Thursday, June 11, 2015

We Don't Suffer...To Suffer

Suffering Is Not the True Purpose of Our Sufferings in Christ

Focus Scripture: Mathew 11:28-30 “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 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. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

My Personal Refocusing

Today I woke up feeling very much…uninspired. Really just bored with the current season that I am in and holding back the start of feelings of frustration. I hadn’t let it take over quite yet. Basically, the Lord has stripped me of every pursuit I have ever considered “productive” in my life and has caused me to desperately lean on Him. It’s been a difficult process, but at the start of it I had all intentions of pressing through and finally getting past this mountain in my life. It comes around every so often and I’ve always fought the process and never passed. But God’s love is unrelenting. This time I’ve committed to enduring.

So the start of today was just one of weakness and losing focus. But in spite of weakness, I didn’t deter from vital devotional time with the Lord so that He may enlighten me about how I felt. So I cracked open my devotional book and looked at the lesson for today, “Getting There.” Oswald Chambers starts with part of the focus verse in Matthew 11:28, “Come unto Me.” There are certain parts in the devotional I would like to highlight and I will also include my personal notes/understanding of it that I jotted down in my journal at the time of reading it before getting to the meat of this entry (of course, it’s been edited for public/online reading, ha!):
-Where the sin and the sorrow cease, and the song and the saint commence…If I will come to Jesus my actual life will be brought into accordance with my real desires; I will actually cease from sin, and actually find the song of the Lord begin.
-Am I coming to Jesus today? So that I would stop the doubting and discontentment (sin and sorrow) in my life and find the joy I ought to have (song of the Lord)?

-“…And I will give you rest,” i.e., I will stay you. Not—I will put you to bed and hold your hand and sing you to sleep; but—I will get you out of bed, out of the languor and exhaustion, out of the state of being half dead while you are alive; I will imbue you with the spirit of life, and you will be stayed by the perfection of vital activity. We get pathetic and talk about “suffering the will of the Lord!” Where is the majestic vitality and might of the Son of God about that?
-I’ve been talking and thinking about “suffering the will of the Lord” a lot rather than possessing joy in my current season. And I have already learned not to do this earlier in this season. Yet I’ve forgotten so easily and especially when I can’t afford to. What I am focusing on right now (the vital activitymy heart, my mind, my motives being submitted to Christ), with the absence of common human cares, is what is ACTUALLY important. All the human cares my mind wants to be concerned about doesn’t actually matter in the grand scheme of things. So I ought not to despise the Lord’s stripping of these earthly cares from me, but see this as opportunity to be perfected and made completely whole in Him, which is what I truly desire anyways.

            So, in my devotional I saw that it was necessary for me to refocus and understand that Christ does not want me to merely suffer here. He is truly doing a work in me that is necessary for true REST – trusting God in everything, learning of His ways, being made whole in and through Him. My focus should be on the good that is being produced WITHIN rather than the lack I’m experiencing WITHOUT. After all, I came to Him for this purpose.

God’s Beckoning to Us

Now let’s go back to the Focus Scripture.

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 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. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
Let’s break this down.

“Come unto Me, all who labor and are heavy laden…”

            What is currently holding you back and causing you to labor and feel burdened down? This is a great moment of reflection. We all have the tendency to labor for things that we end up finding cannot truly satisfy us.

  • It could be a job we’re desperately trying to succeed in or even obtain in order to ensure of financial security to last us well into our futures.
  • It could be a relationship we’re holding onto and trying to make last so we can finally satisfy that desire to be wanted and loved forever.
  • It could be that degree – that academic achievement that will ensure of a good reputation among family and friends and of hope to find success in the bustling work force, only to repeat this process again from the first point of course.

But after attaining these things, are we relieved? Truly relieved?

Or are we, after reaching one goal, desperately trying to reach another?

Meanwhile, we are never truly satisfied…

“…and I will give you rest.”

            And so, like me, we are presented with an opportunity to go to Jesus. To find rest in Him.
This opportunity can look like us attending a young adult service and being set ablaze once again by the exhortation to let go of certain things and let God have all of us, and then recommitting to Christ. It can look like us coming to the last straw of our laboring for earthly things – that unhappy relationship, that empty job, that dark situation – and then find Christ, receive salvation, and commit to letting go of our old lives finally.

The Lord comes to us with this opportunity in many forms and scenarios. So it is available to anyone, anywhere, at any point in their lives.

“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…”

            And we take on Christ, excited and empowered to be revived whether again or for the first time. We’re enlightened as we go day by day and are now sensitive (or sensitive once again) to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

And Now Our Sufferings Begin…Why?

As we grow day by day (from glory to glory - 2 Corinthians 3:18) we encounter loss and lack, even trials and hardships. Whether voluntarily giving things up as the Lord prompts us, or involuntarily losing things that we grasp, sometimes much closer than our grasp of the Lord. And we perceive the remnant feelings of these losses as suffering. And we do truly suffer.

  • We may lose/ have to leave our jobs
  • Experience break ups
  • Experience unexpected major health crises and trauma
  • Experience failure and rejection at our entrance of the workforce after obtaining that degree

This is where things get difficult. We immediately perceive this suffering to be a negative experience. And my bro or sis, contrary to how you feel this type of thinking proves to be unfruitful for us every time.

            You see, Christ promises us that we will receive REST for our souls when we take His yoke upon us and learn of Him. It is here that this is accomplished and here that we must understand what this REST truly means and why our suffering is not meant for us to simply suffer, but produce something greater in us.

Recall again why you recommitted or became committed to Christ in the first place. You were tired. Burdened by your futile and shallow pursuits – they didn’t please you to the core. You couldn’t get that happiness and satisfaction that your soul truly longed for.

You may say, “Yes, I was. I was completely happy and set with my job, relationship, degree, etc. I didn’t need this added stress.” But here’s a self-check you can do:

  • Were you ever worried that you’d lose anything you gained/had?
  • Were you ever anxious about your future?
  • Did you ever consider/plan for alternatives in case things didn’t work out?
  • Were you ever frustrated while you had these things?
  • Did you ever feel hopeless while you had these things?
  • Were you completely free from every sin, stronghold and hurt in your life while or because you had these things? (This may seem funny to ask since we know only Christ can free us daily, but there’s a point.)
  • Could you forgive others completely, love unconditionally, serve God whole-heartedly, constantly and consistently have a pure heart and mind toward others and in every situation, etc. while you had these “possessions?”

If you answered no to any of these questions, this proves that the IMPORTANT part of you was not satisfied and THEREFORE you weren’t completely satisfied.

Furthermore, if you are complaining about any lack or hardship in your life right now, this is also proof that things cannot completely satisfy you – satisfaction does its job right the first time. If it satisfied you at one point when you had it, that satisfaction should remain when you don't have it.

And so these things could not satisfy you, especially where you needed it the most.

But Christ promised He could.

You see Saint, the Lord’s regular stripping of these earthly pursuits is for us to be reminded that HE is the only one who can satisfy our thirsting souls (Psalm 42:1-2).

Nothing, No one else.

He uses this method so that we are not fooled into thinking that these earthly things can possibly make us whole or even heal us.

Not marriages, pursuits of financial security, pursuits of academic excellence, pursuits of healthy living and perfect physical health – even if they are successful. These things aren’t what can heal and remedy all the real areas of lack that exist within our souls.
  • That insecurity and feeling of inadequacy,
  • That lack of confidence and hope,
  • That fear and timidity,
  • That lack of patience and perseverance,
  • That pride and haughtiness,
  • That jealousy and envy,
  • That anger and strife,
  • That conditional love,
  • That built up hurt and pain,
  • Those strongholds,
  • Those secret sins,
  • Those tormenting thoughts,
  • That emptiness.

Christ is focused on remedying these IMPORTANT things in us. So He uses our need/lack (or what we perceive to be need/lack) and shows us that the important thing is our souls being made whole in Him. He directs us to true healing and wholeness by beckoning for us to learn of Him: submitting to Him daily and therefore manifesting Him in our own lives.

This will truly satisfy you. This will finally heal you. THIS IS REST.

 Finally, Take Joy in Suffering; It Strengthens Us

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead us to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with love.” (Romans 5:3-5)

In this, we see that the purpose of sufferings is to strengthen us, develop character in us and teach us to endure in all things. At the same time, the Father is constantly filling us up with His love as we endure.

What this translates to is eventual healing and deliverance in all areas of our lives. Perfect wholeness with Christ and the Father (John 17:20-23).

So in our lack in any area, take heart because God is strengthening you there. Your true lack, your important lack – the lack that exists in your hurting heart and needy soul – must be remedied first.

“Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12:8-10)
You will find, bro or sis, that in rejecting any sadness or sorrow due to lack or hardship in your lives, you will properly focus on what God is trying to accomplish in you.  DON’T LET satan FOOL YOU INTO THINKING THAT LACK/HARDSHIP IS A NEGATIVE EXPERIENCE.

And then when you’ve rejected this sorrow by submitting your heart to God during times of stripping and refinement (because that is what this really is), YOU ARE STRENGTHENED, and this is where God works. You will find that,

  • You can forgive easier and quicker.
  • You no longer feel resentful.
  • You no longer hate yourself and/or others and feel insecure.
  • You no longer carry that hurt from your past.
  • You no longer feel bound to old habits and behaviors.
  • You become free from strongholds.
  • You no longer desire sin.
  • You no longer feel alone, depressed or hopeless.
  • You feel freedom and joy in spite of anything or anyone.

Now you tell me, but doesn’t this sound like a huge bargain compared to just worldly success, pleasures and pursuits???

God will prove to you that He is the only one who knows just what you need, if you will only endure.

So let Him do all of this for you in your sufferings or lack. You aren’t meant to suffer just to suffer in these times, though this is exactly how refinement feels. A hot furnace is never comfortable. But take heart, Saint. Though it feels bad, you are meant to be FREE and LIFTED as a result of this season. Suffering isn’t the ultimate purpose, TRUE FREEDOM and JOY IS.

“My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

If you are presently enduring any lack and hardship in your life, keep enduring. Don’t look back. Working for worldy pleasures and pursuits alone didn’t satisfy you then and it will not satisfy you now. Christ’s yoke is better and easier than the world’s yoke and burden, it produces peace in all areas of our lives no matter what we face and still afterwards it results in everlasting glory. The world’s yoke and burden starts here and ends here. Which yoke will you choose?

Additional Scriptures for Meditation:
"In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation. All power to him forever! Amen." (1 Peter 5:10-11)
"And have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as his children? He said, 'My child, don’t make light of the Lord’s discipline, and don’t give up when he corrects you. For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.' As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all. Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn’t we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever? For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way." (Hebrews 12:5-11)

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