Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Blessings of Suffering

Yes, the title is correct, this message is about the blessings we get from the suffering we go through. No one wants to hurt, no one wants to feel pain, but it is something that many times God uses to bless us. His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts. God's blessings many times mean that we go through suffering so that we can be a blessing to others.

I remember the story from a number of years ago about a leader in the Southern Baptist Convention who's son developed AIDS from a blood transfusion. He immediately became a pariah in the Baptist Church - he was suddenly an outcast. People then didn't know as much about AIDS as we know today and they treated this man and his family as lepers. They were rejected and despised. They suffered horribly. But because of what they went through they are much better equipped to minister to others whom the churches have rejected and despised for numerous reasons. They understand the pain of others in ways much more intimately than they ever could have before. In God's way of thinking the pain they went through was a blessing because now they can better help others - their reward in Heaven will be great.

In my last message "Comforting the Grieving" I spoke about the pain I went through losing my little sister to cancer. I also talked about how now I can minister to others who are suffering from the loss of a loved one, something I could never have done before. In God's way of thinking the pain I went through was a blessing so that I was equipped to comfort others.

The rejection and abuse the churches have heaped upon me in the past 28 years has wounded me deeply, but it has enabled me to reach out to others and empathize with them when they have become disillusioned with, hurt, abused and rejected by churches. They saw the emptiness and lack of love in these churches, they saw people who were focused on everything but loving and helping their neighbor. Because of what I have been through I understand their pain and can help to comfort them, encourage them and build them back up - to show them the love and compassion of the Lord.

Back in 1988 I was at a church retreat in Prescott, AZ and during that weekend I asked a couple of the pastors to pray for me. I remember one of them praying "Lord, I pray that you will give Cliff a new heart to replace this severely wounded one of his". I told him "No, Jim, I don't want a new heart. I want some of these wounds healed, but not all of them because that way I will be more sensitive to the wounds in others." I don't really think I knew what I was saying then, I believe it was the Holy Spirit speaking through me - but it was for the greater good, so I could better minister to others because my heart would be very sensitive to their pain.

Believe me, I am no glutton for pain nor am I a masochist. I don't like suffering any more than anyone else. But when I look back upon what I have been through I can now see why God ordained that those things happened that way. Yes, He ordained that I go through all that, and many times He was the one sticking a knife in my heart. You don't believe that? Then you haven't read the Bible. Job 5:18 - For He inflicts pain and He gives relief; He wounds and He heals. Isa 30:26 - .. when the Lord binds up the bruises of His people and heals the wounds He inflicted. Most people see where it says that He heals but they totally miss the part that says that He wounds. The sons of God know that He wounds, children don't.

Our knowledge of God and His ways is comparable to a grain of sand in all the oceans of the universe, we know virtually nothing about Him and His thoughts and ways. The pain we go through that we think is from the evil one may very well be from God to bless us in the way He views blessings. We do not grow spiritually except by suffering nor do we mature as Christians unless we go through intense afflictions.

Romans 8:18 - "I do not consider that the suffering of the present is worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us". The glory can mean the love, compassion and mercy of the Lord that will flow through us to others because of the suffering we have been through. It can also mean the spiritual maturity that will result from our afflictions.

Now, lest you think I am a saint who praises God every time He wounds me, let me me very open and honest with you. There have been literally thousands times I have screamed and yelled at God in the last 28 years, times that I have complained bitterly, times that I have hated Him, despised Him because of the horrible suffering He was sending upon me. He was testing and trying me in the fires of afflictions. The pressure He was putting me under was absolutely horrific. Most "Christians" judged and condemned me for hurting and feeling angry at God. But as a 22-year old guy told me in 1986 "He is a big God and He can handle your emotions". So when I see people who are wounded, hurting and angry at God (the anger comes from the pain of the wounds that God has inflicted upon them) I simply comfort them, show them the love and compassion that so-called "Christians" won't. I let them know that God can handle their emotions and that He is not going to condemn them because of how they react to pain that He is inflicting upon them.

How do you get and refine gold? You pulverize a piece of rock then sift the gold out of it. You put the gold over intense heat for a long, long time until all the impurities are burned off. How is a diamond made? It is a lump of coal that is put under enormous pressure for eons and eons. The more pressure it is under and the longer the time, the purer the diamond. So also it is with us - the hotter the fire, the greater the pressure, the purer we will be. Yes, pain can be a blessing when we are able to see it from God's eyes.

I tend to personalize many of my writings with the experiences that I have been through. I have no doubt that the Lord wants it that way so that people can intimately relate to the intense feelings that I sometimes convey, feelings and experiences that they themselves may have had and not understood, and been judged and condemned by others because of those emotions. The Lord put me through those trying times so that I could use them to help others better understand why they may be going through great suffering, as well as, of course, to humble me, to mature me and prepare me for His service.

No comments:

Post a Comment