Understanding Suffering, Enjoying God.

Yes! Welcome to the very first edition of the #RebuildBlog.Hopefully Jesus will be glorified more in your life after reading through this blog post and the many which Lord willingly, we will share.

DISCLAIMER: Firstly, I need to be clear that when I wrote in the Chronicle few years back I had the time of my life interacting with some of you and I pray that we engage more and more on this new platform. Also, over the years, my theological convictions have changed as I have grown in my faith and I am becoming my own man and my own Christian so to speak. So you will very likely take notice of me probably contrasting some of the things that I have probably believed because I now know the truth and have very differing convictions concerning various things in the Christian faith - hence the name ‘Rebuild’ because I feel like there are some foundational institutes of the faith with we have (myself included) not properly understood and passed on. Do not be scared, please. My walk with God has never been as enjoyable and Christ has never been as central as He is now in my life. Changes in my convictions will definitely appear as we go on. My desire is to expound biblical truth and not conform to any status quo beliefs.

Have you ever been at a place where things are so hard and all you just feel like the whole world is crumbling for you? Maybe the plans which you had for your varsity education have somewhat gone under the drain and stuff just doesn’t seem to be working out? I have been there. I can actually say that for myself, I have had situations like that in their doses! And sometimes when such times come to us, we just do not know what to do or where to go, which becomes problematic because we are very likely going to go back to other places where we are not actually supposed to be.

If I was to be honest, many times when I am stressed out and wearied down, the first remedy that I think would work sometimes is to grab the remote control and watch a movie, or grab my phone and chat with the people I care about and hopefully, somehow, somewhat, I will or might feel better. But that is idolatry. That is not where my primary hope should be in, as you will see as we go on.

Have you ever been there where you are so much in a tight spot that the first thing that comes to your mind is you looking for an old friend who you had a fallout with, but might help you, and you just have to compromise, swallow your pride and look for him or her? Not a good place to be!

However, we all somehow get to such places of despair and suffering! This life, my friend, is not a walk in the park. Trouble, affliction, sickness, diseases, betrayal, deceit, pain, hurt, rejection and malice are not taken away when you walk the narrow path and become a follower of Jesus. We actually often ask ourselves why God has got us to such places, don’t we?

“Why would you do this to me when your Word says you love me!?,” we often ask.

It’s interesting because we live in a day when the well-shaven, well-dressed men who appear on Christian channels paint a picture of this Christianity which is free of pain. They claim, and sadly so, that God does not want any of His children to suffer or be in pain. They claim that for the Christian, life should be a swift sail of peace and comfort, constant health and constant wealth. But really? Where do they get that? It’s really appalling.

In my humble opinion, modern day Christianity is so-focused on preparing people for the good times without much preparation for suffering hence even the so-called ‘strong Christians’ backslide when trouble knocks. They think God has utterly rejected them to say the least.

I like terming it a ‘theology of suffering’. I am one of those weird people who actually believe ALL of the Bible and not just parts of it that tickle my fancy. So, let’s expound a theology for suffering right here and help each other appropriate our painful circumstances better.

So, according to the Bible – suffering and trouble is an actual promise from God.

Acts 14:22 says that Paul told all his young churches, "Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom." And Jesus said, "If they persecuted me, they will persecute you" (John 15:20). And Peter said, "Do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you" (1 Peter 4:12). In other words, suffering is not strange; it is to be expected by the Christian – you and I. And Paul also added and said (in 2 Timothy 3:12), "Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted."

Summarily, we can agree that pain and suffering are a part of our life as believers. Actually, I tend to believe that the more we actually walk and talk like Jesus, the more we will be rejected and subjected to pain and suffering – not the opposite. Over the past few weeks I must say its been like that in my life. Lots of trials and moments of pain for one reason or the other, but my approach to these circumstances is utterly different because of the truths that are laid out throughout the Bible.

Pain is not a bad thing after all, its an amazing teacher. Skipping it will only make us even lesser prepared for encountering it next time. Moments of pain are moments of making and shaping your character. Moments of suffering and turmoil in this life are moments that remind us and point us to a greater hope of meeting him one day in a place where they will be no more tears and suffering.

I love what Job says after months of suffering. He says to God: "I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees thee" (Job 42:5). Job had been a godly and upright man, pleasing to God, but the difference between what he knew of God in prosperity and what he knew of him through adversity was the difference between hearing about and seeing. So, can this mean that there are lessons about God which pain leads us to which moments free of pain can lead us to? I think so – absolutely!

Steven, standing before the religious leaders of that day, being persecuted and suffering looked up to heaven and saw God in a way that He most probably had never seen Him before. The text says that was full of the Holy Spirit and gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God" (Acts 7:55). There is a special revelation, a special intimacy, prepared for those who suffer and are Christians clearly!

I love Paul in many ways. Here he is, the most radical persecutor of the church but when the Lord meets Him on his way to Damascus, his whole life changes, even his priorities. He says in Philippians 3:8 that “Indeed, I count EVERYTHING AS LOSS because of the SURPASSING WORTH OF KNOWING CHRIST JESUS my Lord. For his SAKE I HAVE SUFFERED THE LOSS OF ALL THINGS and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” (I added the emphasis) Wow!

For Paul, that is what being a Christian is all about – and Paul even goes on to say that we should follow this example of counting all a loss for the sake of gaining Jesus. Why is this important to understand when we talk about suffering?

One of men whose writings have radically slapped me out of sleep in John Piper. He says in one of his writings that “suffering is nothing more than the taking away of bad things or good things that the world offers for our enjoyment.” Practically speaking, this is the loss of our reputation, esteem among peers, job, money, spouse, children, friends, health, strength, sight, hearing, success, etc. When these things are taken away (by force or by circumstance or by choice), we suffer.

But if we have followed Paul and the teaching of Jesus and have already counted them as loss for the surpassing value of gaining Christ, then we are PREPARED to suffer. Can you say you are? And if you are not, it is probably because some of these things are more important to you than Christ whom you have so their loss is as devastating as anything can ever be.

If we are prepared, when it comes, we embrace it and Paul in one passage actually mentions his sufferings as what approves him as a minister. He says in 2 Corinthians 6:4-5 that, “But as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labours, sleepless nights, hunger.” Am I saying that these are the things you need to be pursuing in your life? NO! Pain and suffering sucks! But when it comes, brother and sister, remember that it has a profound purpose and more importantly that you are not alone – Jesus is right there with you through it. He might not take you out, but He will take you through.

Grace and peace to you all!

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