When I was off work this summer, experiencing a lot of pain with my fibromyalgia, I was working on an article entitled “Purposes In Suffering.” Purpose number seven was “that we may primarily seek Christ as our refuge above anything or anyone else.”
That we may primarily seek Christ as our refuge above anything or anyone else.
Journal Entry: “There are days when trials weigh so heavily on my soul, and make me feel like I have been assaulted in every part. When these times come the natural and fleshly response is to sit down in your pain and to pity yourself so much that you feel like you would rather die than endure the day. Sometimes, in my flesh, I become angry with my circumstances and have such pent up anxiety that I feel the only way I can get rid of it is to rant about how unfair it is, and to kick or hit whatever object is nearby. I have had other times where I am filled with what seems to be a debilitating sorrow, where I am simply too sad to do anything other than sit on the couch and stare blankly at the wall. This is NOT how Christ Jesus desires me to respond, but these are in fact sinful responses, which break open the gates of Hell for Satan to come when I am at my lowest only to discourage me further. He will then come and tell me that I am a failure and that I should punish myself for having acted like such a fool (instead of fleeing to the cross where Christ freely took my punishment). He will further drive me into self pity and self hatred and take me on such a wicked tumble downhill that if I do not recognize it I will wind up in a state of panic. Is this God’s purpose for suffering? NO!
I have found that in all forms of suffering, be it physical pain, or unfair treatment, or the death of a loved one, there comes before my eyes so many doors that appear they would release my pain, but when walking through I stumble upon sin. And there standing in front of the doors is Christ Jesus with His arms opened wide and a smile upon His trustworthy face. I know He is there, I know He has all comfort for my soul and all peace. He is water for my thirsty soul and cleansing for my filthy stains!
Yet my enemy comes to deceive me and say that Christ must lack some love towards me, and that he does not hear or care for my cries. He would say “those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same,” (Job 4:8) leaving me condemned. Then feeling outcast I would believe there is no one left to receive me during the pain I so deserve.
Can God’s word shed some light on the downcast soul? There are many people today who want to separate the doctrine of the sovereignty -that is all-encompassing reign and control of God- from all things that hurt us. They talk as if our troubling circumstances took God himself by surprise. They will say that God did not mean for harm to come to you, and attribute the cause of pain to be a person’s lack of faith, or to being solely the plan of Satan. Many try to comfort themselves with thoughts that God has nothing to do with the hard things that happen in lives. This way of thinking and dealing with circumstances is not only completely unbiblical, but also terribly wasteful and unsatisfactory for the aching heart.
I say wasteful, because by negating the truth that God has ordained all things that happen, many waste their trials by denying God’s sovereignty and therefore experiencing no joy or peace in trusting that He has a good and perfect purpose in even the darkest of days. I say unsatisfactory because a human heart can find no true and lasting comfort by believing in a God who is so weak that He cannot even stop disasters from coming their way. Fear can only increase if one hopes in a God who can do nothing apart from our own good efforts and faith, and who cannot even overcome Satan’s ploys.
Is it possible that God is purposing my pain to teach me that He is my only refuge from it?
Job 6:18 “For he wounds, but he binds up; he shatters, but his hands heal.”
Job 13:15 “Though he slay me, I will hope in him.”
Whether it is any form of trial, or grief over my own sinfulness, Jesus Christ has purposed it to draw me closer to Him. Though I may be unfaithful, He is faithful (2Timothy 2:13). When I am sick or in physical pain, He is calling me to trust in Him and to know the “peace of God which surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7).” What if I am persecuted for the sake of Christ? What if I lose my friends? In 2Timothy 4:16-17 Paul writes “At my first defence no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it.” If all that I have left is the Lord to stand by me, then isn’t He enough? Indeed, isn’t He surpassingly MORE than enough?
This is what it is coming down to for me: “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever (Psalm 73:25-26).”
Can you and I look at our spouses, our friends, or family and say “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord (Philippians 3:8).” Can I, consider my physical body and consider that health, comfort, and capability are worthy to be lost if it means I can further gain Christ and be made more and more into His likeness (Romans 8:28-29)? This is an incredibly challenging and painful question to ask yourself.
If I were Job, would this truth alone be enough to give me comfort: “This would be my comfort; I would even exult in pain unsparing, for I have not denied the words of the Holy One.” When trial press in, will I remain steadfast and receive in the end the crown of life which God has promised to all who love Him (James 1:12)? Can I even rejoice in my trials knowing that the testing of my faith which is worth more than gold, will result in praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ?(James 1:2, 1Peter 1:6-7)?
Jesus Christ must be exceedingly desirable and satisfying to us. We must be able to say “Whom have I in Heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you?” He reigns over our troubles yet He sympathizes with our pain. In His own life He “offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death (Hebrews 5:7). He is “our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1).” Nothing can separate us from His love (Romans 8:39).
May I not find fault with God though sorrows like sea billows may roll, and may I not labour for that which does not satisfy (Isaiah 55:2). Jesus Christ, you are my refuge, my strong tower, my deliverer, my prize, my inheritance incorruptible, and the delight of my soul. May I never turn elsewhere for all that I can only find in you.
Be it pure joy, let my worship be heard
May I embrace my refining, and hope in His Word.
May I see every day as a way to show
That Christ is a treasure worth more than we know…
So thank you for suffering, I will rejoice!
Make me a blessing and use my voice
So if all be taken from me, and I be in pain
Just one thing I ask, that it not be in vain.