I am going to write about this today, because, well, it's been on my mind. I have been sick since Thursday night with a migraine and then what we think may be the flu (fever, coughing, congestion, and sinus headaches.) Now on the suffering scale, this is really not a big deal. It's nothing compared to an autoimmune disease, or the death of a close loved one. I know that. But it's still unpleasant. And its always at times like this that I struggle to figure out how faith looks in these situations. I know there are times in the Bible that people suffered, and it was always to bring about God's greater plans in the world. But the degree to which we resist said suffering is where I struggle. How do I bear up under suffering in a way that honors God? I do not see a passivity in suffering in the Bible. What I do see is a recognition of our dependence on God Let's look at this example in Exodus 17: 8-16:
Now Amalek came and fought with Israel in Rephidim. And
Moses said to Joshua, “Choose us some men and go out, fight with
Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God
in my hand.” So Joshua did as Moses said to him, and fought with Amalek. And Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. And so it was, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed; and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses’ hands became heavy; so they took a stone and put it
under him, and he sat on it. And Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one
on one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady
until the going down of the sun. So Joshua defeated Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this for a memorial in the book and recount it in the hearing of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.” And Moses built an altar and called its name, The-Lord-Is-My-Banner; for he said, “Because the Lord has sworn: the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation."
First off, I see this as a time for suffering for the Hebrew people, and by extension Moses. His arms grew weak, yet he knew that keeping them up in obedience to God was the key to winning the battle. But ultimately, it wasn't even about Moses' strength. Because it was a task to great for Moses to do alone. He needed others to come alongside him and support him. His weakness here was on full display. As were the children of Israel. It was not great military strategy or tactics, or great leaders, who brought victory. Ultimately, it was God using human vessels to reflect His glory. I can see this clearly here. I just sometimes struggle with what that looks like in my day to day life.
I think suffering well requires a lot more wisdom than I have. I think it means having discernment, and knowing when we are called to stand in victory against the enemy, but also discernment to recognize when we are only fighting the hand of God. Honestly, I want to be that kind of prayer warrior. I don't want to rail against God in his sovereign plans and purposes, but I also want to be cognizant of when those plans and purposes include me "lifting my hands" to ensure victory.
Thinking more on this, I think there is definitely a good kind of rest in Christ. One that rests in His unfailing love, that He is wiser and smarter than I could ever be, and a trust that He is going to "work all things for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28). At the same time, it is not unbelief to pray for healing and restoration, but rather a command of God. If I ever use God's sovereignty as an excuse for lazy faith, I have failed to understand it rightly. For it says in James 5:14-20:
any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let
them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:
the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him
up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.
your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be
healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly
that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of
three years and six months.
And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.
Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him;
him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way
shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.
I see in this passage the flip side of God's sovereignty: that He also uses our prayers to change events and situations for His glory. The common denominator of both sides is a recognized neediness for Christ to be at work. Of myself, I can do nothing. That is where I so often struggle it seems. How often would I rather just DO something than wait on the Lord to be at work, and cry out to Him? But He is what I truly need to be at work. Any other thing, any other person, I place my trust in above Christ becomes an idol. Including myself.
I share this not because I have arrived, but because this is the crux of where God is growing me. Oh Lord, I need greater wisdom. I need to be more like a child, and less like a woman, sometimes. And tonight, Lord, I need physical healing.. Thank you that you are faithful, even when I have not been. Maybe there is more to this than what I see: If so, Holy Spirit, teach me. Give me wisdom. Help me to always trust you, but also know when to fight against injustice. Or suffering. Help me accept what is mine to bear, and reject what is not from you. That's what I want, Lord. To be faithful in all things, not just easy things.
“They were services like no others, these times in Barracks 28.
“At first Betsie and I called these meetings with great timidity. But as night after night went by and no guard ever came near us, we grew bolder. So many now wanted to join us that we held a second service after evening roll call.
There on the Lagerstrasse we were under rigid surveillance, guards in their warm wool capes marching constantly up and down. It was the same in the center room of the barracks: half a dozen guards or camp police always present. Yet in the large dormitory room there was almost no supervision at all. We did not understand it.
“One evening I got back to the barracks late from a wood-gathering foray outside the walls. A light snow lay on the ground and it was hard to find the sticks and twigs with which a small stove was kept going in each room. Betsie was waiting for me, as always, so that we could wait through the food line together. Her eyes were twinkling.
“‘You’re looking extraordinarily pleased with yourself,’ I told her.
“‘You know, we’ve never understood why we had so much freedom in the big room,’ she said. ‘Well–I’ve found out.’
“That afternoon, she said, there’d been confusion in her knitting group about sock sizes and they’d asked the supervisor to come and settle it.
“But she wouldn’t. She wouldn’t step through the door and neither would the guards. And you know why?”
“Betsie could not keep the triumph from her voice: ‘Because of the fleas! That’s what she said, “That place is crawling with fleas!’”
“My mind rushed back to our first hour in this place. I remembered Betsie’s bowed head, remembered her thanks to God for creatures I could see no use for.”
I don't write this post to make light of anyone's suffering; suffering is real, and painful, and it is hard. But there is hope to be found, even in the midst of suffering. And it is at the feet of Jesus, at the unlikeliest of places: at the feet of an instrument of torture: the Cross.