Several years ago I had a half-day intensive session with a pastoral caregiver who had decades of healing experience. Overwhelmed by grief, I had a great need for understanding, affirmation and encouragement. I recounted all the extreme sources of pain in my life. I just wanted to know that what I was experiencing was normal Christianity, as opposed to being somehow rejected or even punished by God.
At that time my family was grieving the loss of five immediate family members who had died one after another. In addition, a tornado swept through town and devastated it, my oldest daughter just entered into prison, and my wife was struggling with major health problems brought on by stress. I was personally suffering through the betrayal of two close friends who falsely had accused me of wrongdoing, and faced my own health problems.
I came away from the intensive session with an assuring perspective: “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers them from them all.” God was not angry with me, nor was I disqualified from ministry. I came away with a revelation that the only way that the Lord might obtain my heart fully was through allowing difficulties to purge me. I could choose to embrace the crucible of suffering. My pastoral care-giver helped me see that God, in His severe mercy, was maturing me.
After my intensive session, I embraced the following life-changing truths: “The sufferings of this life are not to be compared to the glory that is to be revealed” and the trials, the temptations and the sufferings of this life through godly endurance produce life giving ripe fruit to those we will serve. Scriptures brought focus and gave me hope. God was calling me to wait patiently (with endurance) in suffering for the fruit of life to be ripened. He was doing this so that I might be better able to serve with deep compassion those who also suffer.
I have repeatedly cried out to know Jesus and to hear His voice. Many have cried out to “know” the Lord Jesus Christ. Crying out to “know” Him is to be intimately acquainted with His rejection. I needed this perspective in order for hope and healing to be restored.
I am so grateful for the solid truth given to me by my pastoral caregiver that day. Blessed are those who endure various trials and tribulations in this life, for once they have endured and patiently waited on the Lord they will receive a crown of eternal life, which is promised to those who sincerely love the Lord Jesus Christ (see Jas 1:12). Yet, how was I to endure this weight of sorrow? By Jesus’ extreme mercy and favor, I could endure! There is only one way for the healing balm of myrrh to flow; the tree of myrrh must be bruised for the tears of the balm to flow. The only way I could be a good offering of life and a healing balm was to endure bruising alongside Christ.
In a sin-filled world, suffering is “The Way” in which the believer is matured into the likeness of Christ. We mature through diligent surrender to Him in the midst of pain. From an eternal perspective, “momentary light afflictions” can empower the believer in Jesus Christ. Jesus has taught me to receive His gold tried in fire, the gold of suffering, so that I may be clothed in righteousness (see Rev 3:18-20).
We are to endure to the end. For once we have been tested and endure, He promises to strengthen, confirm and establish us in righteousness for His glory and for our everlasting peace (see 1 Pt 5:10-11). Although there are seasons in life when one will certainly feel very alone in the purifying of faith, He is a faithful and loving God, who will never leave nor forsake us (see Heb 13:5-6). All difficulties (and even chastening) do not seem pleasing, but the Lord is after the peaceable fruit of righteousness and a faith in Him that has been tested and worth more than the purest of gold (see Is 53:5, Heb 12:9-11, 1 Pt 1:6-8).
No one has ever loved me more than my Savior, and no one will ever love you more than your Savior, the Creator of the universe, the Lord Jesus Christ. My meditation on His cross, His passion, His grief, gives me life in my grief. Only through the power of His passion could I walk through the pain of my past sexual abuse, the loss of both of my parents and the ultimate loss of my daughter, Charity Hope, last year.
Acquainted with Jesus in grief, I am also called into His life. I find Christ in the suffering, so I may have intimacy with Him and know Him in resurrection. I embrace the character of the extravagant mercy of God, who is calling me into His likeness. He is the man of sorrows who, for the joy set before Him, endured all of my evil at the cross (see Heb 12:1-3).
Rather than yield to fleshly and addictive patterns when I am faced with suffering, I find my joy in Him through worship, meditating on His powerful forgiveness and His words in the Gospels (see Ps 1:2). Rather than yield to old ways, I seek out accountability and community in the body of Christ. He pours His life into me in times of suffering. I close with the words from an intimate worship song by Dennis Jernigan:
The tree of myrrh is full of tears that only coming falling when bruised,
but the fragrant life that wounding brings is born on the wings of good news,
like myrrh when hardened must be crushed before the fragrance can rise,
my blinded heart must be made dust, so Father open my eyes.