Suffering? No, Thank You.

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Haven’t you enjoyed Karen’s posts? She returns with us again today with her frank discussion on something we all dread – suffering. Thanks, Karen.

Missed either of Karen’s first two posts? 

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The things we say, the things we sing,

 the things we shout, but do we mean?

 

sich

ENTER THE WORSHIP CIRCLE

God Is Good

 

You give good gifts to me

I pray that I receive them well

So pass the cup of suffering

And let the oil of joy be poured

 I’ll say

God is good, God is good

God is good, God is good…

 

I sang every word of the song, except one line: So, pass the cup of suffering.

 

Nope not me, why would I sing that?  Why would anyone sing that?  No one would say, “God, it’s so sunny outside today.  Please let me suffer.”  

 

One friend said, “but if you want everything that Jesus wants for you, then you would gladly sing it.”  

 

My rebuttal was, “I want everything that HE WANTS for me but I am not going to ask for pain, for misery, for suffering.”  After all, life was going good. I had no complaints.  (And, my momma didn’t raise no fool.)

 

It didn’t take me long, though to figure out that, hey, I didn’t have to sing it to get it.  Suffering arrived in it’s own time and it’s own unique form.  And I had to decide, all on my own, how I would respond.   

 

I’ve always had (and still have) a choice when suffering arrives: I can choose to deaden the pain in a myriad of fantastical ways or I can shove the pain out of the way with neutral things like shopping or exercise.  And then there is the other choice, the choice that God always wants me to make.  That is, the choice to simply choose Him, whole-heartedly and without guidelines. 

 

One afternoon, smack dab in the middle of my gut wrenching, ‘I want to throw up’ season of suffering, I was asked to speak at a ladies event.  I couldn’t come up with something to say or study myself into a ‘sound’ topic.  

 

So, I prayed the one word prayer that I had been constantly praying for months now: “God.”  

 

It was more of an acknowledgment that I knew He was still with me rather than a request for anything, anymore.  (I had worn out myself from all of the begging, pleading, plotting, suggesting, laying down, and picking up.  Now it was just Him, the suffering, and me. Period.)

 

So God clearly responded.  “Talk about the secrets people keep.”  

 

So I did.  It went something like this:

 

Everyone has secrets.  Some of you are hiding your past, and some of you are hiding sin.  Some of you have family secrets that have blind-sided you.  Some of you are hiding your husband’s or your child’s or your parent’s secrets.  Some of you are experiencing a hidden grief that you can’t tell anyone about…  

 

I went on to tell them that I had my own secrets, but I wasn’t going to share them.  And they didn’t have to share theirs either.  (That fact brought great relief to the intense faces that had revealed more than I had anticipated.)   Some things don’t need to be talked about…except to God.

 

Then I shared Lamentations 3:28-33. It is out of the Message translation which, like my present place in life, was gut wrenching: 

 

When life is heavy and hard to take,
    go off by yourself. Enter the silence.
Bow in prayer. Don’t ask questions:
    Wait for hope to appear.
Don’t run from trouble. Take it full-face.
    The “worst” is never the worst.

Why? Because the Master won’t ever
    walk out and fail to return.
If he works severely, he also works tenderly.
    His stockpiles of loyal love are immense.
He takes no pleasure in making life hard,
    in throwing roadblocks in the way…

 

I have grown to cherish every word and every phrase in these verses.  I like that God acknowledges where I am and where He is.  I like that he gives instructions that are simple and attainable.  I like how it depicts Him in the extremes of who He is and how it reveals how He views me.  I just like it all, especially that He won’t fail to return….

 

God used these verses to take me back to Him.  And then He helped me in my suffering—the suffering that I never asked for.  The suffering that made me love Him more.  

 

He really is good.  And he gives such very good gifts.  

 

I still won’t ask for suffering.  But I am, admittedly, thanking Him for the many, many encounters I had with Him during it.

 

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