LET LOVE SUFFER
My guess is that you didn’t see this blog heading and squeal in excitement. The notion of suffering divides the saints and it is downright offensive to the skeptics. Suffering and the reality of it is precisely what makes large numbers of seekers keep their feet on the ground because it is hard to fathom what benefit could exist in a realm where one would leap into an agreement to suffer. Yet, it’s biblical.
This feels like a great opportunity for me to remind you that I didn’t go to seminary and I lack any credible degree in this arena, but I also maintain an authority by the Holy Spirit to share here because suffering is what led me straight to Jesus. Well, that’s likely true for many of us, but specifically, my heart was opened to Jesus upon hearing the verses about suffering in the book of James. He got my attention through these very verses and they are what led me to leap….and never look back.
James chapter 5 displays the connection between suffering and faith and attributes the need for suffering in our lives so that we can experience God’s compassion and mercy. This helped me so much as I was transitioning from a non-believer to a believer, that I couldn’t have known His compassion and mercy (and all out redeeming love) if I hadn’t walked through periods of suffering in my own life.
James chapter 1 describes the outcome of our faith being tested through various trials and suffering, that it will lead us to a mature relationship with God through Jesus whereby we cannot lack anything. Similarly, this helps me to know that nothing I ever walk through, not any amount of suffering can strip me from all that I have in Christ. In Him I cannot be robbed, nor can I lose, nor will I miss out on anything. Suffering through trials and trouble is what gets me to that level.
Ask yourself this question, “who do you cheer for”? A couple of years ago I attended the bridge ceremony at our Elementary School because my 5th grader was becoming a 6th grader and would transition to middle-school at the end of summer. It’s a rite of passage and is ceremoniously acknowledged with a bridge crossing. I managed to hold myself together well without tears, not even the threat of tears. But when sweet Ryan crossed the bridge into 6th grade, I lost it. Ryan isn’t mine. He’s an awesome little boy with Down syndrome. (Thank God I have one of these angels of my own already.) Ryan has several challenges including speech and sensory sensitivities. When he was very young he required ankle braces to help him walk and he requires an aid to be with him at all times during the school day. It was Ryan’s turn to walk the stage from one end to the other, to bridge over to his new status. Ryan isn’t quite the attention hog that my own angel with Ds is. My kiddo, when it becomes his time to rock the bridge, honestly, he will hard-core rock it like no other and I anticipate roars of laughter because it’s what he demands. But not Ryan. Ryan slowly ascended the stairs and took slow, small steps toward the center of the stage where he became distracted by the balloon decorations and remaining unaware of the audience. The applause and shouts began at a typical rate and steadily increased in both noise and tempo. As the noise increased, Ryan became more aware of his surroundings and glanced to notice that there was an audience. The more that his precious mind absorbed the reality that he was center-stage, Ryan began to smile an expression of humble delight. He waved cheerfully to everyone and then continued in his slow and steady pace to the opposite side of the stage where he was greeted by the new principal and then he descended the stairs. The cheers nearly brought the roof down. The applause was like thunder. Ryan was celebrated so vigorously because he undoubtedly endured a complicated journey to get there. He had to walk real hard. Ryan, his dedicated team of educators and his family endured hardship, heartache and a long-list of unnamed periods of suffering to be able to get him to the bridge in the first place - and everyone knew it.
Guess who wasn’t celebrated with that level of thunderous shouts and applause? The kid that exited the womb reciting the times tables. Oh, don’t get me wrong, we celebrated those who impressed the socks off of everyone - but it wasn’t with thunder and roars. Ryan received our kindness and compassion and the mercies of all of his team because he had endured so much struggle. It wouldn’t have been as glorious if it had been easy. And neither will our lives. Our suffering will bridge us over to glory. It’s part of the deal, thunder and all. According to Scripture, our sufferings are reason to celebrate because they are the bridge that leads to an unwavering faith.
(to be continued tomorrow)