Archives for posts with tag: Joseph

Suffering is a universal, shared, human experience. Everyone suffers at different times and to varying degrees – it’s something we can all relate to. Sometimes the pain is so overwhelming and sharp that it leaves us feeling like we can’t move forward with life. Suffering leaves us dazed, scared, weak, depressed, confused. A question that often gets asked in the middle of our trouble, more so when it’s especially poignant: Where is God in this suffering?

So where is He? Where is God in poverty and starvation? Where is He when a baby dies? Why does He seem silent while abuse takes place or addiction overruns and ruins families? Will He not lift a finger to relieve cancer and chronic illness that drags on for year after miserable year?

The evangelical in me wants to point a finger squarely at Satan; to say that God has nothing to do with suffering but to use it for good. And He does use it for good. But when I look at the way God works in the Bible, I see a God who not just allows suffering to happen, but proactively brings it to our lives to accomplish a certain goal. A King who does sometimes choose to inflict pain to bring about His will. So is God not good?

Jonah refuses God’s request and tries to sail away in hiding. God sends a massive storm. Intense fear is suffered by not only Jonah, but by the other people on the boat who had nothing to do with Jonah’s disobedience. Jonah is thrown overboard to save the ship and is swallowed by a whale. He suffers inside – in dank, dark, disgusting fish guts – for three days, praying for another chance. God grants him this prayer and the Ninevites hear Jonah’s message of God’s love and concern for them; hearts are changed, lives are saved in an eternal way.

Joseph grew up being favored by both his father and by God. His brothers resent and hate him; they sell him into slavery. He is falsely accused, stripped of his rights and his freedom, thrown in jail and forgotten about for many years. He always believed he was destined for greatness and didn’t become bitter or outraged in his suffering. He maintains his hope and people notice. He gets released from prison and promoted to second in command of Egypt. He is reunited with his family. Hearts are changed, lives are saved in an eternal way.

Jesus leaves heaven to come TO the suffering. Like a firefighter running in when everyone else is trying to get out. He didn’t pad himself with luxury or even basic comforts. He looks for people who are physically, emotionally and mentally sick and afflicted. He goes to them with the intent of taking on their burdens, makes them his own, is shamed and ridiculed by those same people – ignored or despised by everyone else. He is beaten, tortured and executed on a cross. Hearts are changed, lives are saved in an eternal way.

sufferingSuffering is everywhere and it’s a part of life. But not in a vague “everything happens for a reason” kind of way where we don’t seek to assume what is happening through the pain. Suffering is exactly the opposite. It is very purposeful, intentional, and anything but vague. God is in the suffering. Right there in the middle. He’s always working for our good, but that does not mean He’s always working for our comfort or relief.

When we are buried in grief and sadness – and let’s not dismiss how deep and dark our pain can be – we feel like what we’re going through is the worst suffering we could encounter. I think this is where we can misunderstand God and His love. What we believe is the worst suffering (death, cancer, affliction, poverty, crisis, etc) is actually not the worst suffering. Separation from God is the worst suffering. Eternal separation.Not whatever is happening here and now, no matter how dark. God can use our suffering here on earth to spare us eternal suffering. And, as we see in the examples above, sometimes our suffering is the medium through which God changes others’ hearts and saves lives.

Think about one of your dark times. When you came out the other end, you were not the same person. In the toughest times, we either bend and break to God’s will and develop an insight and maturity unmatched to that of our former self or we dig our heels in and put up walls. But we do not stay the same. We’ve seen too much; we’ve become aware of our limits and powerlessness in times of our greatest desperation. Hopefully it leads us to a knowledge of our need for a Savior.

If we believe that our earthly suffering, which is surely temporary even if it is long-lived, can bring about relief from eternal suffering, can we manage our pain better in our darkness? Can we glean some hope in knowing that the pain will not last forever? Will we allow our hearts to be necessarily broken and softened or will we become more proud and hardened? Are we willing to suffer for the sake of someone else’s life beyond this earth?

I have borne witness on several occasions to God’s people handling immense and extreme suffering with grace, truth and a light that spreads hope and points to the Lord. All suffering – all things in life – are meant to bring glory to God. When we seek and proclaim God’s glory through suffering or by the testimonies of those who suffer, we are doing what God wants us to with pain. Sometimes, our pain isn’t even about us. Can we still proclaim God’s goodness when intense sorrow enters our lives for the purpose of impacting someone else’s life?

One thing I am convinced of: We must not let each other suffer alone. Every time I see God glorified through life’s pains, I also see God’s people standing alongside those who are suffering. Through prayer and fasting, in bringing meals and incidentals, with time spent and relationships strengthened. And how God is glorified in those acts alone!

Suffering will happen in your life. What will you do with it? Will your question be, “Where is God in this suffering?” or will you have some degree of expectancy, “Whose heart and life will be changed through this pain?” Because God is certainly at work; we need eyes to see a bigger picture, humility to endure without getting lost in self, and devotion to a God who is always working for our good even with pain in the process.

Holy smokes. I’ve been in anticipation of today’s Advent activity all day. You would have been, too, if you knew THIS was coming:

Mary, Joseph and the babe

Mary, Joseph and the babe

Boy, am I sure glad I married a man who’s not too cool for his family. What a guy. By the way, Harper is still running around in her Mary getup, stopping every so often to take a knee and offer up a prayer with her little hands pointing to the sky. It’s pretty funny.

Mother Mary

Mother Mary

Day 3: A Savior is born!

Read: Luke 2.4-7
Talk About: Why was Jesus born on earth?
                         Why did he come to earth as a little baby?
Activity: Act out the story of Jesus’ birth
 
They're the best.

They’re the best.