These Present Sufferings

Sometimes God makes you struggle for a long time before giving you understanding as to why.  Sometimes the understanding never comes and you just have to struggle your whole life without it.  Other times the struggle and the understanding come together.  I like those times.

I have a mixture of both these days.  There are long-sufferings so old I’ve long given up hope of  seeing resolution on this earth, and then there are shorter frustrations that turn around pretty quickly.

Like today, the internet went down at work just as two groups of customers walked in.  “Perfect…just my luck”, I thought.  I made the first set of drinks hoping the internet was just experiencing a glitch and would come back on so I could take their credit card payment.  No such luck.  I took the second set of orders and apologized that it was taking so long.  When I explained that my internet was down, one of the men in the second group said it was okay, that he could pay with cash.  He then offered (or rather insisted) on paying for the first set of customers in cash as well.

This sparked a short conversation about currency, during which a lady walked in and got in line.  She paid for her drink in cash, but then decided to add something else to her order.  The second group of customers had left (the ones who paid for the first group’s order) but the first group was still there.  To pay it forward, they left cash to pay for the lady’s order before they left.  She wasn’t aware of what had happened, so I explained it to her.  She was so touched by the gesture, she left $5 to pay for whoever came in next.  That $5 is now sitting under my register waiting for the next customer who walks in.

As luck would have it, my internet returned right after the whole group left and now I’m standing here wrapping my heart around it all.  My very first thought when the internet went down was “great, of course this would happen to me…”.  But now, not 30 minutes later, at least two people were blessed because of it…something that never would have happened if I was able to take that first payment.

I wish all frustrations in life were so quickly resolved.  But God is also showing me tiny glimpses into the long-sufferings that have plagued my life for, well, all my life.  Least of which being the torments and traumas that have so mangled my inner being.  The evils of this world bother me more than most, I think.  Probably because I have lived my entire life on the losing side of them…a fact I’ve been giving God my what-fors about lately.

Today He showed me something, though.  He gave me a glimpse into the inner-beings of the so-called “winners”.  You know, the ones who always seem to have life work out for them, get what they want, somehow always get others to give them things/serve them, etc.  He showed me inside the ones who don’t have the slightest idea what struggle and suffering really is…and it was not pretty.  In fact, it was so ugly it turned my stomach and changed my mind around from “why me?” to “thank you, Lord.”

He showed me that there is a choice between an easy life with a sick, petrifying soul or a difficult, suffering-filled life with a purified one.  Each soul can either submit to the purification process, which means submitting to suffering, or they can reject it..in which case Satan is right there, dressed like an angel, waving a “This way to the easy life!” sign.  And most people follow that sign…that road is wide, after all.

But given what He showed me, I’m happy choosing the difficult life.  Injustice bothers me more than anything in the world, and that’s not likely to change.  But God showed me something – that those who have it so easy never make it to the mountaintops of God’s presence.  Why?  They never develop the legs for it.  So many people sell their spiritual heritage for ease and for comfort.  They get winded and turn back to their comfy chairs and baby bottles at every inconvenience…how could they ever survive the storm that is our Lord’s presence?  And it is a storm.

So I stand here again and thank God, even for the sufferings I don’t understand.  Why?  Because I know it is producing in me a strength that will one day be able to withstand the all-consuming fire that is our God.  Our perfect, omnipotent, fire of a God.  And on that day I know that I will bow at His feet having accepted the sufferings from his hand (not always gracefully, but accepted nonetheless).  And I’d rather do so as a weather-beaten warrior than a whiney little baby.


So thank you God, even for the sufferings I don’t understand.  Because I know that in you, no suffering is wasted.  Give me grace to trust you more, and more than anything….come.  Lord Jesus, come.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. – Romans 8:18

 

 

 

 

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Suffering for Christ

Suffering“The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” – Romans 8:16-17


There are two things I’ve noticed when it comes to these verses.  1) I always seem to hear the first part…the “children of God” and “heirs with Christ” part… in Christian teaching.  2)  The second part….the provision of suffering in order for any of the aforementioned statuses to be true…that part doesn’t seem to make it into the sermon.

I don’t know about you, but it doesn’t feel like an honest portrayal of Christianity for anyone inside or out of the Christian faith to proclaim that we are heirs of Christ while not mentioning the pre-requisite for that status.  It seems more admirable for American churches to focus on and teach what scripture actually says about our position in the Heavenly realm rather that what simply feels good.   I mean, come on, we’re supposed to be the image bearers of Christ and the proclaimers of His truth…not a gimmicky marketing campaign.   Contrary to how the verse is often presented, this portion of scripture in no way indicates that the provision for attaining the status of “children of God” and “heirs with Christ” involves going to church, doing ministry, worship, listening to “Christian” music, dressing “modestly,” or any other rule that church people tend to focus on.  The provision for attaining the status of “children of God” and “heirs with Christ” is one thing….that we suffer with Him…end of verse.

I mean, let that sink in for a minute.  We are heirs with Christ, provided that we suffer with him.  Provided that we suffer with Him.  Provided that we suffer with Him.  And….Jesus suffered a lot.  He suffered in a lot of different ways.  He was misunderstood, despised, rejected, lied about, constantly accused of untrue things, betrayed by people who swore to follow him, left alone in his greatest moments of need, and then tortured and killed.  And Scripture tells us to be like him.  To follow in His footsteps, and to suffer with him.  And only if we suffer with Him, are we children of God as He is.

How many of us (myself included at times) in moments of not even real suffering but rather just minor inconveniences, remember that actual suffering is the pre-requisite to being an heir of Christ, and in that knowledge, thank God for it?  I’d venture to say, not many.  I know I certainly forget way too often.  But I read this scripture and get angry at the Americanized churches that conveniently forget to teach that suffering is absolutely the pre-requisite to being an heir of Christ.  That if we aren’t suffering, we aren’t doing something right.  That if we’re totally comfortable in our lives, we’re actually doing something wrong.  And if we’re seeking nothing but comfort and ease, we’re DEFINITELY seeking the wrong things.

It’s a truth that counters both culture and what is often taught from the pulpit.  It’s a mindset that is totally foreign to our current culture and society.  But it IS the truth and reality of Scripture, and I think we need to fully grasp and understand it (and other hard truths like it) before we jump on a bandwagon we don’t honestly know anything about.