It’s not hard to see suffering in the world. It takes place everyday, in many different forms. If you switch on your television or open your phone to the news it’s right there in front of you. And it breaks my heart. Truly, honestly I weep at the news I watch and articles I read. This world is in chaos. And if I ache for so many as a flawed human being, how much more does our Father in Heaven weep. And the only thing, THE ONLY CONCEPT that gives me any peace in the vial, hanes acts of individuals or the different types of physical and mental pain people are going through is that God will have His justice. Reader what do you do with the news of suffering around the world?
There’s something comforting knowing that there is a season for everything. Knowing if you’re going through utter debilitating agony right at this point in time, ‘this too shall pass.’ What does it mean when someone says ‘it’s just a season?’, ‘It’s just for a time?’ Why do we say these comments in conversation, or perhaps to ourselves even? Is it to reassure ourselves that everything will be ok in the end? My friend, does it soothe your soul in that moment of pain? Does it bring a peace for your future? Can you laugh at the days to come, knowing there will be a day, there will be a time where I will have joy and laughter again.
Sometimes the agony you’re going through is so great, so vast that the fog, the depression, the anxiety, the grief or persecution and weight on your shoulders is so grave you don’t know where to look, which way to turn or how to even breath. Am I right? Even getting out of bed or opening the blinds to a new day is too much for you. I can hear your voice now reader. I can hear you say, ‘it’s too much. When will it stop? When will this ‘season’ end? I can’t keep going on like this.’
Can we be real for a moment. Most of us have been here before. Most of us have experienced such desperate anguish and have our minds swirling full of these questions. And reader if you haven’t experienced these thoughts before, I encourage you to keep reading because this article will also touch on how you can help and come alongside someone suffering to assist and love them the best way you can.
Ecclesiastes is a remarkable book. I find when I open it and begin to read the words, quickly I am reminded that ‘everything is meaningless.’ Huh? You say. What do you mean meaningless? Let me explain further, whatever we achieve in life, a career, family, wealth and so on. In the end it won’t matter. We die and those things cannot come with us into the afterlife. Pause and take a moment to reflect on these words,
“I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;
I refused my heart no pleasure.
My heart took delight in all my labor,
and this was the reward for all my toil.
Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind
nothing was gained under the sun.” Ecc 1:10-11.
Without trying to sound insensitive in your hour of need, I find that this book really is one I go to when I am on an emotional decline. It’s a reality check for how I live my life. Knowing that everything must come to an end. Everything has it’s time and place. It’s about HOW YOU HANDLE YOURSELF AND OTHERS DURING EACH SEASON. Writing those words just now challenge myself deeply.
So, now what, we give up? We look at our life as useless and not bother? Agh, but Jesus also says to work hard and give, being a good steward of what you’ve been blessed with in this life. Keep peace with others and whatever you do, do to the glory of God.
However, you may not have the mental or spiritual energy in this season to think of these positive things. That’s ok. Allow others to help you, lean on them in your time of trouble. Ask for prayer, ask people to lay hands on you for healing physically or mentally and ask them to help you. And, this might be daunting but, give where you can. Ask God for strength to do so. No matter how small. I’m telling you now you won’t be able to do anything in your own strength. There is something healing in thinking outwardly about the people around you.
It’s very important that you don’t walk through this trial on your own, like I said ask people you trust to pray for you. To stand in your place with faith petitioning for you. You cannot, you must not let yourself be alone in a downward spiral. If you don’t have the friends, the close connections (I also understand this too well in my own seasons) there are places you can go for help. I’ll add some at the bottom of this post for your discretion.
So, in saying that here are my two points on suffering.
You know what I love about the Bible? There is advice on EVERYTHING! God has given His people a handbook, a manual for us to follow. Anything you can think of, it’s there and it’s beautifully and gracefully written. For us to live by. I believe the most helpful Bible passages for pain and suffering are Ecclesiastes, 2 Samuel 15-19 and Job.
Let me flesh it out a little, I’ll try to tread as gently as possible. I am aware that people who are reading this are in different degrees of suffering and in many different ways. I’ve already explained why Ecclesiastes is excellent when you’re hurting or finding life hard. In 2 Samuel it’s about the story of David and his son Absalom.
David suffered much in his lifetime. One of the most controversial events of his life was when one of David’s sons wanted his throne. Absolom called out a huge army to search for David to kill him. David ran and spent some time hiding because all of Israel wanted him dead. Can you imagine that literally happening to you? I mean, put yourself in this mans shoes for just a moment. This is his own son! Further on in the story (sorry for the spoiler) Absolom is murdered and David instead of feeling relief mourns him deeply. Please don’t take my word on this, have a read. It’s remarkable. How do I respond to that text when I am suffering? I actually cannot comprehend how that man would be feeling knowing how much his son hates him for nothing other than fame and glory. Perspective right… sheesh!
Point two. The biggest most humbling book of the Bible I’ve read to give me comfort and put my trials into the right approach is the book of Job. Who was an upright, godly man. He walked with God and loved Him. The Lord blessed Him immensely. He was a father of ten children, possessions and wealth. Then one day Satan came and presented himself before the Lord to challenge Him, explaining that Job only loves God because He blesses him. Job loves ‘stuff’ and not Him. But take away everything and you’ll see how quickly he changes. And so, God allowed (because Satan is on a leash and cannot do ANYTHING without God’s consent) Satan to do as he wanted without touching a hair on Job. Ultimately within the course of a day Job lost all his possessions, his wealth and devastatingly his ten beautiful children. Friend, do you know what Job did next? How he reacted to this news? HE FELL TO THE GROUND IN WORSHIP!
The man lost everything and cried out the words ‘The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.’ STOP. READ THAT AGAIN…. Let me ask you this, could you do that? Could you in your moment of grief, your lowest moment, your loneliness, when everything in your life is crashing down and you have nothing left.
Reader, can you fall on your knees and say those words to God? If I’m honest, if I lost even one child let alone all of mine, could I say such a thing? God searches the heart and knows it. So no point in me lying here and trying to sound godly and righteous. No, I don’t think I could. But I WANT TO! I want to praise him no matter what is thrown at me. Good or bad. I want to praise Him so bad. I know to live for Him and to walk with Him gives me true life and true meaning. But it can be HARD sometimes.
When God is questioned about ‘why these things happen?’ His response gives me goosebumps every time. This is the voice of God! In Job 38: 4-7 he explains His majesty and power;
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk,
or who laid its cornerstone,
when the morning stars sang together
and all the sons of God shouted for joy?”
The next part of the story is so very important! Restoration, delivery, healing, renewal, blessing. What sweet, sweet words for anyone to hear. Job passes the test. With flying colours and God is there to ‘make all things new.’ God restores Job and he is blessed again in family, friendship, wealth and future.
‘And the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning. And he had 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 yoke of oxen, and 1,000 female donkeys. He had also seven sons and three daughters.’ Job 42:12-13.
You see the reason why I am suggesting these books to read through is so that you understand you are never alone, you are not the first to suffer so greatly, you will not be the last. I cannot promise you you will never suffer again my friend but I can promise you this ‘He makes beauty out of the ashes.’ and just like Joseph said to his brothers ‘what you meant for bad, God meant for good.’
By no means am I trying to take away from you your pain and hurt my friend. I just want you to see a perspective on it. One which you normally cannot when going through it. Suffering takes time to heal. Sometimes a lifetime. Sometimes we will never find full peace until we reach heaven. So pray and ask for help to get you through day by day, sometimes minute by minute and second by second to breath and function as you try to cope.
Reader, if you’re the friend who wants to help someone going through a crisis let me encourage you. Yes! Do so, keep in touch with your friend or loved one. Meet up on a regular basis to pray or maybe do some simple chores around the house or help run errands. Give a meal and let them know with actions and words you are there to help. Point them to the God of comfort. Towards the last chapter of Job we see just how Job’s loved ones care for him. ‘Then came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and ate bread with him in his house. And they showed him sympathy and comforted him.’ Job 42:10-11.
Remember there is no burden too great, no sin too vast that Jesus cannot take and transform into something beautiful and good once more. God will heal up our wounds and restore that which is lost. Maybe not today or tomorrow, or even for some in this lifetime. But there will be a day when there are no more tears. And only rejoicing. This I can promise you. Wait for it, oh weary soul. Trust and wait. For His Glory will shine forth and His salvation is great. He will restore and bring order to what was lost. After all my friend, there is a season for everything.
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
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