Grace For The Journey
Last week was one of those really tough weeks … I was anticipating a little struggle because of the shortened week with Thanksgiving (not as much time for study and prayer), in addition to a commitment I had to preach at the Senior High School Thanksgiving Convocation. However, the week started out with the need to minister to a church member’s family whose dad had lost his mother on Saturday night. I had contacted the family and planned a follow-up visit on Sunday after Bible Study and worship. However, just before our 10:15 worship service began, I got word that this member’s 23 year old son had been killed in an automobile accident. I got confirmation of this when the mother of the family called during the service. To say the least, this made the week even more tough … I now faced the humanly impossible task of comforting and consoling a family who is going through deep sorrow and suffering and preparing two additional sermons for the funerals. Even though Kay and I have gone through similar experiences in the deaths of our two daughters, it does not make ministering to others who go through such crisis any easier.
Let’s be honest, even for Christians, sometimes life can take your breath away … and it can challenge even the greatest of faiths. With everything going on last week, I had to lay my blog aside and focus completely on the needs of this precious family. I am just now able to resume blogging. Let me share some hope, and prayerfully some help, for being able to see God in all the events that cloud our vision of Him and even cause our faith to collapse.
What can strengthen and sustain one’s in the midst of times of suffering and crisis? I have found that God’s Word is the greatest source for helping us maintain the right focus and be able to work through all the questions and bewilderment that these times can bring. During the week God continued to take me to Romans chapter 8.
Let me begin by sharing an illustration of this. Horatio Spafford didn’t know it, but he was about to face incredible suffering. He planned a family vacation to Europe for the fall of 1873, but a business emergency kept him from traveling with his family. Intending to join his family after he attended to the situation, he sent his wife, Anna, and their four daughters ahead of him. During his family’s voyage their ship collided with another vessel. Although Anna survived, their four daughters drowned.
Inspired by this tragic event, Spafford wrote a poem, the words of which would become the lyrics to the hymn, “It Is Well with My Soul.” Knowing the story behind the hymn sheds a whole new light on the line “when sorrows like sea billows roll.”
When you face trials, are you
Inclined to sing “It is well, it is well with my soul,”
Or do you find it difficult to sing at all?
What does it take to keep such solid faith when life is nothing but shifting sands?
How can you grow through suffering, rather than just get through suffering?
The Apostle Paul, in Romans chapter 8, tells us that the way to face suffering is by keeping your eye on God and His glory.
God has a glorious purpose even in our suffering.
So often when we face incredible difficulties we ask God, “Why?” We wonder if we have just become a pawn in His chess match against the devil. But Paul reminds us that God has a purpose for our sufferings: eternal glory. He tells us that as children of God, “we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him” (Romans 8:17). And, lest we wonder if the glory is worth it, Paul adds, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).
This can be a difficult truth to accept. But, if we have a proper understanding of Who God is, we can trust Him and what He allows even if we don’t understand what or why things turn out the way they do. That is why it is important not to stop with this truth. The rest of what the Bible says in Romans puts this truth in a better perspective.
What we fail to learn if we only look at the momentary suffering is that God has something in store for us that is so great and so amazing that when that day comes, we will say that the hardship was worth it. I know, from a human perspective, that doesn’t make sense. It may be hard to imagine today, but these verses teach that the burdens and troubles that weigh so heavily upon us now will seem as light as a feather when God reveals His eternal glory to us.
God works all things, including our suffering, for good
Not only does God have great things in store for us in the future, but He also works now through our sufferings for our good. The Bible says in Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” We have no reason to fear that our trials will bring us to our demise, since God has a way of working such situations out for good. As Joseph said to his brothers who sold him into slavery, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20).
What is the good that God intends for us?
Although God does not promise that our circumstances will improve,
He does promise that our circumstances will improve us,
So that we become “conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29).
Trials are God’s way of making us more Christ-like.
It’s crucial that we try to learn something from our trials.
While learning is important, God intends so much more than just to teach us a lesson. He wants to make us resemble our Savior in our attitude, desires, actions, thoughts, and words.
God empowers you for victory, even in the midst of suffering.
What if your trial is lifelong? What if your temptations will never go away? What if there is no light at the end of the tunnel? Is any thought of victory hopeless?
Paul gives us a resounding no. “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37). Notice that Paul doesn’t say “out of all these things,” or, “away from all these things,” but, “in all these things.” Right there in the middle of your suffering – no matter how intense it is (see 8:35) – you can be more than a conqueror.
How? Not through your own strength, but “through Him who loved us.”
God empowers us to stand firm the midst of suffering –
We will be victorious, whether the trial comes to an end or not.
I wish I could tell you that the Spaffords never had another gut-wrenching trial. But tragedy hit the Spafford family another time, too. The Spaffords’ only son, also named Horatio, succumbed to scarlet fever at the tender age of 4.
I can’t guarantee you that once you get through the trial you’re in that your life will be fine and dandy the rest of the way. But I can guarantee you that God can work through it for your good and His glory.
How do I know this?
Because He did it through Jesus!
Our Savior faced the worst suffering anyone has ever experienced – a torturous death, and the helplessness of His Father turning away. Yet, through that suffering God brought salvation to the world.
If God can work the cross for good, then He can
– And He promises that He will –
Work the crosses that you bear for good, too.
This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”