Suffering is a part of life, as we all are well aware. No matter how hard we try to protect ourselves and our loved ones, there are always trials on the horizon. It can be so easy to turn to God in anger, in our resistance to the suffering we perceive He has control over, and quite frankly we expect more from a loving and good God. Yet Christ himself was not even spared the element of suffering in His life. In fact quite the opposite. Christ, being God in the flesh had opportunity and power to avoid suffering and yet didn’t. Even now as God watches over all of us, His children, He Himself suffers as much, if not more, than we do.
So then if God won’t even prevent His own Son’s suffering, or Himself from suffering, why should we expect any different?
A couple of differences between our suffering and Christ’s is firstly that Christ was willing to suffer, where we commonly resist it. And secondly is that Christ had no need for a spiritual audit because He had no sin in Him.
A spiritual audit is exactly as it sounds, a deep inspection of the condition of our hearts, our behaviour, our thoughts, our habits, our obedience and our relationship with God.
Suffering is a result of sin, not always directly tied to our own personal sin, as in “I shouldn’t have had an affair because now my family have left me and it hurts.”, rather as a general rule of the state of sin in the world. God suffers not because of His own sin, but because of the sin in the world. Christ’s death proves that it doesn’t matter how ‘good’ we are, sin will still impact us during our time on earth and cause us pain.
When we go through sufferance, it weakens our resolve taking us to a place where our stubborn hearts have need of God and His assistance. For those who are willing to perform a spiritual audit on themselves there is hope in trials, as evidence that a better change is coming, bringing a brightness of the new spiritual position to be obtained, as even more darker elements are cleared out. A new level of growth in Answer to fervent prayers for God to change our hearts and free us from temptation and despair.
For those of us who expect an easy life and refuse to acknowledge the need of a spiritual audit, by believing ourselves already acceptable, self-assessment is an unnecessary pass time. Because of an ignorance to the pride in our hearts, suffering is a reason to question and challenge God, and to fight against His will. However, when the level of suffering is personal in such a way that we can not ignore the role we played in the consequences of our suffering, more hearts are inclined to self-assess and want to change their ways.
Stubborn hearts pray for others to be as ‘good’ as they are, and pray in anger towards God against the suffering of the innocent. Whereas humble hearts pray for the improved condition of their own standing, and in submission pray for all sin to be overcome, easing the suffering for all, not just the apparent innocent.
For, all of us, every single one has sinned against God, and against our fellow man, in more ways than we like to admit. Our Inner Enemies make our decisions for us so often and we begin to wonder how we ever became who we are. Performing a regular spiritual audit keeps track of exactly what our inner enemies are up to, self-awareness removes all excuses and distractions, and pays attention to ourselves in ways we avoid daily. Being mindful of our thoughts and behaviour gives us back the power to change them, to bring them under the captivity and obedience of Christ.
The enemy of God has tried to convince us that our failings and sins are reasons to avoid God, out of fear, so we not only hide them from Him, but also from ourselves. A spiritual audit clears out this reasoning and reduces us to a humble servant of God, willing to be cleansed, forgiven and loved. Loved with such intensity that our relationship with God is not dependent upon our ‘goodness’ but rather our ability to spiritually audit ourselves and our hearts under God’s gaze and be reassured and confident in His Grace and His Love.
We feel beforehand that this process is a scary thing, yet let me reassure you, you will never regret it, you will grow, grow within yourself, and grow in your relationship with God, and fall deeper in Love with Christ every time you experience the comfort of His Forgiving Grace.
Man, do I ever need this post!
Have you ever heard of the phrase “He/she’s a whinging Pom”- Well I am originally from England and I can testify this is an accurate title.
I am not completely convinced this constant “whinging” or complaining is always evidence of an unhappy heart or even an unhappy life. I would like to think it is a release of truth and way of sharing our personal experience of life’s daily frustrations and trials with others. A way of being vulnerable with our fellow man and experiencing empathy.
I tend to be a pretty open person, I share truths about my life easily, but especially with those who I trust and am closest to.
Like many of you, I have been weighed down most of my life with one trial after another. Whether it be illness, financial concerns, relationship upheavals, injury, grief, persecution and the like. It seems as soon as I get one sorted there is another one waiting in the midst to hit me from left field. Sound familiar?
I share my trials, like those listed above, and also the daily irritations of life, such as emotional instability, disappointment in others, offense at the deception of the world system, frustration and confusion of motherhood and wifedom, overwhelming workload, or just plain inconveniences.
However, there is an element of negativity to complaining that I recently became self-conscious of. That perhaps my constant sharing of all that is troubling me might actually be making those around me, those I love most, feel heavier because of it. This hit my heart hard! The last thing I want to do is drag anyone down. I have an extremely blessed life and want everyone to know how grateful I am.
Feeling convicted in my spirit by this, I was desperate to find a way to either stop complaining completely, or to change my attitude so that my complaining isn’t disheartening my loved ones and ruining my testimony. I have been praying on this, and seeking the Lord’s wisdom, and this morning I woke up with the answer!
It came to me like this…
LEARN TO FOCUS ON THE LOVE PATTERN
The pattern of life under God’s control is – Suffering leads to Growth or Change all while abounded by Blessings.
Let me explain that a little better….
Suffering softens us and exposes our weaknesses, so rather than complaining negatively about life’s trials, use the urge to complain to prompt us to “Boast in our weakness” (thanks Jefferson Bethke). By being grateful that God sees us completely and hears our cries for change, and accepting that these trials expose our weakness, we take our weakness to God which pushes us further and deeper into relationship and intimacy with Him through Christ. Whose grace and strength washes over us, giving us a new level of change or growth, plus a new level of faith and freedom. All the time He gives comforting signs He is with us, along with abundant provision and protection.
All this is done from His LOVE! Love for you and love for me. This ‘love pattern’ is designed to pull us into His loving arms, regardless of how ‘good’ we have been but rather dependant on how frail and flawed we admit that we are.
Our positive vulnerability will encourage others to be vulnerable, building true connection and empathy with those we share this earth with. All the while giving us an opportunity to share this wonderful news of redemption.
So therefore when someone asks us how our day was and we feel that familiar urge rise within us, lets shift the focus of our complaint from defeat to victory, using our trials to spread the joy of God’s LOVE PATTERN.
I need to end on a prayer here…
Dear Gracious Lord, I lift up your name in Glory as I realise this wisdom you have shared with us. Help us all to keep your love pattern the focus of our trials. Don’t let our weakness allow this wisdom to be forgotten, use us and our trials to spread your love! In the mighty name of your Son I pray! Amen!
Through these few weeks of suffering the condition I mentioned in a recent post, I have been more focused than ever on bringing more of God’s presence into my day-to-day life. Funny that!
We always stretch further for Him when we are suffering, don’t we?
Last week I completed a 2 week fast. No alcohol, No TV, and did not touch a blog site or any social media. My intention was to meditate, and work on my novel, as much as possible (although my plans are not always His and He had other things for me to deal with).
The foundation of a successful fast, is giving up anything that seeks to control us, anything we enjoy enough to get lost in, or find a pull towards during tough times. Easy distractions or addictions, habits and weaknesses. During a fast we make a 100% non-negotiable promise, to God, to go without which ever thing we are fasting for an achievable amount of time.
Each time the tempting thought arises we acknowledge God and our promise to Him, we reinforce that promise and we ask for His help when it gets tough. By doing this we are making some huge expressions of faith from our softened hearts. (God just loves it when we do this!)
These are some things that speak out of our hearts during a fast like this – God is real, He watches us, We revere Him enough to want to keep our promise. We need his help when we are weak. We are willing to give up the pleasures of the world to acknowledge Him and invite Him in to our situation.
It is the most powerful exercise I have found to overcome the world and my flesh, and witness His presence.
The first thing I noticed during this particular fast, was how much spare time I had to get other things done. I accomplished so much, and after feeling useless for a number of weeks, I felt a great sense of achievement as I ticked off many things on my never ending to-do list.
The second thing I noticed was how much easier it was to discover God’s guidance and to find things to praise Him for. The medication I am on for this condition has exacerbated my mood disorder significantly, I am more emotionally sensitive than ever. It can only take a millisecond for me to burst into tears, or flick on the rage switch, grit my teeth and loose any place of calm. Often, in times like this, I pray. Usually something desperate like “Oh Lord help me, take away my emotions, help so-and-so see how hard this is for me and not aggravate me! I don’t want to feel like this” etc. Then I wait…with angry tears….until He changes things.
However, during this fast I found praising Him was a much quicker way to flick off that unpleasant switch.
I recommend everyone tries this, it is not always easy, but it works every time!
Right in the midst of a full blown attack, when our Inner Enemies are hitting us from every angle, rather than fighting back in anger, we can end the battle then and there. By pushing aside that tidal wave of ammunition, which fuels unpleasant emotions, just for a second, and find something, anything to be grateful for. Praise God for that, whatever it may be. It could be as simple as the ability to breathe, or the warm bed you are about to snuggle up in… It could be the legs that allow you to walk away from something aggravating. 😉
If there is anything that will send our Inner Enemies high-tailing it into the distance, it is Praise! Worship! Gratitude! Forgiveness! A sure way to grab onto the face of God and turn it towards you!
Warning: Contains Graphic Image
One of the main reasons we miss out on experiencing the presence of God in our lives is because our thoughts are too consumed by the physical world. We focus on our material comforts, our desires, our careers, our families, our looks, our fun or our reputation. These are the ‘beautiful things’ placed before the throne of God by the enemy, to distract us from pursuing righteousness. They are responsible for hardening our hearts, and building pride, which prevents God from being able to intimately connect with us.
We protect our own worldly desires and our reputations so much, yet we may be inspired by a vital piece of the puzzle when understanding the lessons constructed within the sacrifice of Christ.
Consider for a moment that the King of Kings, glorified by angels, the highest authority in all the universe, lost His reputation and respect, gave up His position and His worldly desires, endured the lowest form of humiliation and abasement, by undertaking a criminals torture and death. Offering His blood to flow as the cleansing waterfall, for us to be able to connect with God, becoming blameless through Him! He gave up His comfort and reputation FOR US!
I need a moment to let that sit on my heart and let the tears clear from my eyes….
How can we expect to be intimate with God if we give up nothing for Him in return for His sacrifice for us, or even fail to acknowledge it?
If we have a ‘God-sized’ hole in our hearts, there is nothing of this world that will fill it. The only way to feel whole, is to fill ourselves with the love of Christ first, before anything from the physical realm. This includes relationships, good times, wealth, knowledge etc. By giving back to God the things of the world we have held onto in our hearts, we move into a new phase of a supple mindset and heart.
Once we accept that the ‘world’ is not meeting our expectations or filling that void inside us, and instead move God into that space, by making Him come first. Then we can begin, bit by bit, to let go of our grip on the comforts of the world and the hold they have over us. This is required if we are to have an experiential awareness of God. We can begin to understand and accept that there are purposes behind enduring suffering throughout our time here.
“And he said to them all, ‘If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. For what is a man’s advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?'” Luke 9:23-25 (KJV)
Taking up our cross daily is the equivalent of an unselfish willingness to suffer, to pray for strength of faith instead praying for more comfort. God is more concerned with our character than our comfort. Giving up our lives doesn’t necessarily mean bringing about our death. God certainly means us no harm, and this is proven especially if we recognise that Christ came to free us from death and give us life. Giving up our lives means being willing to let God use our life for His cause, to cling to Him through our suffering. It means, no matter what suffering we endure, our faithfulness allows God’s strength to be perfected in our weakness.
We must expect to face some persecution for our faith, for we become different to those of the world. Singer songwriter Amy Grant sang the lyrics..”When the world begins to see you change, don’t expect them to applaud.” Fear not, for in due time the Lord will vindicate those who are His children.
We may also endure physical ailments, which act as our own experience of the “thorn in the flesh”, a condition to keep us humble, for the miracles we can achieve with God in charge of our lives can very quickly puff us up with pride.
My car accident, for example, left me with injuries that weakened me, yet at that time God used me for some miraculous experiences through my faithful obedience. More experiences than I can remember, it was a time of daily miracles. I would have claimed the glory for myself had I not been exposed to the weakness that my physical body was restricted by. I knew I was not capable of being strong faithfully because at a time I was so bottomed out by psychological and physical damage.
Through our willingness to suffer as Christ did, in a metaphorical sense, we grow in intimacy and unity with God, our hunger and need for Him causes us to step into the miracles He can perform through us.
A way to help us tolerate the suffering, comes when we accept that this world is only temporary, much better awaits those who have been called into salvation and eternity. Is it easy? Absolutely not! I can tell you however, that it is WORTH IT!
Everything you sacrifice unto the Lord, He will return 100 fold!
“And every one that hath left houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and shall inherit eternal life.” Matt 19:29 (ASV)
This is the 6th post in the series ‘Gaining Help from Above’. Check out the previous posts Connection, Accepting an Encounter, Security, Control & Nourishment, if you haven’t already, and here is the link to the next post in this series…
I haven’t been in the blogosphere much this week, because I am being dealt with, being brought a new level of perspective and change. I recognise that this type of growth usually springs forth from a fragile heart. My heart has been extremely fragile this week…..
In this condition I write and write, pouring my soul out in front of me. I have written 6 or 7 posts this week alone. Yet my state of mind and vulnerable heart are preventing me from seeing my words clearly and I am unable to trust myself or my writing. I am too close to it at the moment, so it’s impossible to edit or publish anything. I guess as usual I have too much to say.
I am going to try to use this time to withdraw, to calm my mind and spirit with relaxation, drink plenty of herbal tea and meditate on God’s word. Perhaps this break will even help me work on the novel which I have been trying to write for over a decade. I will come back to the wonderful blogosphere soon, I will read your fabulous posts and comment when I can get my head around it. I will publish only in God’s timing and His certainty. Until then I ask for your prayers, prayers for me to gain some clarity and some calm inspiration. I am fighting off my inner enemies as best I can, I need time to concentrate on my faith, put on God’s armor and call on my inner angels. I have faith that something amazing is going to emerge from the midst of these trials…..Until then…..
“Jehovah preserveth the simple: I was brought low, and he saved me. Return unto thy rest, O my soul; For Jehovah hath dealt bountifully with thee. For thou hast delivered my soul from death, Mine eyes from tears, And my feet from falling. I will walk before Jehovah In the land of the living.”
Psalms 116:6-9 (ASV)