Share Your Troubles With Others. But Don’t Forget To Do This…

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It’s good to share your troubles with others. But don’t forget to connect your pain to Jesus.  Here’s what I mean:

I would not want anyone in our church to be fearful to talk about sad or painful things they are going through. Sometimes we hesitate to share our burdens because others can be quick to judge or give advice or tell us we should have more faith. Or we don’t talk about our suffering because we don’t want to burden others or sound like we’re complaining. So when someone sincerely inquires, we should tell them honestly what we’re going through.

Usually when people say, “Hi, how are you?” they’re not usually looking for us to give them an in-depth report. It’s just a greeting and all they are looking for is for us to reply “Fine, how are you doing?”. But when someone seriously inquires we should tell them. Be honest. If you’re in a lot of pain tell them. If you’re being tempted to fear tell them. Hopefully they will have compassion and genuinely want to bear your burden with you.

But when you talk about your struggles, from time to time connect them to Jesus. In other words bring Jesus into the picture. Try to express some kind of faith or trust in Jesus.

For example you might say, “Thanks for asking. I’ve really been hurting ever since the accident. The pain in my neck has been excruciating and nothing seems to help. But I just keep praying and I believe Jesus is for me and working all this for my good.”

Or, “Our son is really doing poorly. He doesn’t appear to be saved. He’s gotten into drugs and I am really sad and I’m really concerned about him. But I know Jesus loves him even more than I do and I’m just continuing to pray that the Lord will save him.”

I’m not advocating putting on a fake smile and giving a robotic Pollyanna I feel good-I feel great-I feel wonderful kind of happy Christian response that doesn’t admit to suffering. Neither am I saying we should mention the Lord every single time someone asks us how we’re doing. But I think it’s good to make connections to Jesus and express our faith. Especially so in our private times with the Lord.

Years ago I spent a lot of time counseling an individual who had no problem pouring out complaints and talking about how miserable their life was. And I was sympathetic to this person’s afflictions as were many others. The only problem was this individual never seemed to connect their pain or struggles to Jesus. They never mentioned anything about believing that God is good or faithful or that he would use their suffering for his glory. They just constantly complained about their misery and how hard their life was.

Don’t fall off the horse on either side. Don’t try to bear your pain all alone. Share your pain. Especially when someone sincerely inquires. But connect your pain to Jesus from time to time. Join your faith in Jesus to your honest report of your suffering. Express both your pain and your trust in Jesus.

What The Arrows Of Affliction Prepare Us For

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“Do you feel marked for sorrow? Are you the target of the arrows of affliction? Are you punished more than others? Do not sorrow. The arrows of affliction are sent by covenant love to prepare you for a special work that will yield great blessing from your Heavenly Father.” — CH Spurgeon

Our heavenly Father does a thousand things through the hard times he takes us through. He increasingly shapes us into the likeness of Christ. He creates humble dependence upon him. And in the fires and floods he draws near to comfort us. He’s the Father of mercies and God of all comfort. Many times I’ve cried out to him for his comfort, and have found it true that he comforts us in all our affliction. Our sad times and hard times aren’t wasted. Our Father also prepares us to be vessels of comfort for others.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.  If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort. 2 CO 1:3-7

When someone’s been through something it makes their sympathy that much more powerful. When someone who’s never experienced a hard time like the one I’m in offers comfort, I appreciate it, but if someone who’s been through a similar experience encourages me it means so much more.

When I was 26, my younger brother took his life. Numerous times over the years I’ve been able to comfort people who lost loved ones because I know how it feels.

My wife has suffered with depression and anxiety for over 20 years and God has used her to help and strengthen many.

Parents who have challenges with their children can sympathize and encourage other parents with kids who aren’t doing well. If we never have any challenges with our kids it’s easy to become proud and not understand what other parents are going through. We can think that if those other parents just did the right things, their kids would turn out good like ours. But when we’ve been through the pain and sadness of a rebellious child, we’re much more sympathetic to other parents and much less likely to judge them.

A police officer friend told me that before a policeman is allowed to use a taser he himself must first be tasered.

When we’ve seen God’s faithfulness to us in our afflictions, then we’ll be in a good position to promise others that God will be faithful to them in theirs.

And Paul says that when we suffer we’ll be able to comfort those in ANY affliction – even though we don’t experience their exact pain, we know what it is to suffer and we know what it is to find God’s comfort in that suffering.

Your pain isn’t meaningless. God has a great work ahead for you. “The arrows of affliction are sent by covenant love to prepare you for a special work that will yield great blessing from your Heavenly Father.”

Ever Wish You Could Grow Wings And Just Fly Away?

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Ever feel like David and just wish you could fly away?

And I say, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove!
I would fly away and be at rest;
yes, I would wander far away;
I would lodge in the wilderness PS 55:6-7

There have been times I’ve felt like that. I’ve wished I could sprout wings and fly far away. I’ve wished I could move to some distant town where nobody knew me, change my name, and start a new life. I’ve wished I could escape from problems and pain and sadness and dealing with people and hole up in a cabin in the woods somewhere.

But there’s really no escaping sadness and pain in this life. There have been times I’ve felt like quitting. Felt like giving up my faith in Jesus. But every time I have, Jesus’ question to Peter and Peter’s answer comes ringing in my ears:

After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” John 6:66-69

Where else would I go? Jesus has the words of eternal life. And I have come to know that he is the Messiah, the Savior, the Way the Truth and the Life. Where else am I going to go? Back to the bars? Back to my life of sin? Back to the world – that broken empty well that promises happiness but never delivers? Am I going to go to some other religion? I can’t do that. I know the truth. Where else am I going to go? I know that Jesus is my only hope. As much pain as I might be in at the moment, I know that he is my only refuge.

It’s easy to have faith when things are going great. It’s easy to praise God and be thankful when all is going our way. But to trust and praise him in the midst of affliction brings him so much glory. When we suffer, especially in the midst of tragedy and intense pain, we can feel like doing what Job’s wife suggested: “Curse God and die.” Or we can respond like Job: “Though he slay me, yet will I praise him.”

In my forty years as a Christian, I’ve seen believers respond to tragedy and tough times both ways. I’ve seen some become bitter, lose their faith, and stop following Jesus, saying how could a good God allow this? How could a loving God allow me to go through such pain? God didn’t answer my prayers. I believed in him but he didn’t come through.

I’ve also seen believers go through horrific tragedies and yet despite unimaginable sadness, yet through their tears, still lift their voices to Jesus in praise and declare that Jesus is sovereign, wise, loving and good. What glory they bring to God as they lift their hands in worship, even as tears stream down their cheeks. How they honor the Lord! I can’t wait to see the day when Jesus wipes every tear from their eyes and crowns them with glory. And if an angel standing by asks “Why didn’t you give up on Jesus? Why did you keep praising and trusting him?” they’ll answer “Where else would I have gone? Jesus has the words of eternal life. He is the Holy One of God, my Lord, my King. He was my only hope.”

Where else are you going to go?

Jesus is the fountain of life. Every other “fountain” is an empty well. Every other road is a dead end. Pour out your grief to Jesus. Pour out your complaint to him. Ask him your questions. Ask him why you have to go through what you have to go through. Yet resolve to say, “Where else would I go, Jesus? You have the words of eternal life. You are my only hope.” Ask Jesus for comfort and peace. Ask him to bear your sadness. And ask him for grace to praise him in the midst of your affliction.

There’s nowhere else to go. So cling to the one whose everlasting arms of love are upholding you. Run to the one who truly knows your pain and longs to comfort you. Run to the one who is your refuge and strength, your very present help in trouble. Run to the one who has the words of eternal life.

7 Benefits Of Going Through Hard Times

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Everything God does in our lives is for our benefit, including suffering.  Though they never seem pleasant at the time, hard times produce wonderful benefits in our lives. On Monday I mentioned one benefit – affliction drives us to God’s word. Here are seven more benefits of suffering:

Affliction drives us to God in prayer

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. James 5:13

Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. PS 107:6

When the sun’s shining and everything’s going our way, we don’t feel our need for God. But desperate times lead to desperate prayer. When we’re helpless to change our situation, we cry out to our Savior, who delivers us from our distress.

Affliction humbles us

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 2 CO 12:7

Afflictions remind us of how fragile we are. It keeps us lowly. Reminds us that everything we have is a gift. Pride leads to a fall, but God gives grace to the humble. Affliction positions us to receive grace.

Affliction makes us rely on Christ’s power

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 CO 12:9

When we realize how powerless we are, then Jesus can display his might in our lives. When we’ve exhausted all our own resources Jesus rides in at just the right moment, like the hero in a movie who comes to rescue someone as the train is bearing down on them.

Affliction brings us the comfort of God himself

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction…, 2 Co 1:3

As well meaning as others are, there are times when no human words can comfort. But God himself comforts us when we cry out to him in our pain. The God of ALL COMFORT, the one who knows exactly what our broken hearts need, comforts us in ALL our affliction. The One who fashioned our hearts, who knows our every drop of sadness, knows the exact medicine we need to comfort us.

Affliction gives us compassion for others

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 2 Co 1:3

When someone else has been through the same thing, their words can really comfort us. Though your pain is horrific now, someday God will use you to bring his comfort to someone else who suffers the fury of depression or the agony of a child who rebels like yours.

Affliction produces endurance and patience

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, RO 5:3

The only way to get patience and endurance is by being placed in situations that require it. But it will be worth it in the end, because it is by patiently enduring in faith that we’ll enter heaven.

Affliction reminds us that this world is not our home

For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. HEB 13:14

As many blessings as this world has, it’s not our home. Affliction weans us from this world, reminds us how transitory it is, and makes us long for heaven, for that day when we’ll see Jesus face to face and he will personally wipe away every tear from our eyes.

Bless the Lord oh my soul and forget none of his benefits. Especially those benefits he brings us through hard times.

The Thing We Need Most When Life’s Storms Are Raging

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John Newton, the author of Amazing Grace, wrote a letter he called “The Benefits of Affliction,” in which in which he says one benefit of affliction is that it drives us to God’s word. Or at least it should. When we suffer, there is nothing we need more than God’s word. Nothing has carried me through life’s storms like God’s promises. In Psalm 119:49 the Psalmist says:

Remember your word to your servant, in which you have made me hope.

Whether we’re weathering a tempest or plodding through a desert we need hope, and nothing gives us hope like God’s Word. He pledges to be with us when we pass through floods and flames. He guarantees he’ll give us a future and a hope. He promises to comfort and strengthen, to be faithful, and watch over us day and night. He says he’ll hear our cries, give us peace and all we need. He assures us he never makes a promise he can’t keep and he’ll never change his mind about a promise he’s made.

When we suffer we need God’s word to remind us that we have a sympathetic high priest who lives to intercede for us. That we have a friend closer than a brother, who’s been through what we’re going through and knows what it’s like.

Here’s what to do when the wind is howling all around us:

But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;b
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:21-23

In these verses Jeremiah says the key to having “hope” is to “call to mind” the truth of God’s Word. To intentionally recall that God’s love and mercies never cease but are new every day. To call to mind God’s great faithfulness. If we never take in God’s truth, we won’t have it to call to mind when the storm hits.

There is nothing we need more in affliction than God’s word. We need to remind ourselves of Scripture’s bedrock truths that God is sovereign, loving and wise. We need to take ourselves by the collar, and shout to our doubts: Hey self! Nothing is too hard for God. His arm is not too short to save. He is near to the broken hearted. Those who seek the Lord lack no good thing. It says so in his Word!

In affliction we must cling to God’s Word, because this is where Satan attacks. “Did God really say…..?” was how he challenged Eve and he uses the same tactic today. He tries to get us to doubt the truth of Scripture. Is God really faithful? Does he really care? You sure he hasn’t abandoned you?….The antidote is to take up the shield of faith to extinguish these fiery darts. And where does faith come from? From hearing – and hearing from God’s word.

The best thing we can do to prepare for affliction is to take in, meditate on, and memorize God’s word. And the best thing in the midst of affliction is to do the same. The temptation in tough times is to turn to other things than the Lord for relief. Let your pain drive you to God’s word.

Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word.
It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes. PS 119.67, 71