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!