Soul-Care Articles: Christ-centered, Spirit-led, Biblically-based, Clinically-sound, Truth-oriented

Posts tagged ‘God’s comfort’

Why Do We Suffer?

SOURCE:  Chuck Swindoll

Of all the letters Paul wrote, 2 Corinthians is the most autobiographical. In it the great apostle lifts the veil of his private life and allows us to catch a glimpse of his human frailties and needs. You need to read that letter in one sitting to capture the moving emotion that surged through his soul.

It is in this letter alone that he records the specifics of his anguish, tears, affliction, and satanic opposition. In this letter alone he spells out the details of his persecution, loneliness, imprisonments, beatings, feelings of despair, hunger, shipwrecks, sleepless nights, and that “thorn in the flesh”—his companion of pain. How close it makes us feel to him when we picture him as a man with real, honest-to-goodness problems . . . just like you and me!

It is not surprising, then, that he begins the letter with words of comfort—especially verses 3 through 11 (please stop and read).

Now then, having read those nine verses, please observe his frequent use of the term comfort in verses 3–7. I count ten times in five verses that the same root word is employed by Paul. This word is para-kaleo, meaning literally, “to call alongside.” It involves more than a shallow “pat on the back” with the tired expression, “the Lord bless you . . . ” No, this word involves genuine, in-depth understanding . . . deep-down compassion and sympathy. This seems especially appropriate since it says that God, our Father, is the “God of all comfort” who “comforts us in all our affliction.” Our loving Father is never preoccupied or removed when we are enduring sadness and affliction! Read Hebrews 4:14–16 and Matthew 6:31–32 as further proof.

There is yet another observation worth noting in 2 Corinthians, chapter 1. No less than three reasons are given for suffering—each one introduced with the term “that.” Can you locate them? Take a pencil and circle the “that” in verses 4, 9, and 11. Quietly, without a lot of fanfare, the Holy Spirit states reasons we suffer:

1. “That we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction . . . “ (v. 4). God allows suffering so that we might have the capacity to enter into others’ sorrow and affliction. Isn’t that true? If you have suffered a broken leg and been confined to crutches for weeks—you are in complete sympathy with someone else on crutches, even years after your affliction. The same is true for the loss of a child . . . emotional depression . . . an auto accident . . . undergoing unfair criticism . . . financial burdens. God gives His children the capacity to understand by bringing similar sufferings into our lives. Bruises attract one another.

2. “That we would not trust in ourselves . . . “ (v. 9). God also allows suffering so that we might learn what it means to depend on Him, not on our own strength and resources. Doesn’t suffering do that? It forces us to lean on Him totally, absolutely. Over and over He reminds us of the danger of pride . . . but it frequently takes suffering to make the lesson stick. Pride is smashed most effectively when the suffering comes suddenly, surprisingly. The express trains of heaven are seldom announced by a warning bell; they dash suddenly and abruptly into the station of the soul. Perhaps that has been your experience recently. Don’t resent the affliction as an intruder—welcome it as God’s message to stop trusting in your flesh . . . and start leaning on Him.

3. “That thanks may be given . . . “ (v. 11). Honestly—have you said, “Thanks, Lord, for this test”? Have you finally stopped struggling and expressed to Him how much you appreciate His loving sovereignty over your life? I submit that one of the reasons our suffering is prolonged is that we take so long saying “Thank you, Lord” with an attitude of genuine appreciation.

How unfinished and rebellious and proud and unconcerned we would be without suffering! Alan Redpath, the beloved evangelist and former pastor of Moody Bible Church in Chicago, once remarked;

When God wants to do an impossible task, He takes an impossible individual—and crushes him.

Here is another statement on suffering I heard years ago. I shall never forget it:

Pain plants the flag of reality in the fortress of a rebel heart.

May these things encourage you the next time God heats up the furnace!

Don’t resent affliction as an intruder—welcome it as God’s invitation to trust Him.

— Charles R. Swindoll

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Cutting: Going For Blood

SOURCE:  Ed Welch/CCEF

“…I’m lost. I am distraught. Last night I couldn’t help it—I needed to see blood, so I scratched myself with my razor. Just a tiny bit of blood. A tiny scratch….”

I have a soft spot for women who cut.

They know they need help, though it is hard to ask for it.

The statements above are from the journal of a friend who tries to resist cutting herself. She often succeeds, sometimes fails.

Cutting herself isn’t the only way that she calms down. She burns herself too. Cigarette lighters, irons, they all work. They temporarily stop the chaos within, but what stops the insanity best—is blood.

These strategies substitute a lesser pain for a greater pain, a physical pain for a psychological pain. And if cutting and burning are a lesser pain, then the greater pain must be great indeed. One woman would hit herself in the face as a way to focus her mind so she would not be haunted by past shame.

But why blood?

For most ancient cultures, life itself was thought to be in the blood (Lev. 17:14), and their sacrificial systems usually included it. They shed blood to appease the gods and drank it to gain their power. There is something about humanity that carries an awareness of the importance of blood and its implications for our relationship with God. The Torah, of course, gives God’s true direction for sacrifices, and the result is a lot of blood.

So spilling blood makes sense at some level, it seems to offer appeasement. This woman who cuts is using it to quiet the near-audible voices she hears in her head. She does not know whether they are her own, Satan’s, someone else’s, or a chorus of them all—but they all want blood. They speak of shame from sexual violation, rejection by a parent, and being the family scapegoat. Blood will cover the shame and do penance for the guilt, for a little while. Blood leads to peace, temporarily. But after a day or two the blood-lust comes again. It is a futile cycle.

She is beginning to see it more clearly. Her cutting is done in a temple where she is priest and her cultic system is a lie, and she is getting sick of it. So we focus on the Lamb of God whose blood takes away the sin and shame of the world (John 1:29).  We study Hebrews. We see the high priest who offered one sacrifice for all time and then he retired from his sacrificial work—he sat at the right hand of the Father—because his work was done (Heb. 10:10-12). She is learning to rest in his rest.

She has recently been able to go ten days without any blood or even anything self-injurious, and, like an addict who has a little distance from her substance, she was clearer. She started musing about Jesus, who asks her to join him and reason things through (Isa. 1:18). She did that, and heard his irresistible gospel-logic that he cleanses those who come to him. She spoke about the realities of adoption and lavish grace (Eph. 1), and she believed it too. They seemed to her to be small steps, which they were. Yet they are also unabashed evidences of the Spirit who empowers those who are weak.

God Meets Us in the Ache

SOURCE:  Ransomed Heart/Stasi Eldredge

We women were given a huge capacity and need for relationship.  It is our glory and a beautiful way that we bear the image of God, who enjoys perfect, intimate relationship.

But our glory has been tainted.

Because of human brokenness and sin, there is not one relationship in your life that is not touched at some level by disappointment. There is an undercurrent of sorrow in every woman’s life.

Oftentimes, when I feel this sorrow, this loneliness, I think it is revealing something deeply wrong with me. I think that if I was “doing it right” or if I was all right, then I wouldn’t experience this grief. And yes, like you, I am not all that I am meant to be yet. I am becoming. But when I ache, if I believe the cause rests solely on my failures, it is overwhelming. I must run from it. Hide it. Manage it. Sanctify it. Ignore it. Numb it. Or better yet, kill it! Because when I am awake to it, it hurts. And I can feel bad for feeling bad.

Sound familiar?

The undercurrent of sorrow that we feel is not all our fault. Maybe a part of it is. Maybe God is using it to expose a style of relating that he wants us to repent of. Maybe. But it’s also possible that none of the sorrow we are feeling at a given moment is rooted in our failings.

When we become aware of sadness or disappointment, we do not have to run. Sorrow is one of the realities of life. To be mature women, we have to be awake to the ache. Let it be a doorway for us to walk through to find deeper intimacy with God.

We ask God to meet us—right in the ache.

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