The Honor of Suffering

I sent a note to a friend whose dad is facing the roller-coaster of prostate cancer. Having just been through it with my dad, I also wanted her to know about my pastor who is also facing what she and her dad are facing. I mentioned that my pastor had “submitted under suffering” and she asked me what I meant by that.

I can completely understand her puzzled response! Aren’t we supposed to pray to be delivered from suffering? To believe, have faith, be consistent, in order for God to deliver us? Why in the world would I want to submit under suffering when God has the power to deliver me? Here is a quick (although long!) explanation of what I meant.

(1) Scripture says that if I am a believer that I will suffer for Him (2 Timothy) It is a given.

(2) Scripture also says all over the place that I can ask to be delivered and that He has the power to deliver me out of suffering.

(3) But what determines whether God is willing to deliver? What is the purpose of suffering? Since God is in control of all of my circumstances, whatever he allows in my life has the intent to bring attention to Himself (glory) so someone can see Him through me.

(4) Now I often ask myself, if He would get more attention from allowing suffering in my life, would He trust me to submit to Him in it? Have I shown myself to be worthy? Or would He choose to use someone else because He knew I would not submit, and rather would become bitter against Him? Would I praise Him even if like Habakuk “even if the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines, Though the yield of the olive should fail And the fields produce no food, Though the flock should be cut off from the fold And there be no cattle in the stalls, Yet I will exult in the LORD, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation”?

(5) So, like Paul who had the thorn in his flesh, I always ask God to deliver me out of my suffering. When it would give Him the most attention, He delights to do so for me! He does not desire to see me suffer. But I am His servant, so when God chooses not to deliver me OUT of suffering, rather walking me THROUGH it, what should I do? I noted Paul’s reaction – he simply submitted under his suffering, trusting God to do something with it that would glorify himself, and Paul himself attempting to bring attention to God through it all. He never mentioned it again. Except to ask for prayer that he would promote God as he ought to though his suffering.

(6) How long do I ask God for deliverance? I usually pray until He answers one way or the other (Jas 5:13). Like David who prayed and prayed for God to spare his baby boy from the results of his sin, he did not stop until God gave him His answer. Once done, even though the answer wasn’t what he wanted, he submitted and did not become bitter. He accepted that God’s intent was good, although it did not feel good. His response affected those servants around him who suddenly saw a live example of submission (they were surprised to see him so readily accept God’s hand). If God hasn’t answered definitively, I keep praying, even as I look for ways to give Him glory in the moment.

(7) Joseph went through years and years of suffering that were absolutely unfair, and yet absolutely necessary in order for God to play out the plan that He had in mind. This plan was much bigger than just Joseph’s life! It involved a plan for an entire nation. Joseph simply chose to submit under the suffering, trusting God to do what he willed. Because of it, he was able to be a major player in God’s hands.

A friend of mine had a difficult co-worker who had worked her LAST nerve. She was done. Had NO interest in ministering to him, and so ignored and avoided him at every turn. So the Lord removed him from her life (he was laid off). She was so relieved, but I couldn’t help wondering if she had submitted to the difficulties in the relationship and stretched herself in order to minister to a difficult person, that perhaps the Lord may have had a greater blessing for her than just the relief of not having to deal with him.

It is relieving to know that the Lord will accomplish His plan for this man (and people in my life) without her or me, but I sure want to be a part of it if I can! I don’t WANT Him to have to use someone else!

Someone who is able to submit under suffering is someone who is able to view his or her own pain in light of the potential purposes of God — ahead of his or her own comfort. NOT easy. I am definitely not good at it!

If we are light in the world, we shine the brightest when things are dark. The world can’t see the difference that Jesus makes when things are going great or always corrected so that they are great. The world truly sees the difference Christ makes when we are able to walk through the DARK with a peace and grace that they don’t have.

The world sees Christ in HOW we walk through our circumstances, not by WHAT our circumstances are. (Philippians 4:12)

Anyway, long explanation, but that is what I strive toward! 

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8 Responses to “The Honor of Suffering”

  1. BethAnn Says:

    What a relief! It is good to be reminded that God does have purpose in suffering, and that it isn’t just random runaway sin! What an interesting thought that we can partner with him just by accepting the suffering He allows and showing our light in the dark. Thanks, Donna.

  2. awfrick Says:

    My dad has also been struggling with cancer for the last several years, so I understand where all of this is coming from.

    I stopped praying over six months ago, and I think it is one of the better decisions I have made.

    Please stop by my own blog, and read my excerpt about prayer. I think it speaks to alot of the questions you have raised in this post.

  3. Donna Says:

    I would disagree with the response not to pray. I think we are commanded to do so. BUT I do think that understanding the sovereignty of God CHANGES our prayers so that they take into consideration that He may have a plan we can’t see. I change from “Lord make me better” to “Lord, if it is your will, please make me better, but more importantly use me for your glory!”

    I definitely would NOT say that we are to stop praying. That would mean choosing not to be in communication with a God who loves us and desires above anything else to be intimately involved in our life and growth. I always want to be in communication with Him! I want to hear His heart and be reassured that though things may seem hard, He is right there with me no matter what.

  4. awfrick Says:

    Donna,

    Where are we ‘Commanded’ to pray? In Scripture? Please cite.

  5. Donna Says:

    There are many places in scripture that talk about “when” we pray (assuming that we do), and other places that give examples of people people praying, but here are just a couple of verses that tell us we must pray from the Pauline Epistles:

    Eph 6:18
    With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints,

    1Th 5:17
    pray without ceasing

    1Ti 2:8
    Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension.

    Jas 5:13
    Is anyone among you suffering ? Then he must pray.

    Jas 5:16
    Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.

  6. awfrick Says:

    Epistles are letters, directed at individual churches, for individual issues and people. All the examples you have listed are derived from letters, and I think it’s dishonest to take those messages, intended for others, and immediately translate them into the modern world. Those are not valid examples from Scripture; there is no commandment that tells us we ‘must’ pray.

    LewisDLou, I do not wish to have a theological argument usurp a post you intended to write for an ill friend. My thoughts are with you in this tough time.

    Donna, if you wish to continue this topic, post your opinions on my blog, under the excerpt about prayer.

    thanks!

    -adam

  7. Donna Says:

    Thanks Adam! I will shoot you a note on your blog! 🙂

  8. Donna Says:

    Hey Adam! Thanks for the invite to check out your blog and continue discussing prayer and the bible. I am not a theologian by any means, but I do enjoy studying the Bible as it is the way God communicates to me, and I LOVE testing it with questions that we all have, and asking God to show me His answers.

    Per your comment on my blog about the epistles not applying to us today, I (of course! haha!) would disagree…Paul wrote those letters, yes, to individual churches, but was writing them to Christ-Followers as a whole. You will see an amazing theme running through every letter he wrote to every audience about the way believers are to behave. We sometimes don’t do the best job at following his God-inspired advice, but at least there is a standard for us to follow for church leadership, our doctrine, individual behavior and relationships with others. These letters are kind of a “policy and procedure” manual of sorts for any who claim to believe in the forgiveness granted by Jesus actions, then and now. The differences between the epistles only serve to raise different emphases, as each church needed. However, all of them are applicable for us.

    In fact, the bible itself says that all of scripture is to be useful for “correction, instruction, reproof and training in righteousness”(1 Tim 3:16), so all of scripture applies to every believer through time in some way. But the Pauline Epistles speak the most directly to the church today, because he was writing during what we call “the age of grace” which is still in effect today. (long explanation, I know — so sorry!!)

    But, here is another verse from the old testament, that underscores God’s desire for us to talk to Him.

    Ps 32:6
    Therefore, let everyone who is godly pray to You in a time when You may be found

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