Thursday, September 29, 2016

How To Live In Christ Through Pain & Suffering? (Walking Through The Valley Of Shadow Of Death)

            This is my 200th blog. Our gracious God has enabled me to write every week since January 14, 2013. Since I am continuing to learn much during this period, please permit me to share my most significant learning.

            There are [extended] periods in our lives when God allows us to live through excruciatingly painful moments that the Bible terms as the “valley of shadow of death” (Psalm 23: 4, NASB).  During these painful moments we wonder if God exists and, if so, why HE allows evil upon us.

            We are not perfect. We are sinners. We do not consider ourselves better than others. But if we look around, we observe some of our fellow humans enjoying life to the fullest. In comparison, we are neither very wicked nor more sinful. What have we done to suffer this evil?

            Job’s words reflect our thoughts more appropriately in this context, “If I have sinned, what have I done to you, you who see everything we do? Why have you made me your target? Have I become a burden to you?” (Job 7:20, NIV, Emphasis Mine). These are genuine thoughts consuming our minds during our moments of weakness while we stagger through the horrendous impact of evil.

            However, during our stronger moments we genuinely say, ““…Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”” (Job 1: 21-22, NIV, Emphasis Mine).

            Our moments of weakness are more painful and scar us deeply. Hence, in moments of weakness, we are more liable to commit dreadful blunders or sins.

            The greatest sin we could commit during our suffering is to question God and reject HIM. Job’s wife offered a similar counsel to him, “His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!” (Job 2: 9, NIV, Emphasis Mine).

            Why God?

            This is not to ask why God allowed this catastrophe upon us. But this is to ask why God should take the blame for the catastrophe. Was Job’s wife right to blame God for Job’s situation? 

            It does seem so! God is sovereign i.e. God is supreme over everything. God, if HE so desired, could have prevented evil to hurt us (cf. Job 1: 10). Hence, we do have a certain right to question God.

            Doesn’t the child have the right to question the parent when something cruel happens to him/her, especially if the parent was in a position to prevent that cruelty upon the child? This is the similar situation between God and the person who is suffering.

            But is it right to blame God for our rather unjust pain and suffering? In other words, what would we gain, if we blame God?

            Those who blame God are rather naïve and immature. I use strong terms such as ‘naïve’ and ‘immature,’ since those who blame God are being extremely temporal in their vision.

            Make no mistake, evil is extremely painful, but the life which we live is not the only life that we are to live. This short life on planet earth is the gateway to the longer [eternal] life (in heaven or hell) that awaits us.

            Christians are not called to be temporal; instead we are called to be eternity-minded, ““Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14: 1-3, NIV, Emphasis Mine).

            As Christians we are not called to possess a worldly perspective on life, but we are mandated to sustain a heavenly perspective of life, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” (Colossians 3: 1-2, NIV, Emphasis Mine). We should obey the mandate to sustain a heavenly perspective of this fleeing life. 

            Our life on planet earth is momentary, the Bible elucidates this truth, “Mortals, born of woman, are of few days and full of trouble. They spring up like flowers and wither away; like fleeting shadows, they do not endure.” (Job 14:1-2, NIV). Apostle James said, “What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” (James 4: 14b, NIV).  

            If our life is momentary, our suffering is also momentary. But the pain we endure in this time and age would not seem as momentary but would seem as long and grueling. However, since we are called to live with a heavenly perspective of this earthly life, we should intentionally look heavenward / Godward – towards the throne of grace where God is seated – when we suffer.  

            It is not easy to live with a heavenward or Godward perspective during our earthly life. This is easier said than done. How then do we live such a life? What is the key to leading such a life?

            Prayer and Bible. That’s it!

            The key to leading a life with a perspective of God and heaven while suffering is to immerse ourselves in reading and studying the Bible and soaking ourselves in prayer. We pray that God enables us to focus on HIM and not our temporal pain while we suffer.

            So when we suffer we could be with God, trust HIM fully or question God, blame HIM and ultimately reject HIM. But what would we gain if we reject God?

            The answer is quite simple. God alone can offer us the strength to live through our suffering. When we reject God, we disconnect our only source of strength and place ourselves in an incredibly dangerous situation.

            While we live our life in pain and suffering, we are expected to make routine decisions for the sake of our family and for ourselves. These decisions could be spiritual (e.g. questioning God, not succumbing to temptations…), financial (e.g. medical expenses) etc.

            Our life should be predicated on truth and patience. We are called to do the will of God in and through our decisions. Patience is the key to doing God’s will. We are to be truthful in God’s presence, not succumbing to a willingly sinful lifestyle.  

            We are not to rush our decisions. There are moments when our plans may appear to fail or be delayed, but we are to remain patient in those moments to allow God to work HIS way in our life. In other words, failure (e.g. joblessness, financial downfall, deteriorating health, false accusations etc.) should not deter us.

            This is a hard learning, for none of us desire to fail in life. But God may allow us to fail, which in HIS parlance is for us to “slow down” for a period of time. (There could be instances where God may allow our plans to fail, since it is not in HIS will, even if we have prayed earnestly for them. So we should abandon these plans. We should not foolishly pursue these plans to make a mess of our life.) So let not delays or failures prevent us from doing God’s will.

            God blesses us while we suffer. For instance, while we suffer, we will learn who our true friends are. God will send true friends to our encouragement and comfort. Suffering cleanses our life of all unworthy friendships. Remember these blessings and be grateful to God.  

            The Bible does not make random statements. When God says that we should rejoice in hope and persevere in pain, HE will enable us to rejoice, persevere and pray while we suffer, “…rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer…” (Romans 12:12, NASB).

            Let us then live by faith in God and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5: 7). If we do not live by faith, then our souls are en route to destruction, “Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised. For yet in a very little while, He who is coming will come, and will not delay. But My righteous one shall live by faith; And if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him. But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul.” (Hebrews 10: 35-39, NASB).

            The Lord will bless and keep those who are living by faith while suffering, “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” (Jude 1: 24-25, NASB).  


pansan said...

Excellently explained. Just a beautiful flow of thoughts. Really Holy Spirit filled. Jesus Christ bless you and honor you, brother. Great joy awaits you. Congratulations and reach to 2000 even 20000 and more blogs.

Raj Richard said...

Dear Pansan,Thanks much for your kind thoughts, encouragement and blessings. Remain blessed too.

Kolkata Joshua said...

Wonderfully explained dear Bro.Richard. Suffering is really one of the avenues through which we will become partakers of His holiness (Heb 12:10). Congrats and may our Lord use you mightily in the days to come for the expansion and extension of His Kingdom.

Raj Richard said...

Thank you very much, Bro. Joshua. Remain blessed.