Trials & Suffering
My mother raised eight children and she is my hero. When I think about my childhood and her influence on my life the word prayer comes to mind. Her faith in God grew with every baby she birthed, with each new level of life’s challenges and the growing complexity of managing a large family. She learned to pray about everything, even a difficult marriage that brought consistent strife and hardship into our home.
Growing up I could not perceive the weight of her burden in managing eight children without the support of my father. I do however remember how she modeled her faith in God and the strength she received through prayer. Hearing her crying out to God one night for help in our tiny bathroom made a lasting impression on my heart. Supposing that we were all asleep I never told her that her pleas made it to my ears. Her faith was strengthened to endure through prayer.
Her prayers brought much-needed provision, protection and purpose in the midst of so much insecurity growing up. Her prayers brought salvation to our souls as well. It was Mother’s Day 47 years ago when I and my siblings made our way to the altar to accept Christ as our Savior. It was a result of a mother’s prayer.
“Pray about everything,” she used to tell me all the time. Now that I am a mother I know firsthand that her words were wisdom coming through the fruit of a praying life. As my mother prayed over her children and household so shall I. In cultivating a praying heart God has blessed my family with provision, protection and purpose.
I am the fruit of a mother’s prayer.
“…pray without ceasing…” (1Thessalonians 5:17)
God gave King Solomon the wisdom to share his perspective on life and how we should view our time on this earth. He declares that there is a time set by God for every event that occurs under heaven.
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
Knowing what ‘season’ of life you are in can help you in shaping your approach in the comfort of knowing that God has set a beginning and an end. You can decide ahead of time to endure toward victory or defeat as you travel through it, allowing God to accomplish His will for your life.
King David not only walked through a long season of warfare but learned to embrace it as preparation for God’s call on his life. He learned to invite God in on every decision for battle, seeking His advice on how to approach every enemy that was brought before him. He understood that God works in seasons of our lives in order to do good for us in the end. David was committed to endure the war in order to come into God’s good and perfect will for his life.
“…a time for war, and a time for peace.” (Ecclesiasstes 3:8)
Like King David, when our season of war ends and God brings us into a season of rest from all our enemies, it is a time of peace. And we are to remember to give thanks to God.
“Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever!” (1Chronicles 16:34)
If you are in a season of war know that God will supply all that you need to triumph in the end. When He brings you through to peace remember to give thanks for He is good and will sustain you through the war.
“Oh give thanks to the Lord, call upon His name; make known His deeds among the peoples!(1Chronicles 16:8)
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Discovering God’s will for your life is the path of blessing and it begins the moment we surrender our lives to Him. A surrendered life is intentional about staying on God’s path, knowing that His path is where the blessing is.
We are given a wonderful picture of what it means to follow God in the story of the Israelites when they roamed the wilderness for 40 years in the Book of Numbers. God’s presence was associated with the tabernacle, His cloud covered it during the day and it took on the appearance of fire during the night. They were instructed to settle and move out according to whenever the cloud lifted up or set in place over the tabernacle.
“And whenever the cloud lifted from over the tent, after that the people of Israel set out, and in the place where the cloud settled down, there the people of Israel camped.” (Numbers 9:17)
Following the blessing provides direction and provision towards being established in God’s will. This is the only path that produces lasting fruit in our lives and the lives we are fortunate to impact along the way. God’s path refines and clarifies, it rids us of sin and unnecessary baggage that hinders our effectiveness in the areas of our purpose. It cultivates obedience and intimacy as we get to know God better with every step.
To follow the blessing means placing your trust in God’s direction and His ways of accomplishing the desired results in your life. To do this well we must believe in His sovereign wisdom and care for us as we journey the path, even when it doesn’t make sense.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)
When we choose to follow the blessing, God promises to fulfill every word that He has spoken over our lives. The Israelites that chose to follow God’s blessing came into the full inheritance that was promised to them under Joshua’s leadership. God’s path lead them into the ultimate blessing, the promised land.
“And now I am about to go the way of all the earth, and you know in your hearts and souls, all of you, that not one word has failed of all the good things that the Lord your God promised concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one of them has failed.” (Joshua 23:14)
Be sure that you are following the blessing by following God. He promises to offer strong support to those whose hearts are turned toward Him. (2 Chronicles 16:9) You will find that He is the blessing and that the blessing is found in Him!
Enduring faith requires a long-term view driven by divine purpose that is specifically designed to shape your heart for the work and impact God has placed you on this earth to fulfill. And the secret to enduring is obedience.
Jesus modeled obedience in a very practical way. His example did not require years of maturing and experience nor perfect life circumstances or achievements. He simply chose to submit Himself to God and His plan for His life. He believed that the only way to please the Father was through living in obedience to Him.
“But have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God…emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant…He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross.” (Philippians 2:5-8)
Enduring faith is also rooted in our love for God. If we truly love God we will choose and commit to the process of enduring trials or tests that come into our lives. John the Apostle said that our love for God is proved by our obedience to Him.
“For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3)
Lastly, enduring faith requires waiting. Those who endure are promised supernatural provision to persevere to the end. Jesus goes before us and brings light to our path, we must choose to follow Him. He is the way, the truth and the life according to John 14:6. And when our enduring has accomplished God’s desired end, when we have been transformed by taking on more of the likeness of Jesus, we will know that God’s work in this area is completed.
“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” (1 Peter 5:10)
God cares for you.
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time, He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7)
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Have you ever been asked by God to choose the less traveled road that seemed to include sacrifice and loneliness? If you obeyed His voice you know that it required a faith deeper than you had at the moment of acceptance. And you had to come to terms that obeying came with no guarantees on the desired outcome compared to the labor that it seemed to involve. Did you know that God promises that the labor that He calls us to will not be in vain?
“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord, your labor is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58)
When God calls us to labor on His behalf it is assumed that we know it can only be done in the Lord. Otherwise how can we be ‘steadfast, immovable, always abounding’ in accomplishing what we have accepted to do?
The call to labor encompasses every arena of life and relationships. Some are called to labor for their marriage, family, children, health, home, career or ministry. Whatever the call, whatever the sacrifice involved we are admonished to be ‘steadfast, immovable and always abounding’ in our labor in the Lord.
Labor can involve suffering and hardship, yet it is not in vain. Our faith is tested in the Lord and when we endure we come forth pure as gold, through the refining fire of God’s love. We may not achieve our initial desired outcome but God always delivers a far richer outcome than we could have imagined. Knowing Him more, being transformed into the image of Christ and reaping the divine fruit of faithful labor in the Lord.
“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you.” (1 Peter 5:10)
Your labor is not in vain!
When you find yourself in what seems like ‘the trial of your life’ with personal resources exhausted and it looks like the enemy of your soul is about to throw the crushing blow, how do you respond?
In the days of the prophet Isaiah, Ahaz the King of Judah found himself in such a situation. They were facing the real threat of a crushing blow from the King of Israel who had allied himself with Syria to attack Judah. It goes on to say that “the heart of Ahaz and the heart of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake before the wind.” (Isaiah 7:2)
The Lord instructed Isaiah to go speak to Ahaz a word. He also instructed Isaiah to take his son with him. I love this small detail about his son, “Go out to meet Ahaz, you and Shear-jashub your son.” (Isaiah 7:3) Isaiah’s son was a sign from God for Judah that “a remnant shall return.” God was letting the people know that their sin would be judged but with mercy, they would not suffer total loss, that a remnant would be left to rebuild and restore the nation.
What looks like ‘the trial of your life’ may be the refining tool that God has allowed to purge out sinful attitudes and lifestyle choices that hinder and sabotage God’s good plan for your life. The words that God instructed Isaiah to speak to King Ahaz and the people gave them the opportunity to see this trial through His perspective of faith and trust:
“Be careful, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint…” (Isaiah 7:4)
God went on to put the enemy in the proper perspective; “two smoldering stumps” in His eyes and in which we are to see any enemy coming against us. Now that their eyes have been opened by God’s perspective they can see that this is a test of faith and trust in God to not only deliver but to bring them through this trial. They are left with this gentle rebuke from God:
“…If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all.” (Isaiah 7:9)
If you truly desire to glorify God there comes a time when we must decide to stand firm in our faith, trusting in God’s promise to never leave us or forsake us, no matter what trial is allowed into our lives. If we refuse to embrace His instruction our destiny in Christ will be plagued with instability, doubt and immaturity, failing to live the abundant life that Christ died to give us.
“…until we all attain…to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine…speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ…” (Ephesians 4:13-15)
Be firm in faith!
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Searching for peace in life is a common goal shared by the human race. It can become a life long journey that leads us astray on many misguided paths that seem attractive to our pursuit.
The bible tells us that there is one way to finding peace, happiness and rest for our weary souls and it begins with seeking the will of God. One great man of God said it this way: “Follow the will of God, and happiness and peace and rest will come. The way of obedience is always the way of blessing.” (D. L. Moody, The Overcoming Life, 1896)
Making peace with God brings peace to our souls. The only way to God is through Jesus Christ, His Son. If you have become weary in your search for peace Jesus invites you to come to Him to receive rest.
“Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give your rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
This is the will of God and those who obey His will enter into blessed living. This blessed living is not without trials and suffering but we are promised to never go it alone. Jesus promised that He would never leave us or forsake us. (Matthew 28:20)
Those who follow the will of God are promised triumphant living throughout their lives no matter the circumstances that try their faith. With every triumph of faith we take on more of the fragrance of Christ. This is blessed living.
“But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere.” (2 Corinthians 2:14)
When we humble ourselves and submit to the teachings of Christ we enter into blessed living. Jesus beckons us to come under the obedience of His teachings and promises to be gentle in His approach. He knows how fragile and needy we really are.
“Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:29)
Jesus is Peace.
At a very young age I became aware of my mother’s inner strength and wisdom in navigating the deep valleys of life. Her challenges as a mother of eight children with the added burden of a difficult marriage would either ‘break’ or ‘make’ her as a wife and mother.
Her dilemma must have caused deep soul-searching and the tension of daily choices that would shape and mold her world and ours forever. She was and still is a mother of influence. Her life and relationship choices were filled with love for family, a servant’s heart, self-sacrifice, humility and patience that rested in the hands of her God for all outcomes. She exhibited a rarity that is hard to find today, a life of integrity, an unwavering faith and trust in God who brought her and her children through the turbulent waters of life.
“And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” (Daniel 12:3)
My mother’s wisdom and influence shine brightly in my life and the family that God has blessed me with. May you and I follow in her footsteps, passing down to our children love for family, a servant’s heart, self-sacrifice, humility and patience that the brightness of God would continue on.
“Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.” (Proverbs 31:31)