Tag Archives: suffering

Suffering on the Side of the Road

picjumbo.com_HNCK06251 You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book. Psalm 56:8 (NLT)

I dropped my boys off at school, as I do every morning. Headed home to start my day, my mind was going in a thousand different directions. What I saw next happened so quickly and literally took my breath away. Near an exit on the side of the freeway I saw a woman. She was wearing a loose white shirt. The morning sun reflected off of her golden blonde hair. And she was kneeling at a cross near the exit. She wasn’t trying to hide her pain, but was visibly mourning the loss of someone right there, on the side of the freeway, for all those passing by to witness. Although I only caught a glimpse, I could see the anguish and pain in her face. For a brief moment I shared in this stranger’s pain.

We walk around on this earth and we encounter many things that bring us to our knees. There are many of us who stand upright on the outside but on the inside are kneeled, crouched low, in fetal position, aching for something… someone. It’s what we do. We suffer loss, but we have to carry on- for ourselves, for our children, and for our loved ones. But every now and then, most likely in the privacy of our own homes, we like the woman, kneel in a place of brokenness and pain. And we cry out for what is lost and what is unseen and the unknown. Because we don’t know. And not knowing is scary. And not knowing hurts. And sometimes we smile because the world is moving on and we feel like we need to smile. People are getting promotions and celebrating holidays and having birthdays…  but we ache inside because it still hurts. It hurts to watch the world move on when we don’t feel like moving on. We don’t feel like celebrating sometimes. Sometimes feel like we’re lost in the sea of people and we can’t quite find our place, we can’t seem to get a grip on our new normal, because it’s not exactly what we want.

What I want to say to this woman and what I want to say to you is that He sees. He sees you when you are inwardly wrapped in the fetal position and everyone around you is smiling and laughing. He sees your loneliness and how quiet and sometimes cold it feels in the inner chambers of your heart. He knows when you’re at a social gathering because you know you should be there and it takes everything you have to engage because honestly, all you want to do is run and get away. You despise the small talk and want to shout, “Doesn’t anyone see me, doesn’t anyone know I’m hurting.” And they might but they find their own comfort in the smallness of the moment and the small talk that surrounds them.

No one teaches us how to gather together and talk about the things that hurt, the things that weigh heavy on our hearts. And we tend to even feel selfish for bringing it up. “This is an awesome lunch, by the way I’m having a really hard day and don’t really feel like being here today.” How does one do that without feeling guilty for feeling like they’ve brought everyone else down?

We are definitely progressing on being authentic and real, but still have miles to go. The reality is this- whether you are the woman on the side of the road who is openly suffering or, like many of us, the one who silently just has some really hard days but smiles because everyone else seems to be smiling- God sees and hears and He gets us. He knows those things that keep us awake at night. He knows the ones that fight privately with their spouse but show up at every event smiling and together, because it’s what you do. I mean, how would we respond if we said to a couple in passing, “How are you guys?” and have them reply, “Honestly, we are not doing good. We’ve been fighting really bad lately.”  And so we keep moving on, pressing forward, some of us, quietly in our pain.

The Lord sees every single tear that’s fallen from your face. Many suffer quietly. The Lord sees every broken place. Sometimes we’re so wound up that we have trouble just letting Him in and we fight Him until it is all that we can do to drop to our knees. And when we do that, He tenderly and gently rocks us… back and forth, knowing we just need a good cry and His loving arms around us.

Because when no one else knows or understands- He does. And those secret things we think we’re so good at hiding, He sees. And although I don’t have all the answers for you today, there is one thing I am certain of- He can be trusted with our hearts. When no one else feels safe enough to let in to the deepest places of our soul, He is that safe place.

He is our refuge.

People are not always going to know how to comfort or have all the right things to say. That is okay because there is someone who does have answers and He knows exactly how to calm our anxious thoughts and heal our broken places.

Lord, we are believing, trusting, and praying that through the brokenness and the struggles and the pain and uncertainty for what lies ahead, that You will show yourself and bring healing and that through these things that we walk through, that it would only cause us to grow closer to You. Thank You that Your mercies are new every. single. morning. In Jesus name. Amen.

Here are some scriptures to bring hope and comfort. I’ve underlined the action verbs that reveal what He does. He redeems, He lifts, He is aware, He carries, He saves, He sees, He listens, He hears, He encourages, He comforts, and He is not only aware of our sufferings, but He preserves our life and wants to set us free.

  • Isaiah 63:9- In all their affliction He was afflicted, And the angel of His presence saved them; In His love and in His mercy He redeemed them, And He lifted them and carried them all the days of old.
  • Exodus 3:7- The Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt, and have given heed to their cry because of their taskmasters, for I am aware of their sufferings.
  • Isaiah 49:15- Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.
  • Psalms 10:17- You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry.
  • Psalms 118:5- In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and He answered by setting me free.
  • Psalms 22:24- For he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.
  • Psalms 119:50- My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life.
  • Romans 8:18- I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be joy revealed in us.
  • 2 Cor. 1:5- For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.

 

Wrestling Changes Everything

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Jeremiah 24:7I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.

Little boys love to wrestle with their daddies. It’s this sweet, sometimes rough (but fun) bonding that is inbred in some boys. Many of them start out at a young age wanting to tackle everybody. My son Joel would do this all the time with my husband.

There’s also another kind of wrestling that we experience. In our walk with God we go through our own seasons of wrestling. We wrestle with our faith, we wrestle with unanswered prayers, we wrestle for God to show Himself, or perhaps we wrestle through pain- to find meaning in it. Each of us at some point in our lives will be called to wrestle.

Let’s look at a few heroes of the faith who experienced their own wrestling.

Job, in the Old Testament, was a man who was blameless and devoted to God. Job was a blessed man, who loved his family and lived righteously. Job went through a season where the Lord removed His protection (read the story in more detail in the book of Job). He lost all 10 of his children and all of his wealth. If that wasn’t bad enough, he was also afflicted with a horrible skin disease. Job had shown honor to God in response to his suffering. In Job’s heart God was his most precious treasure, even more precious than his health. What’s interesting is that God didn’t answer all of Jobs pleas for help right away. As a matter of fact, Job suffered a great deal. The Bible is unclear on the exact amount of time Job suffered. We know it was less than a year but that it lasted at least several months. I can only concede that it must have felt like forever. God didn’t restore everything right away. Job, knowing the nature and character of God, wrestled with the whys, yet he still told God he would worship Him no matter what. After many months of loneliness, sadness, and loss Job came out of his wrestling with these words, “I had only heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes– Job 42:5. Before wrestling with his suffering, he knew about God, but after the wrestling He knew God and felt a closer intimacy with Him. He was a changed man. He had seen God.

Our wrestling with God serves a purpose. It causes our own faith and walk with the Lord to be grounded and personal. It changes us.

Another hero of the faith that wrestled was Moses. The story is found in Exodus chapters 3 and 4. Moses wrestled with God’s calling on his life. Moses was called to lead the people out of slavery and into the Promised Land. He told God that He must have the wrong guy. Moses felt very under-qualified. But God knew what He was doing. Moses wasn’t confident in speaking and leading. You would think that if God spoke to you from a burning bush that that would be enough confirmation (Exodus 3:4). But no. Moses had to wrestle through his own fears and insecurities. Listen to some of the things Moses said and you can hear Him wrestle with his calling: “But who am I, how do you expect me to lead, they won’t believe me, they won’t do what I tell them to do, I’m not a good speaker, I’m clumsy with words.” Moses had to wrestle through what he thought he could do compared to what God could actually do through him. Once he began to obey God and step out into his calling, God performed many miracles through him. If there were any doubts in the beginning, Moses was able to witness and experience firsthand the faithfulness of God.

There is only one person in the Bible who actually ‘physically’ wrestled and that was Jacob. Jacob’s life up to this point had been one of many struggles. Although God had promised to make many nations from Jacob, he, like Moses, was a man filled with many fears. We pick up his story in Genesis 32. He had fled from his father-in-law Laban because of the awful treatment he received only to encounter his bitter brother Esau who wanted to kill him. In Genesis 32:6 we learn that Esau was on his way with an army of 400 men. Genesis 32:7-8- In great fear and distress Jacob divided the people who were with him into two groups,and the flocks and herds and camels as well. He thought, “If Esau comes and attacks one group,the group that is left may escape.” Genesis 32:20b- for he thought, “I will pacify him with these gifts I am sending on ahead; later, when I see him, perhaps he will receive me.”

During the night he took his wives, servants, and sons and crossed the Jabbok River. And then he sent over all his possessions. This put Jacob in an interesting position. At this point he was completely exhausted, had nothing left to give, and felt like he had no fight left in him. He sent ahead those things in which represented his riches and he was left all alone in the wilderness. Genesis 32:24- So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. It is believed to be an angel of God that wrestled with Jacob that night. Jacob and the angel struggled throughout the night until the angel could not overpower him. When the man (the angel) asked Jacob to let him go, Jacob said he would not let go without a blessing. Jacob would never forget this wrestle because not only did the angel bless him, but he also knocked his hip out of his socket and Jacob walked with a limp for the rest of his life.   

What’s the point of wrestling with God? Surely there is purpose and meaning in and through it. When Jacob came out of that experience of wrestling with God, he was a changed man. He was no longer the same person that he was before he entered the ring. To further demonstrate that he was no longer the same man, God changed his name from Jacob to Israel. “Your name will no longer be Jacob,” he said. “It will be Israel because you have struggled with God and with men and have prevailed.” Gen. 32:28

The King James Bible Commentary says this: “The conflict brought to a head the battling and groping of a lifetime, and Jacob’s desperate embrace vividly expressed his ambivalent attitude to God, of love and enmity, defiance and dependence. It was against Him, not Esau or Laban, that he had been pitting his strength, as he now discovered; yet the initiative had been God’s as it was this night, to chasten his pride and challenge his tenacity. The crippling and the naming show that God’s ends were still the same: He would have all of Jacob’s will to win, to attain and obtain, yet purged of self-sufficiency and redirected to the proper object of man’s love, God Himself.”

Our wrestling breaks us down to realize that without God we are nothing. It’s about wiping away all of who we think we are, our self-sufficiency, and putting us in a place where we have to hash out all those things we don’t really want to face- our insecurities, our anger at something that’s happened, our questions about our own faith, and all of our fears.

When you wrestle with God, you come out changed. There is something about struggling and wrestling through that solidifies your relationship with the Lord. You enter in with so many questions, and you come out knowing that He is real and that regardless of how things turn out, He is for you, and that He desires a close relationship with you. When you come out of your wrestle you might not have all of your questions answered, but you get to a place of trust, where your desire to be close to Him is greater than your desire for all of the answers. 

What about you? Have you been in a place of wrestling with some things? Are you wrestling for your faith? Are you feeling discouraged?  Are you in a place like Job where you’re wrestling with suffering? Or do you relate more to Moses where you are wrestling with your fears and insecurities? Or perhaps your wrestle is more like Jacob, where God is initiating a wrestle with you and you think your frustration is about all these other things, when really God is fighting for you heart?

I want to encourage you this week to get alone with God- seek after Him. Write out your questions and frustrations. Give Him your pain. God can handle our questions. As a matter of fact, He already knows them. But He’s waiting to hear from you personally. Spend time in the scriptures. Cry out to Him in that secret place. And just like Jacob, you will be touched, you will be changed, and you will be blessed.

Jeremiah 29:12-13 (ESV) 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

This article was originally posted in print form (in Spanish) from World Missions Outreach.  

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