Tag Archives: Suffering

Psalm 121 – My Help Comes from the Lord

Yesterday one of my fellow bloggers, April from over at Thoughts from the Porch, commented on my post and suggested that I read Psalm 121. I happened to be out shopping with my son, waiting for him to finish getting something for his best friend’s birthday at Game Trader, when I read her comment. I have a YouVersion Bible app on my phone, so I went right to Psalm 121 and read it. What a wonderful comfort the words of this Psalm are.

In the midst of trials and struggles – and King David knew plenty of trial and struggles – we can always look to the Lord. It is from Him that our help comes.

I was very surprised when I checked my blog and discovered that I had never posted this psalm for Psalm Sunday, so I decided I would for today. I hope it blesses you as much as it did me.

Psalm 121

   A song of ascents.

 1 I lift up my eyes to the hills—
   where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the LORD,
   the Maker of heaven and earth.

 3 He will not let your foot slip—
   he who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
   will neither slumber nor sleep.

 5 The LORD watches over you—
   the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day,
   nor the moon by night.

 7 The LORD will keep you from all harm—
   he will watch over your life;
8 the LORD will watch over your coming and going
   both now and forevermore.

As I read this Psalm yesterday, I could hear the first verse set to music in my head. I had to do a little searching to remember what song it is from, but I finally found Praise You in This Storm by Casting Crowns. So I thought I would add it to this post also.

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In Need of a Mediator

I’ve just gotten to Job on my Bible reading schedule. The schedule I’m using places Job between Genesis 22 and 23, which is apparently where it is believed it occurred chronologically.

I still remember the first time I tried to read Job. I was 23, in my first year of law school, and had just been baptized in the Lutheran church. My husband gave me an NIV Study Bible as a baptismal gift. I don’t remember why I decided to start with Job as the first book I would read, but it wasn’t a good idea. Maybe I thought I knew enough about the Bible because I had attended two years of Sunday school in sixth and seventh grade and didn’t need to read the basics. At any rate, I would not recommend Job as a place to start for a new Christian.

Don’t get me wrong – I think Job is a great book. But for a new Christian, I think John, Romans, or Hebrews are all much better places to start. In terms of Old Testament, Genesis and Psalms are good places to start.

Job is one of those books of the Bible from which one must be careful not to pull verses out of context. The dialog between Job and his friends reveals how they saw the world and how they understood God. They didn’t necessarily have as much wisdom in this area as they thought they did.

But then again, we are often much like Job and his friends. We think we understand what God is up to, why He has done something or not done something. When things don’t go right we speculate that God is meting out punishment or teaching a lesson (especially if it is someone else’s trouble we are speculating about). And maybe He is, but maybe He’s just trying to show Satan that He knows us better than Satan does and that in spite of hardships we will maintain our attitude of worship towards God. (See Job 1-2). We really don’t know why a particular incident of suffering and hardship has befallen a good person.

What we do know is that God does what is just and right, and that His goal is the greatest good and the furtherance of His kingdom. He is faithful and trustworthy. His ways are not our ways, His thoughts are not our thoughts. But we are His children and He loves us. (He loved Job, too, only Job didn’t know it).

I had a nice block of quiet time to myself yesterday morning, and so I made it through chapter 16 of Job. I know I just said you have to be careful about taking verses out of context, but there were four verses that really jumped out at me. I don’t know if I’d ever really noticed them before. Chapter 9 is titled “Job’s Third Speech: A Response to Bildad.” At the end of this speech Job says:

32 “God is not a mortal like me,
      so I cannot argue with him or take him to trial.
 33 If only there were a mediator between us,
      someone who could bring us together.
 34 The mediator could make God stop beating me,
      and I would no longer live in terror of his punishment.
 35 Then I could speak to him without fear,
      but I cannot do that in my own strength.”

Did you catch that? Job thought he needed a mediator between him and God. Of all of Job’s prayers, God eventually answered this one.

We now do have a mediator between us and God, and that is Jesus Christ. Because of Jesus we no longer need to live in terror of God’s punishment – Jesus took the punishment for us. We can now approach the throne of God without fear because we can do so in the strength of Jesus and do not have to rely on our own strength. Because of Jesus we have a hope that Job lacked when he was in the midst of his greatest trials. When our hope is shattered by suffering and loss, Jesus gives us new hope and peace.

I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. 1 Timothy 2:1-5 (NLT).

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Prayer – A Poem

Prayer finds me
seeking You for
comfort and healing
here on my knees

As I come to You
my mind is turned
to others who need
what I seek for me

Immanuel, You
are with me now
as I focus on You
instead of my pain

Never to forsake me
You have promised
I find it is true
when You I seek

Check out some other poetry at dVerse Poets Pub Open Link Night #15.

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Pain and Suffering – A Poem

Okay, this is going to sound weird to some of you, but my Thankful Thursday poem today is titled “Pain and Suffering.” I’ve been trying to think of what to write all week and couldn’t think of anything that wasn’t trite. I thought of the new paver driveway and patio I just had installed, but didn’t think that would make much of a poem. I thought of the housekeeper I wish I had, that I would be thankful for if only I had one, but that didn’t seem right either.

Then last night I was driving to the doctor to discuss refilling my pain medication. I thought of James 1, which our youth minister preached on last Sunday. James says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4 (NIV). Although I would love to live a life in which I experienced no pain or suffering, that is not my lot. (I’ve never actually met anyone who did live a life with absolutely no pain or suffering.)

But I have come to a place where I can find the good in it all – the “silver lining” if you will – in that it has taught me perseverance and compassion. For that I am thankful. I am also thankful for God’s promise that my perseverance will finish its work so that I will be mature and complete.

Pain and Suffering

I will pray
because I care
as the pain drags
you down
exhausting
endless
pain

I understand
how you feel
I’m exhausted
just like you

I have no power
to eliminate
the pain
Yours or mine

Will you let
compassion blossom
from the compost
of your pain?

Or will bitterness
engulf your soul
as pain ravages
your body?

Because I care
I will pray
that we persevere
that the pain
will be eased

I will remind you
this, too, shall pass
someday

It might not be
until Jesus returns
or calls us
home

But we’ll make it
We’ll persevere
and become mature
and complete
I will pray
because I care

Will you pray
for me, too? 

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.
James 1:12-18 (NIV).

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Darkness to Light – A Poem

In My Tuesday Three post yesterday I challenged us to stop hiding behind the masquerade of a perfect life, and share our struggles so that others might benefit from our journey with God. Then yesterday morning, during my prayer time, a poem came to me that shows my own struggles with depression. I decided to share it today.

8/30/11 update: This poem has been linked to dVerse – Poets Pub for the OpenLinkNight Week #7.

Darkness to Light

Darkness surrounded me
Darkness invaded my mind
Darkness enveloped my very soul

In the darkness
The evil one whispered
Thoughts that seemed my own
They’d be better off without me
It would be better if I was dead

Tears drowned me
Tears flooded my mind
Tears drenched my very soul

Through the tears
The evil one whispered
Thoughts I believed were true
I am broken beyond repair
These tears will never end

Pain ensnared me
Pain clouded my mind
Pain threatened my very soul

Amplifying the pain
The evil one whispered
Thoughts I was powerless to deny
This pain will forever cripple me
I will never know joy

Then His Light
Pierced through the darkness
Illuminating my soul
Revealing the sin in my mind
Proclaiming the way for me

Forgive He whispered
As I’ve forgiven you
Your darkness will subside
His words are true

Then His Love
Dried all my tears
Infusing my soul with joy
Clarifying truth in my mind
Declaring healing for me

Live He whispered
As I live in you
Your tears will be dried
His words are true

Then His Truth
Erased my pain
Protecting my soul
Clearing lies from my mind
Redeeming me

Love He whispered
As I forever love you
Your pain will be set aside
His words are true

Darkness, tears, and pain
Replaced by my Savior’s
Light, Love, and Truth
Holding me forevermore
He is my Light

 3 The cords of death entangled me,
   the anguish of the grave came upon me;
   I was overcome by trouble and sorrow.
4 Then I called on the name of the LORD:
   “O LORD, save me!”

* * * * *

 8 For you, O LORD, have delivered my soul from death,
   my eyes from tears,
   my feet from stumbling,
9 that I may walk before the LORD
   in the land of the living.

Psalm 116 (NIV).

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Did You Find Me? – A Poem

I was lost
but now I’m found
I think I’ve heard a hymn
Along those lines

It sounds cliché
but it is true
I was completely lost
Until I found You

Or did You find me?

Did You come in search
of me in the dark
to light my way
when I could not see

I ponder sometimes
Those dark, lonely days
Knowing not where to turn
Feeling lost in a haze

Why did such suffering
I have to endure
Could You not keep me
Safe from the pain

Or did You teach me?

Did You teach me of things
Only the redeemed can know
Lessons of trust and compassion
For my God and the souls
Of the lost
Still needing to be found

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Finding God in Grief and Trials

I’ve recently finished reading A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis. I was quite surprised by how quickly I was able to get through its 76 pages plus Foreword and Introduction. Usually Lewis requires one to re-read numerous paragraphs to fully grasp just exactly what it is he is trying to say. I’ve often found Lewis to be quite intellectually challenging, though always worth the effort. But this book was different; it was more emotional than intellectual; nonetheless it was well worth reading.

Lewis wrote this book, though not intending it to be a book exactly, shortly after his wife Joy Davidman died of cancer. It consists of his journaled thoughts and feelings in working through his grief over his great loss and the impact it had on his faith. Though his faith remained intact, and was perhaps even strengthened by his grief, it was shaken to its core by this experience.

In the midst of Lewis’ rantings at God and doubts about his faith he shares some very profound thoughts about the nature of God, faith, and the inevitable trials we all face in this life. Regarding the trials of life, he wrote:

But of course one must take ‘sent to try us’ the right way. God has not been trying an experiment on my faith or love in order to find out their quality. He knew it already. It was I who didn’t. A Grief, pg. 52.

This reminded me of the story of Job. God allowed Satan to test Job, to put him through trials of losing his possessions and family, as well as an attack on his health. Job 1-2. God allows this to prove to Satan that Job will not lose his faith and will not curse God; knowing all the time exactly how Job would respond.

When we begin to forget the core of our faith or fail to notice a weakness in our thinking about faith or God, it is then that God will allow trials in our lives; not as an experiment to find out how we will respond, but as a means of reminding us of the power of our faith or of pointing out a hole in our faith fence that needs to be mended lest the enemy sneak in unannounced to destroy us completely.

As Lewis began to stand firmly on his faith in God once again, and to see the weaknesses in his own understanding of God, he pondered whether he was “sidling back to God” simply as a means to once again see his beloved Joy some day in Heaven. It is at this juncture in Lewis’ though processes that I came to this wonderful quote:

But then of course I know perfectly well that He can’t be used as a road. If you’re approaching Him not as the goal but as a road, not as the end but as a means, you’re not really approaching Him at all. That’s what was really wrong with all those popular pictures of happy reunions ‘on the further shore’; not the simple-minded and very earthly images, but the fact that they make an End of what we can get only as a by-product of the true End. A Grief, pg. 68.

We must seek God and a relationship with Him for its own sake, not for whatever else we can get from it, from Him.

It seems to me that the same can be cited as the problem with hellfire and brimstone preaching. It calls one to seek God not for His own sake, but merely as a means to avoiding a most unpleasant situation eternally.

There are many books that speculate as to what both Heaven and Hell will be like. But to me, the best description of Heaven is to be in the presence of God; the best description of Hell is to be separated from Him; all other details of either place are superfluous.

Perhaps it is precisely when we forget that the aim of our faith must be God Himself that He sends a trial of loss, so that we may see that we have placed some inferior desire ahead of our desire for Him alone, but that if we turn back to Him we will weather the loss and be whole again. Without the trial we might miss out on the wonder of the only relationship we truly cannot live without.

You see, God is more concerned with our spiritual well-being and the strength of our relationship with Him (the most essential thing in our life), than He is with our comfort. In Lewis’ case, it was the loss of his beloved wife that allowed him to fully grasp this truth. For another whose health and physical prowess are their desired ends and where they place their faith, the loss necessary to reveal their need for God might involve a major illness or injury. If one has focused on their career and find their worth in their occupational success, the loss that leads them back to God might be prolonged unemployment.

Is there something that is keeping you from seeking God for His own sake? Will you heed the subtle messages sent by God to draw you to Him, or will it require a major loss or trial to set you in a right relationship with Him? Lewis, in spite of his intellectual and even real faith in God, found that His profound loss brought him closer to his Creator. Sometimes that is what is required.

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A Love So Divine

This past weekend I started reading Tortured for Christ by Pastor Richard Wurmbrand. It is the true story of his imprisonment and torture in Communist Romania for preaching the Gospel. I had intended to read the whole book and then write a book review. But something I read last night struck me so profoundly that I was compelled to share what he wrote and my thoughts on it.

Wurmbrand talks of love divine that cares for the souls of all mankind. It can only be attributed to the love of Christ dwelling within the heart of a believer. I can relate to this first passage, though the pain he describes did not come upon me when I first believed, but has been developed within me by the Holy Spirit over time.

In the first days after my conversion, I felt that I would not be able to live any longer. Walking on the street, I felt a physical pain for every man and woman who passed by. It was like a knife in my heart, so burning was the question of whether or not he or she was saved. If a member of the congregation sinned, I would weep for hours. The longing for the salvation of all souls has remained in my heart and the Communists are not excluded from it. Tortured for Christ, pg. 56.

For me it is not always a case of wondering whether or not others are saved. Often I know by their own words that they have rejected Christ. In many instances, it is family or friends, and the pain is all the greater. This passage was encouraging to me because Wurmbrand put into words what I feel in my heart, and it was a blessing to know I am not alone. It also reminds me that I cannot pick and choose whose salvation I should care about for it is all of mankind that God wants to redeem at the cross.

But in this passage Wurmbrand speaks only of the stranger passing in the street and a general love for mankind. On the very next page, he speaks of a love so divine is defies all human logic. He speaks of the love not of one’s family and friends, but of one’s enemies. He writes:

A minister who was horribly beaten was thrown into my cell. He was half dead, with blood streaming from his face and body. We washed him. Some prisoners cursed the Communists. Groaning, he said, “Please, don’t curse them! Keep silent! I wish to pray for them.” Tortured for Christ, pg. 57.

It was in prison that we found the hope of salvation for the Communists. It was there that we developed a sense of responsibility for them. It was in being tortured by them that we learned to love them. Tortured for Christ, pg. 58.

How does one love those who have beaten, starved, and tortured them, those who have deprived them of their physical freedom? Wurmbrand spent a total of 14 years in prison, his only crime preaching the love of Christ. As I read his description of the atrocities he suffered it is unfathomable that a human being could endure such hardship only to turn around and show love to those who caused it. It can only be attributed to the love of Christ dwelling in his heart.

As I read his account, I am convicted of the paucity of my own love for not only my enemies, but my friends and family as well. Given my regular reaction to those who have slighted me in some small way, would I respond to torture and hatred the way Wurmbrand did and other persecuted Christians do even today? Wurmbrand refered to 2 Corinthians 4:17, saying that the troubles he endured were “light and momentary” compared to the eternal glory he would experience in Heaven. I’ve used that same verse as encouragement, struggling with the concept that my own troubles are truly “light and momentary.” By comparison to what Wurmbrand and other persecuted Christians endure, my troubles are nothing. Yet I find it difficult to feel or show love towards those who cause them.

This morning I received an email that illustrated the divine love that comes from Christ. I am in charge of prayer requests at my church and the email I received was a prayer request for a young woman who had been hit by a drunk driver. She is in critical condition with serious brain injury and the doctors don’t know if she will regain speech or sight after the surgery they must perform. This first part of the prayer request is pretty normal; we often ask for prayer for our loved ones. It was the next sentence that struck me as being a wonderful example of divine love. “Please also pray for the young man that hit her.  Not sure what his issues are that he was drunk at 5 pm.  He and his buddy are fine, but need prayer about his/their life choices.”

Wurmbrand, no doubt, would not only pray for this young drunk driver, but would track him down and share with him the Gospel of Christ. Perhaps that is the response we should have as well. But I think even the thought to pray for one who has caused a loved one such pain and injury is evidence of the love of Christ in the heart of the person who sent me this prayer request. It is the type of love we should all aspire to.

In His sermon on the mount, Jesus said:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:43-48.

Richard Wurmbrand has done just as Jesus commanded here. We have the power to do the same if we rely on the Holy Spirit. It is only when we allow the love of Christ to dwell richly in our hearts that we can so. It is when we see all of humanity, including our enemies, as God sees them that we will be filled with the desire that they know His love. And that desire will override our natural tendency toward hatred and revenge. In the end, it is a love so divine that it defies all human logic that has saved the human race from itself.

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An Intercessor’s Heart

Everyone experiences difficulties in life. It can be the loss of a job, an illness that never seems to end, a broken marriage and a broken heart, not being able to make ends meet, a physical or verbal attack by a friend or a stranger, the devastation of a natural disaster, and the list goes on. But the greatest tragedy is that all of these difficulties and trials have shattered hope.

When we go through some difficulty and then we finally reach the end of it, we can respond is different ways. One way is to be happy for ourselves and try to just put it all behind us, never thinking of the difficulty again. Another is to not be able to get over it, to remain bitter and resentful that we had to go through this trial at all, never giving thanks for the restoration we have experienced.

A third way we can respond is to rejoice that we have made it through with the help of God, but to never forget how it felt to be in the midst of that trial. This third response helps to develop an intercessor’s heart filled with empathy. This is the response I have chosen in response to the many trials I have faced in life. God has used this response to develop in me an intercessor’s heart with the desire to pray for others who are going through trials of their own.

I recently learned of the ongoing struggles of a fellow Christian on the Third Day Connect website, which involved several of these difficulties all at once. I don’t know this woman, but my heart went out to her and I wanted to help. But I have no way of helping her except to pray. And so pray I have, primarily that God will restore her hope, which seems to have been shattered into a billion little pieces by the weight of her troubles.

I doubt her story is all that unique. Many struggle because the weight of life has shattered their hope. I know I can’t restore their hope, but I know the One who can. The devil would like God’s people to drown in their trials, but God has promised to restore hope to those who believe.

I have a wooden sculpture of the word “Hope” that I got at the Relay for Life. I sat it on top of a picture in my bathroom and it fell to the floor and broke into many pieces. My son tried to glue it back together using Elmer’s glue, wood glue, and a hot glue gun, but pieces still keep falling off. It will never be the same. I actually bought a new one at Relay for Life this year to replace it, but I keep both on the windowsill in my bedroom as a reminder of hope shattered and hope restored.

The apostle Peter wrote about weathering trials and the promise that God will restore hope:

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 1 Peter 5:6-10.

Peter’s reminder that other believers are “undergoing the same kind of sufferings” led me to another thought. What if, instead of waiting until after we have been restored from our trials to intercede for others in prayer, we also prayed for others undergoing the exact same trials we are undergoing right now?

  • What if, as you looked at a pile of bills you didn’t have the means to pay, you stopped to intercede for all those around the world who were also struggling to make ends meet?
  • What if, as you sat in the clinic chair undergoing weekly chemotherapy for cancer, you prayed for the many who had just received their diagnosis or who were facing surgery to remove a tumor?
  • What if, as you sat in your living room in shock that your spouse had left you or cheated on you, you cried out to God for all the broken hearts and failing marriages across the nation?
  • What if, as you surveyed the damage to your house from fire, tornado, or flood in disbelief that it could all be destroyed, you interceded with our Father for the many who lost all their worldly possessions?
  • What if, sitting in the front pew at your loved one’s memorial service, you shed a tear for those sitting around you and at memorial services throughout the world?

What if we used our pain and suffering to care for others in pain? How would that change us? How would that change them? Would it give God an opening to restore hope to a people that desperately need it? I believe it would. And I believe it would strengthen the intercessor’s heart in all of us. Will you choose to join me in this intercessory endeavor? I hope so.

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