for an explanation. This is a lesson to me. That when I suffer. It is OK to cry, and to admit that I do not understand. It teaches me to wait patiently for an explanation. I am also given God's perspective. Which teaches me that God is in control and that things often go on behind the scene.
Using the story of Job as my teacher, I am learning that everything in our life has a greater purpose. From the mundane to the miraculous. I forget this sometimes. Unfortunately my circumstances do not have a tag on them that says " To you from God. Read carefully to know His purpose". Like Job, I am left searching. I find myself asking God what his purpose is when my children make foolish and detrimental decisions. I scratch my head in confusion and wonder how it is God's faithfulness is proven when my bills are not able to be paid. I ask how am I to glorify God when my marriage is stressed. I am sure I could go on but the truth is that these circumstances do have a purpose. I can make them about me or I can make them about God.
Job 2:10b -Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.
When investigating our trials we must remember that God's # 1 purpose is that He be glorified on the earth. My life is to be about his glory not mine. The sooner I make my purpose the same as His, the sooner I will find Joy in my suffering. Let me say it another way, The sooner I make my purpose the same as His, the sooner I will find the ability to praise Him in the midst of the trial. By faith, I say all things good and bad have been hand delivered from God.
I believe God uses suffering in our lives for several reason. To name a few, it brings self examination and repentance. It draws us closer to God and it builds our faith. Ultimately, however, when you boil it down, the end result will always be to glorify His name in us and ultimately throughout the earth. In the case of Job, in heaven as well.
I like what Mary the mother of Jesus said when told what God was going to do with and through her. Knowing full well she would not be believed and that her and Josephs reputations would be disgraced. She simply said "I am the Lord's servant, May it be to me as you have said." No fuss no complaining just a simple Yes Lord.
Oh to have the humility of a servant.
To quote a more modern saying... "Its all good!" When I understand that my steps have been ordered by God and that He knows what he is doing. The reality is "It's all good! I must find strength and comfort in this knowledge
Job 1:20-22- At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised." In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.
Job 13:15a- Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.
What if things did not turn out for our, or more specifically, my good? Can I still praise him? What if "Joy" did not come in the morning? Is God still Good? What if he decides that my death will best glorify Him? Would I still worship him? Is my relationship with God about my comfort or His Glory? My will or His will?
Consider this Jewish Passover Seder (the dinner that the Jews use to celebrate Passover). There is a part called the "Dayenu", which, when translated, means, "it would have been enough." Here's just a little of it:
--If He had merely rescued us from Egypt, but had not punished the Egyptians--Dayenu.
--If He had merely punished the Egyptians, but had not destroyed their gods--Dayenu.
--If He had merely destroyed their gods, but had not slain their firstborn--Dayenu.
--If He had merely slain their firstborn, but had not given us their property--Dayenu.
--If He had merely given us their property, but had not split the sea for us--Dayenu.
--If He had merely split the sea fur us, but had not brought us through on dry ground-Dayenu.
--If He had merely brought us through on dry ground, but had not drowned our oppressors--Dayenu.
Finding God's Purpose For Suffering. A Personal Testimony.
I believe the trick to finding Joy in the midst of your pain is to understand God's purpose for suffering. I have a friend who has ALS, or better known as "Lou Gherig's disease" it is a disease that takes your life within 3 to 5 years of first symptoms. He is currently at year 4. He is losing control of his muscles one by one. He will eventually suffocate when the neurons that allow his brain to communicate to his lungs fail. I met this man before he had found God's purpose. I remember that day as though it was yesterday. I watched him painfully rise out of his wheelchair and limp to the alter as he literally sobbed before God begging for mercy. He had spent the 1st 2.5 years naming and claiming, walking by faith doing everything he could to get God to heal him. But the disease persisted and continued to march its way through his body.
Later as our relationship progressed he and I had a conversation much like this one, where we talked about "Finding God's purpose" Turns out, he had thrown himself into Job. Sucking out every ounce of truth he could find. From that study he determined to accept the ALS as God's will for his Life and instead of asking God for healing he began to ask God to reveal His purpose.
I discovered that he was a gifted speaker with an evangelists heart. He had always wanted to pastor but God had never opened up that door. When he was diagnosed with ALS he was devastated and gave up any hope of a teaching ministry. God however, had just opened the door for his ministry.
The Holy Spirit would teach him wonderful truths, but he had no place to share them. As a way to satisfy his yearning to teach he started a web page devoted to ALS patients. He began recording his messages and posting them on his web page. Today, he is corresponding with people all over the world. and literally has thousands of hits on his messages. He get letters thanking him for the words of encouragement. My friend now believes that God's purpose for his ALS was to give him a platform to share the Gospel. He told me today that, and I quote "I asked for a little church here in Palm Coast and God said no! Instead, he gave me a teaching ministry that is touching people world wide. What more can I ask for?"
What more can I ask for...? WHAT MORE CAN HE ASK FOR????? I am looking at a man who can barely breath and has lost control of most of his muscles, Who very shortly could be taken and will leave a wife and a young daughter, and he says to me "With a smile on his face "What more can I ask for"
Who was I looking at? A man who had made God's purpose his purpose and in so doing he is able to rejoice.
My friend has, indeed, found God's purpose for his suffering. But that did not mean his suffering had ended. I have watched this man brake down emotionally through tears of pain, I have heard him asking God for the strength to carry on. I have never felt he was complaining. To me, he is a hero who has turned his suffering into a badge of honor. Like Job he has given the Devil a black eye
In closing, faith in God enables us to rest in spite of our fear, smile in spite of our trial, believe when overwhelmed by doubt, and rejoice in the midst of our pain. When our faith is being tested! We must refuse to complain. For in truth, God owes us nothing. We deserve death, yet for some reason known only to Him, he has showed us kindness.
He is God, King and Master. He is on the throne and rules even when the enemy triumphs. Even when the debtors remove our belongings, Even when our health fails. Praise Him even in the midst of despair. For he is worthy of our praise.
I readily admit that there are times where an answer can not be found. In those times our Faith must sustain us. I suspect that it is in those times God is once again giving Satan a lesson in faithfulness. I can just hear him saying “Have you considered My servant ..........?
Your brother in Christ
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