Simple Ways A Christian Can Navigate Through Suffering: Part I
I am a Christian. By this, I mean that I follow Jesus. I believe Jesus is the one, true Son of the one, true God and I believe that Jesus is the only way for humanity to make it to heaven. I am also suffering greatly. Since my diagnosis of Stage IV cancer eleven months ago, the pain I have undergone has increased rapidly. Now, it is at the peak, yet I know the peak will continue to rise. I cannot go to work any longer and am presently under hospice care at my home. These circumstances not only affect the physical pain, but provide a variety of new emotional and psychological pains to deal with. And through all of this, there is a constant spiritual struggle between God and me.
There are doubtless many other people in the world who suffer far greater than I do. And yet most of the people I know cannot relate to the level of suffering I have. But we do not boast in our sufferings. I know that every follower of Jesus will undergo times of suffering and it is to that audience that I write. Regardless of the level of suffering, I want to share some amazing things that God has shown me over the past few weeks.
The first thing God has shown me while I navigate through suffering is to focus on personal, spiritual growth with Him. There is no shortage of fast-paced happenings in our world that keep us from being still and being quiet. Even in my most fruitful times of ministry, I can look back and notice that I was still missing quite a bit due to my lack of solitude and silence.
Psalm 46:10 - Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth!
We are commanded to be still. The Bible provides us many examples of times when stillness was the catalyst to an increased relationship with God. Jesus often walked somewhere to go be alone and pray. It is clear that not all of us are very obedient to this command to be still. It appears that many others were not obedient in this either. What God showed me is that sometimes He creates stillness in our lives. And while this stillness is something we wrestle with, it is something that we can benefit from. Paul, for example, had a dynamic fast - paced ministry traveling around planting churches. But over and over again, God allows Paul to be put in prison. When we read Paul's letters from prison, we can detect a disdain for prison. No one wants to suffer in prison. And yet much of the New Testament canon that Paul wrote was written during his time in prison.
There are times when God forces stillness on our lives when things are going well. Like Paul or John. John was a faithful elder to the churches in Asia Minor and we have no indication that anything was wrong. But suddenly he was arrested and sent to the deserted island of Patmos. It was there that he wrote the book of Revelation. God forced a long stillness on his life so that God could reveal what might be the most dynamic and colorful book in the Bible. Indeed most of our understanding of the afterlife, the end times, heaven and hell all come from this that was revealed to John.
There are other times when God forces stillness on our lives because things are not going well. Jonah is an easy example of this. He was clearly disobedient to God and so God forced stillness on him: three days and three nights in the belly of a fish.
The point is this: if you find yourself in grave suffering, do not first curse it, but first determine if this is not a gift of God for your growth. Is it possible that you were doing something wrong and God needed to redirect you? Is it possible that things were going right in your eyes, but God needed to get your attention? Is there a sin issue God is trying to point out to you? Even when everything seemed right, Job finds himself learning so much more about his relationship with God through the suffering he endured.
It seems to me that if we constantly found times of stillness, solitude and silence in our lives and were disciplined to stay in them, that God would use those for our growth without having to force stillness upon us. Please understand what I am NOT saying. I am NOT saying that if you spend five minutes in solitude with God every day you will never get cancer or suffer. What I am saying is that God used cancer in my life to force confinement and stillness on me. I was in ministry, working for a church and my life was full of godly things, but I was not still. Getting cancer forced me to be physically and emotionally still. And it took several months after having cancer for me to realize what was happening. But now that I do understand, my relationship with Him is so much more enjoyable and rewarding.
Find solitude, silence and stillness and spend that time with God. And if you find yourself suffering, point towards God and learn how you can grow through it.
Used by permission from NewSpring Church