Recently, I read a blog that encouraged the reader to stop and write a list of the things you learned this summer before moving into the next season. I thought that was a great idea and so I began to try to write my list and got quite overwhelmed at the season of loss that this summer has been. I’m still processing what I’ve learned, but I do think it would help me to really live intentionally and look for lessons in my journey along the way. In the past there have been years when I am just so grateful to survive through December that I simply move on to goals for the new year without taking the time to pause, reflect and acknowledge the new things I have learned.
For me, this summer has been more about faith lessons lived. It has not been so much about learning new things, but living out what my journey has taught me in the hard trials of life. It has been about trying to love well and looking for some purpose in the suffering. During the summer, I have written several times about the death of my dear friend Melissa from cancer.
A few weeks ago a friend who ministered with us in our church and whose children I teach was found robbed and murdered. He was a faithful, godly husband and father with a servant's heart. The suffering and grief at such a violent crime against people you love stunned us all. We can become numb to the violence on the nightly news, but when it touches those in your circle of friends, the pain pierces your heart...breaks your heart. I found myself wrestling with what to say and how to respond to a pain so deep.
There are no words. I’ll never forget going to their home after the news and the daughter whom I had taught this summer just holding on to me...I thought she would never let go. She just needed to be held. No words were necessary. She simply needed to be loved.
Then just this week I received a phone call from another dear friend. She had news and it wasn’t good. Breast cancer. I was so shocked. We had sat and prayed and cried together over our friend this summer. And now the battle was hers to fight with the strength of the Lord. Again, I found myself searching for words. I just cried with her and listened and prayed.
I’m certain that everyone reading this blog has been touched in someway with the pain of suffering. If not personally for you this summer, we have all witnessed the horrific flooding of hurricane Harvey in Texas and now Irma bringing such devastation in it's path. Watching the tragedy of these storms grips our hearts and we long to respond in a way that makes a difference.
Here are some of the lessons lived out for me personally this summer and as I have tried to minister to those I love.
My summer has led me to read a wonderful book given to me by my friend Dale a while back. It’s entitled “Why a Suffering World makes Sense” by Chris Tiegreen. In it he writes, “God’s glory doesn’t fade. It’s eternal. The honor we bring to him in the crucible of life will stand as a trophy forever. The character he reveals to us in our deepest trials will give us glimpses of the unfathomable Almighty that many earthbound creatures will perhaps never see. Though the pain of this world is agonizing and devastating, the costs of experiencing it still can never outweigh the benefits of the glory he reveals about himself or the glory of the character he develops in us.”
So I find I am emerging from summer in the deep reality of some of the lessons of God’s glory and the character he is developing in me. When I reflect on my life, not just this summer, I find that it is in the seasons of deep pain, loss and suffering that I have come to know and love the character of my God. He is the great comforter and healer. Had I not known pain, I would not have understood the depth of His tender mercy and grace. I would not have known that He truly will carry and sustain me in the storms of life. In my weakness, I have experienced His power and strength.
His promises are true.
Had I not known suffering, I would not have experienced the wonder of being held by the One who sees my desperate need. In the suffering, He is carving and molding His character of mercy, love, and compassion within me. When I have experienced it, lived it, and learned the lessons He has laid out for me, then I can offer them in faith to others when they are ready to receive it.
In the mystery of God's grace, there have also been rich blessings along this path of pain.
~ Friendships deepen when you walk together and share in the struggles of life.
~ It is an honor and privilege to bear one another's burdens.
~ The process stirs up beautiful memories in your heart and helps you turn your focus to the blessings in life. We often take relationships for granted. It's good to remember how they have molded us and changed us for good.
~ Family comes together in times of suffering. That is a treasure to cherish!
~ Babies seem to always show up to bring smiles, laughter and joy! They have been such good medicine for my soul in this season.
~ The suffering and wounds can shape us more into the image of Christ, if we will choose to surrender to the work of His hands.
It helps to turn our focus from the pain to God’s purpose in it. Our questions of why those we love have suffered such pain may never find answers. But, healing can come when we ask God to show us His purpose in the suffering.
There is hope in His promises.
There is hope in eternal blessing beyond the pain.
There is hope in eternal glory.
When the suffering seems relentless, we have to relentlessly trust that Jesus, who bore the deepest sorrow,
will reveal Himself to us in it.
Sometimes it may feel like we are simply hanging on, trying to survive. That's ok. It helps to hang on to His promises and trust that we will see the tender, loving hand of God guide us through the pain to the other side. Placing our hope in the character of Jesus leads us to that place of learning to trust, even in the darkness, even when the storms of life overwhelm us. Jesus is faithful. Childlike trust is our gift to God.
Had I not experienced brokenness in my past, I would not have known the beauty found in the restoring work of my loving Father God.
I thought that I had ended the blog series of My Beloved Letters. They are paraphrases of Scripture, personalized that the Lord has used to minister to my spirit. As I have found myself meditating on the Word this week, He has written a new one on my heart. These are Scriptures of promise, hope and eternal blessing.
It is my prayer that they will encourage you in your own season of brokenness and suffering whenever you face it. Carry these truths in your heart. He offers His presence and His promises to sustain us.
There is power in His Word.
We are faced with the choice to let it shape us or not.
Come, My child, let Me lavish My great love on you. I have committed Myself to you forever,
in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion and in faithfulness.
Because of your love for Me you can know that I will work all things for your good.
I will heal your broken heart and bind up your wounds.
Do you need rest, My beloved? It is found in Me alone.
Your hope comes from Me. Put your hope in my unfailing love.
My delight is in you. Pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened
so that you may know the hope to which Jesus has called you,
the riches of Jesus’ glorious inheritance in the saints.
When you place your hope in Me, I will renew your strength.
You will soar on wings like eagles, you will run and not grow weary, you will walk and not be faint.
I am the God of hope. Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Trust in Me and I will fill you with all joy and peace so that you may overflow with hope
by the power of My Holy Spirit.
I know the plans I have for you; plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you a hope and a future. Hope will not disappoint you,
because I have poured out My love into your heart by the Holy Spirit whom you have been given.
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction and faithful in prayer,
I am the God of all grace who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ.
After you have suffered a little while I will restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you.
There will be a joyous reunion. The redeemed of the Lord will return
with singing and be filled with everlasting joy and gladness.
My beloved, hold unswervingly to the hope that you profess, for I have promised and I am faithful.
One day I will wipe every tear from your eyes. There will be no more death or mourning
or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.
Behold, I am making all things new...These words are faithful and true.”
1 John 3:1, Hosea 2:19-20, Romans 8:28, 35, 37-39, Plsalm 147:3 Isaiah 43:1, 1 Corinthians 2::9, 10, Psalm 62:5; Ephesians 1:18,
Isaiah 41:10, Psalm 13; 7:11; 40:31, Jeremiah 29:11, Romans 15;13, 5:5; 12:12,1 Peter 5:10, Isaiah 51:11, Hebrews 10:23, Rev. 21:4-5
Resting in hope and the promises of Jesus,
Resources: Chris Tiegreen, Why a Suffering World makes Sense, Photos Pinterest, Emily Freeman
One of the greatest promises of hope that we have is found the message of Jesus as our heavenly Bridegroom.
He pursues us, loves us, gives us purpose and one day will bring us home to celebrate the Marriage Feast of the Lamb and spend eternity with Him.
We invite you to join us for a weekend of rest, time in the Word, worship and hope as we seek to discover the rich promises we enjoy as the Bride of Christ.
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