Though part of the Christian walk, suffering is one facet we avoid cultivating as we do other spiritual disciplines. Partly because suffering for the Christian comes designed or permitted by God. Even in the self-inflicted suffering relative to the consequences of sinful choices, both our own and others, God remains sovereign over our suffering. Yet there remains 3 things God will not do for you in your suffering.
When our perspective on suffering aligns with God’s perspective, our understanding of suffering expands to a place of welcome acceptance.
But our human tendency of labeling and compartmentalizing experiences as “good” or desired, and “bad” or undesirable, hinders our ability to see suffering as a conduit through which we encounter God more intimately.
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end, they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,”
Lamentations 3:22-24 ESV
As the waves of suffering crashed over my battered soul this past year, remembering an object lesson taught me many years ago by a sweet elderly Christian woman in my church brought a measure of peace.
A Different approach to suffering
Ever a lover of the beach, she used a favorite illustration from her summer vacations at the seashore. She learned a lesson one summer which stood her in good stead not only for future trips to the seashore, but also for her spiritual walk of suffering.
Battered about by ruthless waves, she became disenchanted with swimming in the ocean and sulked on the family beach blanket.
Finally, her father convinced her to try again with him. This time he showed her rather than standing straight up facing the waves, to soften her body, bend down a little and lean into the waves as they came toward her.
Starting close to shore then moving further out, she noticed right away, the waves simply washed gently over her rather than battering her and knocking her down.
Spiritual Waves of Suffering
Over the years, she learned to apply a similar stance when trials and suffering came to batter her. Rather than maintaining a stance of defiance, resistance, or avoidance, she bent her head in prayer, softened her attitude, and leaned into the suffering.
In the same way the waves washed over her and carried her gently along to the shore as a child at the beach, the waves of suffering washed over her without consuming her.
Remembering God’s goodness and unfailing love helps us lean into the waves of suffering, trusting His sovereign hand as He upholds us and gently guides us through.
Pondering the vivid aspects of her illustration as I drew aside for rest amid my own trials, brought to mind 3 things God will not do for you in suffering.
God Will Not Judge You in Suffering
How many times have you thought the suffering battering your soul resulted from God punishing you for sin, lack of obedience, or becoming “slack” in your Christian walk?
Or perhaps, you felt no matter how hard you tried, your relationships continued to disintegrate?
Whether suffering comes at the hand of others, or our own, God’s sovereign hand controls the outcome, working everything for our good and His glory. (Romans 8:28)
But another comfort to which we cling is the knowledge that God will not judge us in our suffering.
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,”
At times we will fail God and others, despite our best efforts we simply will not always live a life honoring to God. Even when we do all in our power to love others, they will hurt us, and relationships will crumble.
Yet, God will never judge you as His beloved child. As a good Father, His heart of compassion brings only redemption.
God Will Never Leave You Alone in Suffering
Though suffering may feel like the loneliest place on earth, as even those closest to you seemingly distance themselves from your pain, God will never leave you alone in suffering.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
Deuteronomy 31:6,8 NIV
At times the crushing weight of darkness isolated me from my own breath, yet my suffering over the past year challenged me to trust God even when the darkness obscured His Presence.
Each day the Spirit speaking the truth of His presence to me, even when no one understood my anguish. (Isaiah 41:10)
Though He may seem quiet, God will never, ever, leave you alone in your suffering.
God Will Never Stop Loving You in Suffering
When passing through prolonged seasons of suffering, friends, relatives, and even those closest to us may end our relationship, become indifferent or simply move on with their lives.
While most will not stop “loving us” perse, our relationships become little more than acquaintances, a low priority affiliation.
But no matter the nature or length of your season of suffering, God promises never to stop loving you in your suffering. (Psalm 89:33)
As His beloved child, God is even closer to you in suffering than at any other time.
“ For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Romans 8:38-39 NIV
3 Things God will not do for you in suffering
Whether walking through a prolonged season of suffering, or the smaller griefs of living life on this earth, walking empowered by the truths that God will not judge you in suffering, God will never leave you alone in suffering, and God will never stop loving you in suffering, enables you to lean into the waves of suffering.
Though the darkness of the path, or the painful wounds of grief blind your eyes to His gentle Presence, you can cling to His unswerving faithfulness as His unfailing love keeps you even in the hardest places.
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