Sometimes as Christians we believe that pain is supposed to be avoidable; it’s supposed to not be allowed in our lives. But what about the cross then? If we think that because of our beliefs and because of the gracious God we serve that we are supposed to be exempt from the sufferings in this life, then how do we acknowledge and explain the horrendous pain that our Lord, the only Son of God, suffered on the cross.
The answer is truly simple: love.
Perhaps the trials that we go through, the pain that we experience, and the suffering we endure is placed in our path for a purpose motivated by love. It was never the intent of our Father to place us in times like this, but because of the sinful nature of our world, these painful experiences exist. However, we are able to walk through these trials because we know our Father is with us and His promises will stand. There is a way to experience hurt yet cling to hope. If we acknowledge the fact that these times can provide growth and purpose, then we are able to see the love poured out within the battle.
“The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me.” Psalm 23:1-4
The Lord provides rest; His yolk is easy. However, we must acknowledge that hard times are not avoidable; rather they are inevitable. Sometimes we see these trials as a season of punishment; but what if one of the paths of righteousness that He leads us into is in fact the valley of the shadow of death? We must stop looking at it from a perspective that our God is a cruel God to put us in that; but rather our God is a good God to walk us through that. It is not a season of punishment, but rather a season of preparation that is setting us up to have a greater purpose in life. These hard times that we go through are not an interruption of our story, but rather an invitation into a greater story.
Let’s take Paul’s story for example. Paul’s heart went through a season of restoration and his eyes became fixed on eternity. His heart was so aligned with the Father’s that he became a threat to his culture. The rulers threw him into jail in order to stop him from spreading the good news; yet Paul viewed it as a great opportunity and saved many souls within the jail. The rulers then agreed to publicly beat him in order to make a statement within their society; yet Paul humbly took the beating and through His actions the Lord was glorified and more souls were saved. The rulers finally agreed to have Paul killed, and yet the remembrance of his life and his humility and faith brought even more people to Christ. You see, even though Paul went through multiple trials and hardships, his eyes were so set on eternity that his enemies no longer scared him, his trials brought him a greater purpose, and his faith continued to save others. Paul was living in the very freedom that we are able to live in as well. Perhaps through all of the battles we face, our God is making us dangerous in a sense that we are able to dine with our enemies and we are no longer afraid of death because we fully understand the greater purpose of our lives and are able to see things from an eternal perspective.
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies” Psalm 23:5
To live is Christ; to die is gain….
Another thing to consider is that perhaps through these times of struggle, the Lord is increasing your capacity. The things that the enemy uses to attack us and destroy us, God is using to mold us into warriors and prepare us for a greater purpose. Sometimes the purpose that the Lord has for us comes with a process. The process isn’t promised to be easy, but rather it comes with pain. During the process there are promised times of pressing, times of crushing… but these are the very things that shape our faith. In Gethsemane, the Lord was pressed and crushed. He was physically sweating drops of blood and earnestly begged God to provide another way for salvation. But there was only one way. Even our SAVIOR had to go through times of pressure, times of persecution, and times of suffering in order to live out His full purpose. Jesus was able to do this because He took the Father with Him, and God provided through the shadow of the valley of death for His son. The place of Gethsemane holds two meanings in its name: one literally means “the place of pressing” and the other “the place of ascension.” You do not get ascension without pressing and crushing in order that you may be able to give the Father all the glory…
For “He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” The Father empties us so that we may boast in our weakness and His strength will prevail.
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
As we boast in our weakness and endure times of struggles, our God promises to mix all of the good times and the bad times TOGETHER for our good. If you think of a cake, there are certain ingredients that you wouldn’t dare eat alone: like flour or baking soda, etc. However, the ingredients like icing or sugar we would love to consume even by themselves! But even with a cake, you take all of these ingredients together and you mix them up and put them under heat… and you give it time. Eventually something beautiful is created from the process. Scripture promises that “all things are made beautiful in its time.” The portions of our life that provide suffering and pain, the enemy uses to drain us, but the Lord takes these times and uses them for our ascension. Even the bad things can be used for our purpose if we simply trust in God and in His timing.
“You anoint my head with oil and my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23:5-6
Through all of the pain, all of the suffering, all of the battles that we endure, the Father promises to overflow your cup so that your brokenness will not only lead to blessings in your own life, but will further overflow onto others and help to fill their cups as well. No matter the extent of the trials that you are called to walk through, if you follow Jesus through every valley, goodness and mercy are promised to follow. Sometimes we are unable to see goodness and mercy in our lives until we take a look back and realize all that the Lord has done for us through each hardship and trial; and with that knowledge we are able to keep following God even through the valley of the shadow of death because we can trust that the same God that has been faithful to us in the past will continue to be faithful to us through it all.
You will begin to see God’s purpose in each moment as you simply begin to trust in His provision.
For faithful You have been, Father, and faithful you will be….
We just really want to thank Davey Blackburn for coming and sharing his story with us and providing truth and hope for all of us to cling to through our various trials. Please come and join us for the last FCA of the semester this Thursday at 9:19… you don’t want to miss it! See you then!