Suffering Can Build Strength

Child in medicine maskThere are times of suffering in my life that I thought was about to destroy me. I’ve not experienced a life-threatening illness, but one my kids has. I’ve not had a life-threatening injury and been air-lifted to a trauma center, one of my kids has. I have also had some personal suffering that has rocked the foundations of my world. I have been speechless and silent before the Lord. I have screamed at Him for help. I have screamed at Him in anger. He has NEVER wasted my times of suffering. He has NEVER left me when I was in the middle of suffering. I’m sure I’ve left Him a few times, but quickly realized the stupidity of that. I don’t always understand suffering, but I trust Him. I don’t understand why He doesn’t prevent it in the first place. I don’t understand why He doesn’t “swoop in” and save the day. During my suffering, He’s taught me to trust His heart even when I can’t see His hand at work.

Paul was a passionate follower of Jesus, a teacher & preacher. He started churches and served them and poured his heart and soul into them. They still didn’t seem to get it. He made his case again to them about his journey with the Lord through suffering. He wasn’t going to quit and he made that clear. He had suffered much but he wasn’t about to quit. Check this out….

24 Five times I received the forty lashes minus one from the Jews. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I received a stoning. Three times I was shipwrecked. I have spent a night and a day in the open sea. 26 On frequent journeys, I faced dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my own people, dangers from Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers at sea, and dangers among false brothers; 27 toil and hardship, many sleepless nights, hunger and thirst, often without food, cold, and without clothing. 28 Not to mention other things, there is the daily pressure on me: my concern for all the churches. (2 Corinthians 11:24-28 CSB)

Suffering can make you bitter or better – it’s up to the sufferer.

Suffering can give you new perspective.

Suffering can give you purpose.

Suffering can help save.

Out of my pain came my purpose…His Purpose for me. My purpose on this earth is to live to honor God and make Him known. I can’t stand during suffering without His strength. I remember another verse by Paul….

13 I am able to do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13 CSB)

….and another:

28 We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28 CSB)

This topic brought to my mind a song I heard years ago after suffering from a job loss….

His Strength Is Perfect by Steven Curtis Chapman

His strength is perfect when our strength is gone
He’ll carry us when we can’t carry on
Raised in His power, the weak become strong
His strength is perfect, His strength is perfect

___________________

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Convinced

Discussing the truthThere are times when I simply don’t believe what I just saw. When I see a magic trick and I don’t know how the person pulled it off – I’m still convinced that he/she simply tricked me. I think this word convinced is a “1st cousin” to the word conviction. When I’m convinced about a truth it is usually related to a conviction.

Paul writes a second letter to the church at Corinth and he realized that he probably ticked some of them off or hurt their feelings with his first letter. His second letter, he doesn’t really “sugar coat” things but he does own the fact that he might have hurt them with his previous letter. Check this out…

For even if I grieved you with my letter, I don’t regret it. And if I regretted it—since I saw that the letter grieved you, yet only for a while— I now rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because your grief led to repentance. For you were grieved as God willed, so that you didn’t experience any loss from us. 10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, but worldly grief produces death. (2 Corinthians 7:8-10 CSB)

I’m not really “preachy” with my conversations. I have found that discussion and dialogue produce more long-term results than one-sided rants from the Word. That is just not my style. I am convinced that the Lord will do what He needs to do to get my attention. He will allow some crazy stuff to come my way. He will allow suffering in my life because it drives me to my knees before Him.  I don’t believe that the Lord causes the suffering but I do believe He could protect me from it (and often does), but He never wastes a moment of my suffering. He uses that to build and develop my God-honoring character that produces a repentant and moldable heart for Him.

I’m convinced that the Lord loves me more than I know how to love my kids. He showers me with grace and mercy that I don’t deserve. He is so patient with me as I keep working on my walk with Him. He is relentless in His pursuit of my heart. I have suffered and grieved in this life, and I always ended up crying out before Him seeking His help and His direction through the suffering and struggle.

I’m convinced that suffering, grief and struggle are tools meant to destroy me but end of building me and making me stronger.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Suffering Struggles

quarreled couple in their living roomWhen I think back through my life at the struggles, I get a bit tired, yet inspired. I can now see the hand of God through the struggle. At the time of struggle, I couldn’t think straight and couldn’t see His perspective. I could only muddle through the suffering. I think suffering is one of the hardest realities that everyone battles – both the Christian follower and non-believer. Suffering is not a respecter of my faith. I believe that suffering is a result of a fallen world. I do not subscribe to the angle that God causes my suffering – for me that just doesn’t fit with what I know about Him. I do believe that could prevent or stop my suffering, but He doesn’t always choose to do that. This is a hard topic because when I revisit my struggles – even though they are in the rear-view mirror – it brings up a lot of painful memories.

Paul speaks about suffering in the opening chapter of his second letter to the church at Corinth. His writing has helped shape my view of suffering. Check this out…

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ overflow to us, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation. If we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings that we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that as you share in the sufferings, so you will also share in the comfort. (2 Corinthians 1:3-7 CSB)

I know people who have suffered more than I have. I know people who are in the middle of suffering right now. I don’t have all the answers for people in the middle of suffering, but I do know that the Lord never wastes times of suffering. I’ve learned more about His heart in the middle of my past experiences with suffering. When I’m on this side of suffering, it looks so different.

I know that one of the big wins in my personal sufferings is my ability to help others who are suffering. I have learned some life lessons in my suffering that I’m not sure I would have learned any other way. I started spending time in the Word of God many years ago and the Lord built into me some perspective and inner strength that I didn’t even know I had. My beliefs in Him are more solid today because of my sufferings in the past. I choose to trust Him with today and every day. During suffering and struggle, I choose to trust him. When I can’t see a good outcome, or ending to my suffering – I will still choose to trust Him.

This is not all that easy because suffering and struggle take its toll, but I will still trust Him with whatever comes my way. My faith is stronger because of struggle and suffering in my life. I hate to admit that, but it’s true. He never leaves me or forsakes me in the middle of struggle and suffering.

Pressing On

Dwayne

Mercy, Refuge & Rescue

 

God's mercy at the CrossI can remember in my life in the not-so-distant past when I felt like I could not stand under the strain of suffering. I remember having a job one day and the next it was gone. I remember clearly the devastation of divorce nearly 25 years ago. I remember the news of my son having cancer. I remember the call from the ENT telling me that they are air-lifting my son to Atlanta because of injuries he incurred when he fell from a tree.  I could go on and on about suffering and struggle in my life, but those are in my top 5. I have learned that my strength to stand comes from kneeling down before the Lord in surrender and worship. I believe that King David felt the same way. He was hiding in a cave and penned a great psalm/prayer of mercy, refuge & rescue. Check this out…

I cry aloud to the Lord;
    I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy.
I pour out before him my complaint;
    before him I tell my trouble.

When my spirit grows faint within me,
    it is you who watch over my way.
In the path where I walk
    people have hidden a snare for me.
Look and see, there is no one at my right hand;
    no one is concerned for me.
I have no refuge;
    no one cares for my life.

I cry to you, Lord;
    I say, ‘You are my refuge,
    my portion in the land of the living.’

Listen to my cry,
    for I am in desperate need;
rescue me from those who pursue me,
    for they are too strong for me.
Set me free from my prison,
    that I may praise your name.
Then the righteous will gather about me
    because of your goodness to me. (Psalm 142:1-7 NIV)

I can do nothing without the Lord. I can’t possibly navigate through the ups and downs of life without Him. The longer I walk with Him daily, the more convinced of this I am. His Presence and His Strength are beyond measuring. He helps me understand the struggle. He helps me through. I believe in His mercy. I believe He is my refuge – I can ALWAYS lean into Him. I can always count on Him for rescue. The way He supplies mercy, refuge and rescue does not always come when I command or ask – His timing and His plan is always spot on – even when I don’t understand.  I look back at the big struggles in my life and see how the Lord made good out of bad situations. His plan is way bigger than my plan. He’s used my struggles to teach me and build me for sure.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Praying For Peace

 

Pretty girl praying.Elderly man prayingI see peace as a “state mutual harmony, and a state of serenity and tranquility”. This is a word that means different things to a lot of different people. I love having peace in my life, buy sometimes peace is not quiet or boring. Sometimes “mutual harmony” is a bit loud and even a struggle. I used to connect peace with quiet and I still do sometimes. Peace is much deeper than silence. Peace is a matter of my spiritual heart condition. When my heart is at peace, I am trusting the Lord with whatever is getting me anxious.

David was evidently heading to the Temple when He wrote this Psalm. David is a warrior and has fought many bloody battles and has seen much bloodshed. In the midst of this assent to worship he is asking the people to join him in prayer. Check this out…

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
    ‘May those who love you be secure.
May there be peace within your walls
    and security within your citadels.’
For the sake of my family and friends,
    I will say, ‘Peace be within you.’
For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
    I will seek your prosperity. (Psalm 122:6-9 NIV)

I need to be a prayer warrior for peace. I can pray for peace for my family, my community, my state, my country & the world. Praying for peace and seeking to be peaceful are two different things. I believe that the Lord loves peace. I believe He restores my soul and nourishes my heart during peace. During times of struggle and angst, He does some of His best work building me. I feel like I’ve grown more in times of suffering and struggle for sure than in times of peace. During struggle and hardship, I found myself clinging to Him – holding on as tight as possible. I learned through struggle and suffering that He doesn’t leave me. He is always there. At times during the struggle, it felt as if He had left, but He had not. My feelings are fickle and I’ve learned that when the Lord says He is with me, then I can count on that. It may not “feel” like He is with me; but He sure is!

I love the greeting that Paul ends his second letter to the church as Thessalonica with. Check this out…

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you. (1 Thessalonians 3:16 NIV)

Pressing On!

Dwayne

 

 

Sustain

golden piano pedals of a concert grand pianoMany years ago, I took piano lessons. I was very young, like 12 or 13 I think. I remember wanting to learn to use the sustain pedal, but I had to learn the basics first. I don’t play a lot on the piano today, but when I do play I use the sustain pedal. The piano sounds bad if the sustain pedal isn’t working properly. The purpose of the sustain pedal on a piano is to let the corresponding strings from the notes played resonate their sound and blend into the next notes to be played. The sustain pedal gives the music a continual smooth sound. It is the pedal to the far right.

The word sustain has many meanings, but the most common one is to keep something or someone from giving way under a load of pressure. The pillars of a building sustain that structure. A person with tremendous inner strength is sustained through tough times.

King David was fleeing for his life from King Saul who was intensely jealous of him. David didn’t always know who he could trust. David was hiding among the Ziphites and they reported him to Saul. David was just trying to stay alive and he penned the words to Psalm 54. Check this out…

Save me, O God, by your name;
    vindicate me by Your might.
Hear my prayer, O God;
    listen to the words of my mouth.

Arrogant foes are attacking me;
    ruthless people are trying to kill me –
    people without regard for God.

Surely God is my help;
    the Lord is the one who sustains me. (Psalm 54:1-4 NIV)

I believe that the Lord still sustains me in times of struggle. He reminds me of the journey. He reminds me who I am and Who I belong too.  He gives me strength that sustains me. He gives me wisdom and insight that also sustains me. I’m not sure I could put one foot in front of the other if He didn’t sustain me.

As I face a new day today, I’m relying on Him Who sustains me. He speaks truth into my life. He leads me to places of peace. He reminds me that He is always present through whatever life throws at me. He sustains me in the face of suffering and struggle because of Who He is not who I am.

Pressing On!

Dwayne