When suffering is not wrong…
All too frequently I assume that if there is suffering or a trial of some sort in my life or the lives of those I love or in the lives of those I am responsible for as a church leader – I assume that something is wrong.
Are you ever like this too?
When we have to make a decision and then after that decision things don’t go as smoothly as we would like them to, we can find ourselves re-considering whether we made the right decision after-all.
We feel this because we think that if we made the right decision then why is this circumstance feeling so hard, why did I get sick, why did that accident happen, why, why….?
When God called Nadine and I to come and serve Him by serving Oasis Church in Amanzimtoti I needed to sell my stake in a business so that we could buy a house to live in. We knew God had spoken, what had been a 15yr journey of working out my sense of call had become clear as we were called by Oasis Church and sent by Jubilee Community Church in 2003…
And then it happened! I had sold my shares in a business to someone so as to pay for the house. The agreement was signed and sealed and on that basis we bought our home…
However, then the trial started as the person I’d sold the stake in the business to began to delay proceedings and payment.
Eventually after delaying and delaying he eventually reneged on the deal entirely and we had a house that we had moved into but didn’t have the money to pay for it and couldn’t afford to have a bond big enough to pay for it!
Why? Why Lord? Did we make a mistake? We thought we had heard the Spirit’s leading in coming, in finding the house, in finding a buyer for my stake in the business….why this, and why now?
Today in my reading of Matthew 4:1 I was struck by these words;
“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”
You don’t see that on Jesus t-shirts and bumper stickers and Pinterest posters!
We don’t like the idea that suffering can come from the hand of our loving Father through the agency of evil. But read it again, Jesus was lead by the Holy Spirit into a place of temptation by the devil.
It reminds me of Jospeh’s declaration to his brothers at the end of his tumultuous and tragic journey from his dad’s house to the palace in Egypt- “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good.” (Genesis 50:20a in NLT)
Suffering and trials are never pleasant but they can produce incredible fruit that doesn’t grow under any other circumstances, fruit/character that our loving Heavenly Father wants for us and wants in our lives (Hebrews 12:7-11)
I remember that after struggling with our crisis for a number of months worrying and at times waving my fists at my Father, I had a moment where I stopped fighting the circumstance which actually I knew wasn’t ultimately the making of this man but actually under the sweet sovereignty of my loving Father and I came to appreciate that my Father had brought me to this place for His purposes in my life, to produce the type of fruit that only grows in contexts like this…
Remarkably, not long after that ‘aha moment’ another buyer emerged and the deal was cancelled with the first guy and another was concluded and the money was paid and we could move on.
Jesus was lead by the Spirit into a trial for something within the purposes of Father God, could it be possible that a trial you are in might be similar? Hebrews 12:11 makes it clear that the fruit that could come from enduring a trial only comes to those who have been ‘trained by it’.
Will you be trained by it if all you ever want is for the trial to stop, if all you could ever consider is that this hard thing is the work of the devil (which it may well be but still under the loving control of the sovereignty of Your Heavenly Father)?
We are suffering averse, I know I am! But a truly biblical perspective can help us in our suffering and can alert us to possibilities that could transform the impact on us from something that is merely negative to something that God uses for incredible good.
By Gareth Bowley