Suffering… Time To Dive In

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,…” ~ James 1:2

As I stated in my last few blogs we are going to spend some time looking at the whole issue of suffering. Now, let me say from the very beginning that I do not claim to have all the answers. (In fact, the next few weeks might actually prove that I don’t have any answers at all). My hope, however, is to take an honest look at suffering in the life of the believer, to confront the questions and challenges that are associated with this critical aspect of walking with Christ. Let’s be honest. In many circles we love to fake a smile and tell everyone that, “It’s all good. It’s all God.” But the reality is that many of us are silently struggling in the wake of life’s difficulties and trials. On the outside we project an image of having it all together. But on the inside we are broken, bankrupt, and bereft of any real peace or joy.

The real challenge is often found in trying to reconcile our own experiences with what we have understood (right or wrong) to be Biblical expectations. We read verses like John 10:10 but our lives don’t feel anything at all like being “abundant.” Even more amazing than the struggle is our own stubborn refusal to come out of the closet and be transparent. I am becoming increasingly convinced that we live in a day when most believers just want to know that they are not alone. We desperately long for the solace that comes from realizing that other people share our struggles. If anything, there is a tremendous liberty that comes when we understand that we are not unique in our wrestling with difficulty, disappointment, and despair. Many are the weary pilgrims who have travelled that path. But far too often we refuse to let down the walls, to let others know we are far from perfect and that life has left us stumbling and straining to maintain some semblance of spiritual equilibrium. If that is you, take heart. You are not alone. You are not the lone exception, the one person in the Kingdom who can’t get it together. In fact, join the club!!! There are a lot of us here but we always have room for one more 🙂

As a way of providing some perspective, you should consider this blog as a diving board. In the weeks ahead we will look at suffering as it relates to the following areas of concern:

  • Suffering is confusing.
  • Suffering is common.
  • Suffering is controlled.
  • Suffering is corrective.
  • Suffering is constructive.
  • Suffering and character.
  • Suffering can be celebrated.

As you can certainly tell, I am probably overstating things when I say “a few weeks.” But that’s fine with me. I’m not in any hurry. Not at all. If weeks turn into months, it’s all good. For the most part these upcoming blogs are my way of working through my current struggles. I am tired. I am torn. And I am longing for answers… not the traditional clichés that only serve to poison the process, but real, viable answers. For your part, you will simply be the audience that gets to watch as I wrestle against my own demons and doubts on the very public platform of the Internet. (Thanks, God. But if I am going to challenge others to discard the facade, I guess that means I have to be the first to leap off the cliff.)

So, there you go. I’m not sure what this will mean for all of us but I am ready to dive in to the deep waters of suffering. For myself, I am hoping that the outcome of all this intentional concentration will be a little bit more understanding and a whole lot more growth. Also, let me encourage those of you who read these devotionals to post your own comments and observations. I don’t want (or need) you to pontificate or preach at me but I would love to hear some of your own personal experiences. Besides, speaking for myself, the responses from other people have been the biggest blessing that has come from these blogs. I have gleaned so much from many of you who have taken the time to add your perspective. Thank you in advance for your contributions. I am excited about taking this journey together. Take care and God bless.

P.S. – Just so you know… I have finals in 3 weeks (all A’s in 4 classes at the age of 45) and I am really, really busy at work right now. My wife is cancer free but she still has one remaining surgery before the process is completed. I can’t promise you that I will be able to maintain this blog on a daily basis. I will do my best but it’s probably not going to happen. Thanks for all your prayers and understanding.

If you enjoyed this devotional, here are two others you might like as well:

1. “When The Way Gets Tough”… http://justathoughtdevotionals.com/2011/10/01/when-the-way-gets-tough/

2. “Suffering? One Man’s Response”… http://justathoughtdevotionals.com/2012/01/18/suffering-one-mans-response/