Shortly before Jesus betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion, He spoke intimately with his disciples. Recorded in John chapters 14, 15 and 16, He reminded them that in this world they would suffer; and so shall we. Jesus said, “Let not your hearts be troubled… Peace I leave with you… I am the True Vine, my Father the Husbandman, He prunes to produce… I have told you of persecution… I will send the Comforter… As a woman travails in birthing, and then forgets her pain…” He concludes by saying, “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace. In the world you have tribulation and distress and suffering, but be courageous [be confident, be undaunted, be filled with joy]; I have overcome the world.” [My conquest is accomplished, My victory abiding.] (John 16:33 Amp). He forewarned them of all these things so that they could have peace and confidence through everything they would face. He wanted them prepared, ready and equipped. Jesus always told the truth.
Bitter because sin is painful! Since the fall of man into sin, the human condition has been marred by shame, pain, regret and suffering. When we look around our world, or even in our own family, we can see the effects of sin upon us all. Some seem to squeak through a bit easier than others, yet pain is still there. Adopting a wholesome lifestyle no doubt increases the likelihood of success in life; but even then many suffer. Job was a righteous man, yet God caused Job’s suffering (Job 2) by allowing Satan to touch him so that Job could be a testimony of a faithful man. We will all experience suffering. Some are chosen to suffer greatly for righteousness sake. This is hard for us to understand in our finite mind, but that is where we must trust our Heavenly Father; He knows all and has redemption in mind.
Sweet because God is good! When we are in the midst of a heavy trial it can seem like it takes forever for relief to come and we may wonder, Where is God? While suffering, we may doubt God’s love and care. It may feel as though He has forgotten us. Focus on the fact that your sorrow can be turned into joy. Jesus uses the illustration of a woman giving birth to convey an important perspective. 21 A woman, when she is in labor, has pain because her time [to give birth] has come; but when she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of her joy that a child has come into the world. 22 So for now you are in grief; but I will see you again, and [then] your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take away from your [great] joy. (John 16:21-22 Amp). If we realize what Jesus is preparing us for, we will not only travel through the painful parts of life with confidence, but when the joy comes we will realize it was His power and love bringing us through. He is able to take the most wicked thing and turn it into something beautiful! Always remember, the focus is that we will rejoice with Him forevermore and we desire to glorify God here on earth. Hold on to that.
Bitter-Sweet because God redeems! Nothing is ever wasted with God; He can turn everything around for His good purpose (Rom. 8:28). Will you believe that even while in the midst of difficulty?
Suffering is not easy. When we hear the testimony of a persecuted believer, as I did recently, we may think, “Well if it comes from the hand of an enemy, I can understand that. But not someone who is supposed to love me… a parent, spouse, family member or friend.” How do we love “our enemies” when they are of our own household? This is a question our natural thinking asks when we suffer.
When the place God designed to be of comfort, our home and family, turns into confusion and pain, we can appeal for mercy both from God and those around us. Unlike those under the hand of corrupt governments where appeal has failed, we have avenues of redress based upon God’s Word. The Church: our Christian family, the Body of Christ, is there to help us through suffering of this sort. Our pastors and elders are here for this purpose. This is appropriate; we need not suffer in silence when evil is at work in the home. Remember, Satan is looking to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10); do not sit silently doing nothing while the battle rages around you. Appeal, if you are able — godly action can bring relief, and God will be glorified through using His Word rightly to deal with sin.
Whatever evil, trial or suffering comes into the life of a believer, recognize that it can be overcome with firm confidence that we are in God’s Hands. This perspective allows His grace to prevail and sustain us. His grace is always available. We learn and grow in our ability to receive His grace by practicing trust in Him. He gives greater grace as we need it to walk through the fire of trial. This is a matter of faith in God and belief in His Word.
Having faithful and godly friends in the midst of suffering helps us as well. Job didn’t have this comfort; yet he prevailed through the most difficult of trials. The persecuted church prepares itself for suffering through God’s Word, just as Jesus prepared His students (read Matthew 10:16-28). Their captors often used isolation and torture to bring them to collapse and denial of Christ. God made us for fellowship, not isolation. Yet, He works through any difficulty to produce immovable strength in us. Allow all that He is producing in you to become a catalyst to help others.
If you are in the throes of a struggle today, remember God works in the fiery trials of our life to produce strength for the next season. Just as gold in the refiner’s fire is made pure, and as impurities are removed from metal by heat, so God uses the difficult place to refine us into something beautiful. It is a mystery of His grace at work. Look at the testimonies of the faithful who have suffered and see through their lives what God has done. We must focus on a Faithful Father, who knows the end — who will bring us safely home to enjoy His presence forever. The birthing is difficult, in whatever form that takes. But the joy of new life brought forth will cause us to rejoice and forget the pain of our past.
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