In no way is this meant to be a voice of condemnation, for I am the worst of us! However, I have personally come to a place of seeing my deep need for Jesus through trials He has put into my life. No man or woman wants to suffer, but if suffering is the thing that awakens our slumber to truly beholding Jesus for who He is, then it’s worth it.
For whatever reason, this passage from Isaiah has repeatedly come back to me in my walk with the Lord. It revels the sweetness of the love between God and His bride. They had a beautiful relationship where Israel followed her God with a sincere devotion. God delighted in caring for His people as His beloved and He offered exceedingly great provision. He made a home for His people no matter where He led her; no matter how great the darkness was He lavished good things upon His bride. It shows how much He valued the faith His bride had in Him that He remarks of His remembrance of her love. Yet it’s perhaps the deepest heartbreak in history. “This is what the Lord says:
“‘I remember the devotion of your youth,
how as a bride you loved me
and followed me through the wilderness,
through a land not sown.
Israel was holy to the Lord,
the firstfruits of his harvest;
all who devoured her were held guilty,
and disaster overtook them,’”
declares the Lord.
Hear the word of the Lord, you descendants of Jacob,
all you clans of Israel.
This is what the Lord says:
“What fault did your ancestors find in me,
that they strayed so far from me?
They followed worthless idols
and became worthless themselves.
They did not ask, ‘Where is the Lord,
who brought us up out of Egypt
and led us through the barren wilderness,
through a land of deserts and ravines,
a land of drought and utter darkness,
a land where no one travels and no one lives?’
I brought you into a fertile land
to eat its fruit and rich produce.
But you came and defiled my land
and made my inheritance detestable.
“Therefore I bring charges against you again,”
declares the Lord.
“And I will bring charges against your children’s children.
Cross over to the coasts of Cyprus and look,
send to Kedar and observe closely;
see if there has ever been anything like this:
Has a nation ever changed its gods?
(Yet they are not gods at all.)
But my people have exchanged their glorious God
for worthless idols.
Be appalled at this, you heavens,
and shudder with great horror,”
declares the Lord.
“My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me,
the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns,
broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”
Our feeble human minds cannot truly grasp the entirety of all that God is doing in our suffering and hardship. One thing can be sure though; our suffering often leads us to see what is in our heart of hearts. How easy it is to say that God is good when we are dating or married to a godly spouse, have a job we love, live in a comfortable home and maybe even have kids. But where do our hearts go when we are forced to wait for these things or when something comes into the picture to disrupt the order of our lives? On this side of eternity, we will always have things we desire and often feel entitled to. Have you ever thought, though, what kind of person you would be if God handed you everything you ever wanted when you wanted it? On the other side of eternity, when we see Jesus face to face, will we be able to answer Him as His faithful servant? Our allegiance to something isn’t established until it is tested. In the passage from Isaiah, God remarks how uncommon it was for a people to change their gods (as if there are actually any to choose from besides the one God). However, amidst how uncommon and seemingly unlikely it was, Israel found a way. Ever since the beginning of creation, man has been set on striving to find our own fulfillment or recognition outside of God. We want it all. We want what God gives us in Himself and in His riches, yet we also long to be in control thus making us susceptible to the enemy’s lure of sin.
“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” 1 Peter 4:12-13
I don’t want to put my singleness in the same category of Christ’s suffering, but don’t we all share in Christ’s suffering if we are denying the mindset of the world in order that we can be obedient to the Spirit? Singleness, sickness, loss of relationship, all of these seasons put us in a position of rejoicing in all that Jesus is for us. I do not know the reason why God allows certain things to happen to us, but that doesn’t mean I don’t try to figure it out! In the midst of the questions and confusion, let us strive to return back to where God made us. In the depths of our hearts, He is always calling us back to a greater Hope, a greater joy, and a greater Love. Suffering purifies our hearts, for it strips us of our sense of control. Jesus becomes oxygen to our souls or He becomes the target of the lies we are hearing whispered into our ears.
I will leave you with this passage from 1 Peter 5:8-11 that helps instruct us on how we need to be on guard for the enemy’s tactics of stealing the pearls that God wants to make in us through suffering. We are reminded that this life is all about Jesus’ glory. If suffering is needed for us to realize this, then bring on the suffering. If blessings are going to help us see His glory, then bring on the blessings. He does what He knows will best help us see and long for the glory of Jesus, because in the glory of Jesus we are full and we are filled with purpose.
“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever.”
How have you seen a missional community embrace grief and pain to grow as disciples together?
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