What Makes Suffering Truly Unbearable?

escape_to_sorrow_by_utopic_man-d36mwl5 “It is as we get larger in our own eyes less dependent on God’s grace and revelation, and surer that we understand how the universe works and how history should go that the problem of evil becomes so intolerable. And it is only as God becomes more remote – a God who is all loving only in the abstract, not in the sense of having suffered and died for us to rescue us from evil – that he seems unbearably callous in the face of pain. In short, theism without certainty of salvation or resurrection is far more disillusioning in the midst of pain than is atheism. When suffering, believing in God thinly or in the abstract is worse that not believing in God at all.” – Tim Keller, Walking with God Through Pain & Suffering

September 24 2014 | Blog | Comments Off on What Makes Suffering Truly Unbearable?

“Though You Slay Me”

For those walking through the valley of the shadow of death and affliction right now…

September 27 2013 | Blog | Comments Off on “Though You Slay Me”

Lifelines–“I Am Beyond Help…God Cannot Hear”

lifeline_t_nvI’m beginning a new series of posts today that I’m calling lifelines. These will will be short posts meant to address pressing concerns that all Christians face from time to time. My contention in this series is that when we encounter suffering and sorrow in this life what we need more than anything else is a lifeline to hold onto. These passages of Scripture are meant to be just that.

When I feel as if I am beyond help and/or that God cannot hear my cries for rescue I need to grab hold of…

Isaiah 59:1 Behold, the Lord’s hand is not so short that it cannot save; nor His ear so dull that it cannot hear.”

Every Christian experiences times when they feel hopeless, as if no one can help. Perhaps you’re experiencing a financial crisis or maybe you feel as if you’re family is falling apart. Having served in full time ministry for nearly 12 years now, I know that there are many occasions for despair in the ministry. Perhaps you feel like you can’t meet everyone expectations. Or perhaps you’re scared to death of the next meeting you’ll have with that angry man. Or perhaps you’re just plain overwhelmed in a sea of tasks that never seem to really get accomplished. These are the kinds of occasions that call out for a reminder that God’s hand is not so short that He cannot save you and a promise that His ear is not so dull that He cannot hear. Child of God know this, God is attentive to your cries and He is able to save you from all of your adversities.

August 19 2013 | Blog and Lifelines | Comments Off on Lifelines–“I Am Beyond Help…God Cannot Hear”

No One Understands Like Jesus

In 1921 John W. Peterson wrote the hymn No One Understands Like Jesus. It may be that your in a difficult place today and you feel very alone. This hymn and the story behind it is a good reminder that while no one else may understand what you’re going through, Jesus does.

At one time I had a fairly responsible position with a well-known gospel ministry. One day a supervisory position opened up in my department. I was led to believe that I was to be promoted to this position. I was thrilled and challenged by the prospect of a new job. But I was by-passed, and a man from the outside was brought in to fill the position. There followed days of agonizing heart searching. It was all I could do to keep from becoming bitter. One night I had occasion to spend an evening with the man who was brought in for “my” position. For some reason or other, though otherwise a very pleasant fellow, that night he became quite caustic in some of his remarks to me, and I was deeply hurt. Later that evening, after returning home, I was sitting in our living room thinking about the events of the past days and about the bitter experiences of that evening. I began to feel very alone and forsaken. Suddenly, I sensed the presence of the Lord in an unusual way and my mind was diverted from my difficulties to His faithfulness and sufficiency. Soon the thought occurred to me that He fully understood and sympathized with my situation—in fact, no one could ever completely understand or care as did He. Before long, the idea for the song came and I began to write—

No one understands like Jesus. He’s a friend beyond compare; meet Him at the throne of mercy; He is waiting for you there.
No one understands like Jesus; ev’ry woe He sees and feels; tenderly He whispers comfort, and the broken heart He heals.
No one understands like Jesus when the foes of life assail; you should never be discouraged; Jesus cares and will not fail.
No one understands like Jesus when you falter on the way; tho you fail Him, sadly fail Him, He will pardon you today.
Refrain: No one understands like Jesus when the days are dark and grim; no one is so near, so dear as Jesus—Cast your ev’ry care on Him.

July 23 2013 | Blog | Comments Off on No One Understands Like Jesus

"Rest on the Open Sea”

In_the_Open_Sea_by_Virtuos0I have sometimes felt myself impelled to act by an influence which seemed above me—constrained to put to sea. The belief that I was constrained gave me confidence, and I was sure of a calm voyage. But the result was outward failure. The calm became a storm; the sea raged, the winds roared, the ship tossed in the midst of the waves, and my enterprise was wrecked ere it could reach the land.

Was, then, my divine command a delusion?

Nay; nor yet was my mission a failure. He did send me on that voyage, but He did not send me for my purpose. He had one end and I had another. My end was the outward calm; His was my meeting with the storm. My end was to gain the harbor of a material rest; His was to teach me there is a rest even on the open sea. – George Matheson

June 11 2013 | Blog | Comments Off on "Rest on the Open Sea”

Jesus, Lover of My Soul

The hymn, “Jesus, Love of My Soul” has meant a lot to me these last few days, which is one of Charles Wesley’s most well loved hymns. The occasion for it’s composition is unknown but the comfort that these words have brought is undeniable.

storm-effectJesus, lover of my soul, let me to Thy bosom fly. While the nearer waters roll, while the tempest still is high! Hide me, O my Savior, hide—till the storm of life is past; safe into the haven guide, O receive my soul at last!

Other refuge have I none—hangs my helpless soul on Thee. Leave, ah, leave me not alone; still support and comfort me! All my trust on Thee is stayed—All my help from Thee I bring. Cover my defenseless head with the shadow of Thy wing.

February 13 2013 | Blog | Comments Off on Jesus, Lover of My Soul

When Black Clouds Gather…

20070509175737_beach“When the black clouds gather most, the light is the more brightly revealed to us. When the night lowers and the tempest is coming on, the Heavenly Captain is always closes to his crew. It is a blessed thing, that when we are most cast down, then it is that we are most lifted up by the consolations of the Spirit…Great hearts can only be made by great troubles. The spade of trouble digs the reservoir of comfort deeper, and makes more room for consolation…The humbler a man lies, the more comfort he will always have, because he will be more fitted to receive it. – Charles Spurgeon, Morning and Evening.

February 12 2013 | Blog | 1 Comment »

The Fatherly Care of God

Joni Eareckson Tada made a powerful point in an interview with Marvin Olasky recently where she said:

When I was a little girl, I remember riding my bike down a steep hill. I made a right-hand turn. My wheels skidded out on gravel and I crashed to the ground. My knee was a bloody mess. My dad comes running out. I’m screaming and crying. Although I didn’t ask why, if I had, how cruel it would have been for my father to stand over me and say, “Well, sweetheart, let me answer that question. The next time you’re going down the hill, watch the steepness, be careful about the trajectory of your turn, be observant of gravel.” Those would all have been good answers to the question, “Why did this happen?” But when people are going through great trauma and great grief, they don’t want to know why. They want Daddy to pick them up, press them against his chest, pat them on the back, and say, “There, there, sweetheart, Daddy’s here. It’s OK.” When we are hurting, that’s what we want. We want God to be Daddy: warm, compassionate, real, in the middle of our suffering. We want fatherly assurance that our world is not spinning out of control

HT: Justin Taylor

January 23 2013 | Blog | Comments Off on The Fatherly Care of God

Suffering Reproach for Christ’s Sake

Part of pastoral ministry is suffering. This suffering can come in any number of different shapes and sizes, but sadly it oftentimes comes from the sheep. I don’t know of any pastor who knew that better that Charles Spurgeon. Spurgeon has been an excellent counselor to me in this area, even in recent days. This is a quote from a sermon that he preached on October 28, 1855 titled “Chastisement”.

If thou thinkest that reproach for Christ’s sake is a dishonor, thou judgest wrongly of it, for it is the greatest honor that can possibly happen to thee.

There are many of you who count that religion is very honorable while you can be respectable in it, while you can walk in respectable society, but if the cause of God brings you into tribulation, if it engenders the laugh and jeer of the worldling, the hiss and scorn of the world, then you think it a dishonor. But my son thou dost not weigh the blessing rightly. . . .

When they say all manner of evil against us falsely, we put that down not in the book of dishonor but in the scroll of glory. When they call us by opprobrious titles, we write not that down for loss, but for gain. We accept their jeers as honors, we count the vile things they cast at us in the pillory of scorn to be a donation of pearls and diamonds: we take their evil speaking, we read it by the light of the Word of God, and we discover that in it lie music, notes of honor and chords of glory to us for ever.

HT: Pyromaniacs

July 26 2011 | Blog | Comments Off on Suffering Reproach for Christ’s Sake

Unexpected Joy in Great Suffering

If there is a sub-theme for the book of Philippians it would certainly be the theme of suffering. Paul introduces this theme early on the book in chapter one:

1:12 – “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.” (What had happened to Paul was that he had been beaten countless times and was now awaiting a trial that would determine whether he lived or died.)

1:20b – “…Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

1:29 – “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you said I had now hear that I still have.”

The theme of suffering runs throughout this entire book, but especially through the first chapter. Right here at the very beginning we are confronted with the difficulty of this book. How can Paul possibly say that “to live is Christ and to die is gain”? The last time I checked, dying was something we usually try to avoid. Or, how can Paul say that “it has been granted to you for the sake of Christ to suffer”? These statements should smash into our sensibilities. They are unexpected at best!

The only way that these things can make sense is if, in spite of the loss, we have a treasure that is so far surpassingly more valuable than even our life or even our suffering that no matter what happens to us in life, we can call it GAIN! That far surpassing treasure is Jesus Christ. John Piper has said, “What makes God look good is when we can suffer the loss of all things and still call it gain b/c Christ is so precious to us!”

The foundation for this radical way of living is the gospel.

Philippians 1:27 – “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.”

In other words, Paul is saying that the gospel of Jesus Christ is of such far surpassing value and worth that even in the midst of terrible suffering, there is no comparison to the treasure that is mine in the gospel. Peter reminds us of that in 1 Peter 1:18-19 – “knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.”

The gospel was the lens through which Paul could look at terrible loss and suffering and say that it is GAIN! Because in the gospel we learn how bad off we really are (everyone of us justly deserves eternal torment in hell), but we also learn what Christ has done for us on the cross.

The issue that is always before you in the midst of suffering is, where is your treasure? You can try to store up your treasures in your finances, you can try to store up your treasures in your family, you can try to store up your treasures in your 401k, but it is only when your greatest treasure in life is the precious Lord Jesus Christ that you can with Paul suffer the loss of all things and still cry out GAIN!!! All I have is Christ and all I need is Christ!

May 24 2011 | Devotional | 2 Comments »

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