I have friends who have been without work for months, some wonder if homelessness is in their future.
I have friends who have been struck by cancer — one went undiagnosed for years, another whose five-year old is battling Leukemia, others with the “regular” kind of cancer cruelty…
Last week a friend of a friend’s child was abducted. They are frantically searching.
A few days ago my friend, a young single mom, emailed to say her house was broken into, precious things stolen, and her young children are traumatized.
Last month some folks were driving home from a retreat and their vans were involved in a horrific fatal highway accident that killed over 20 people. I met a woman at the airport this week whose granddaughter with her was in a car accident several days ago (drunk driver) and still very emotional.
An acquaintance is struggling with a crisis that if known fully might cause domestic violence.
What’s up? Doesn’t God care? If you follow Him, doesn’t He protect you from suffering? Maybe people like Joel Olsteen and Joyce Meyer would have you believe that. (I think Western Christians are about the only ones who do…) But I read a different Gospel. It’s not one where God desires that His followers suffer without reason, but is one that guarantees growth, provision, and the experience of a deeper abiding love when the suffering does come. The God I serve says, “I have spoken these things to you so that you shall have peace in me. You shall have suffering in the world, but take heart, I have overcome the world.”
Suffering belongs to the discipline of all Christ’s followers (Romans 8:17; 2 Corinthians 1:7; Galatians 3:4; Philippians 3:10; 1 Thessalonians 2:2; 2 Thessalonians 1:5; 2 Timothy 2:12; 2 Timothy 3:12; James 5:10; 1 Peter 2:20; 1 Peter 3:14, 17; 4:1, 13, 16; 5:10) and this fellowship in suffering unites us with the saints of God in all times (James 5:10). It is actually a fellowship with the Lord Himself (Philippians 3:10), who uses this discipline to mold us more and more according to His character.
“The rain falls on the just and the unjust.” We don’t like it and don’t always understand it, but it’s true. We see justice perverted, mean people prospering, and good people experiencing hardship upon hardship. But what we see is so very temporary. And God sees so much more. One day justice WILL be served, and suffering WILL end for those who follow Christ, and hurting believers WILL be healed and happy. And God will get the glory. All of it.
So we run to the Rock that is higher than us, we abide in the shelter of His wing, we feed on every word of God written for our benefit, we encourage one another, we intercede for each other, we comfort our hurting friends, and we, in turn, are comforted.
We give thanks. We praise Him in the storm. We watch as He turns mourning to rejoicing. We learn to find joy even between the tears. We grow more into His likeness day by day, and we give Him all the glory.