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Suffering And Our Heart

Today I turn forty and I thank God for the beautiful blessings and faithfulness He has shown me all these years, even when I have rebelled, been discouraged, and even at times, faithless. However, in every situation, He has been with me as a source to bring me out of every pit. The last few years brought in trials in terms of illnesses and I saw the Lord powerfully walk with me through all the pain and suffering.

It is better to walk in adversity and trial with the Lord than be in prosperity without Him.


Here is what occurs during times of suffering and adversity. When the object in which you had placed your confidence (whether you realized it or not) is destroyed, you lose more than just the thing itself; you also lose the identity and security that it offered. 

This may not make sense if you are currently experiencing something you would not have chosen for yourself, but the weakness that has been a regular part of my life has been a tremendous instrument of God's mercy.

2 Corinthians 12:9 -- And he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest on me.


It has served two purposes for me. First, it has shown a self-idol that I was unaware of. I took credit for something I could not have created on my own because I was proud of my physical health and capacity to be successful in everything. 

God created and governs my physical body, and God has bestowed upon me the abilities that I use every day. Physical health and productivity should result in more appreciation and adoration of the Lord, not self-reliance and productive pride. I am grateful for what my vulnerability has shown and for being set free by grace from trying to prove that I am who I believe I am.


But there is something more that has been fascinating to grasp. Perhaps we blame physical infirmity because we are hesitant to put our faith in God. Allow me to explain. Weakness merely shows what has always been true: we are totally reliant on God for life, breath, and everything else. 

Weakness was not the conclusion of my journey, but rather a fresh beginning, since weakness offers the environment in which real strength may be discovered. In 2 Corinthians 12:9, Paul declares that he would boast in his weakness. 

When you first read it, it seems strange and insane, but it is not. He has realized that God's "strength is made perfect" in his weakness. Weakness, you see, is not something you and I need be frightened of. We should be afraid of our delusions of strength. 

Strong individuals are less likely to seek assistance since they believe they do not need it. When you are shown to be weak, you draw on the limitless resources of supernatural strength that are yours in Christ. In my weakness, I discovered a power I had never known before.


Unrealistic expectations influenced the way I suffered physically. Suffering should not come as a surprise, but it nearly always does, and it certainly shocked me. I did go into my illness with my theology in order. I was a working professional, had a family, a job, health, ministry, etc. But, I did think I lived in a groaning world calling out for redemption, but it was competing with something else inside me. 


There was this assumption that I will always be the same as I had been, that is, strong and healthy. There was little space in my life, work, family, or ministry goals for internal or external weakness. 

In fact, there was no space for any kind of disturbance. So much of how I thought about myself and planned was based on the unreasonable assumption that I would continue to avoid the frequent disruption of one's life and plans that occur in a world that does not function as God intended. I continually confessed the scriptures believing that I can never be sick in my life.

Suffering exposes your heart's real intentions, attitudes, assumptions, and aspirations.

I was not singled out; God had not abandoned me or turned his back on me. I was not being penalized for my actions, and I was not getting the anticipated repercussions for bad choices. My story is about the everyday things that happen to all of us because we live in a world that has been severely harmed by sin. 

Sickness and illness exist in our world, and our bodies break down or fail to operate correctly. In our world, pain, both chronic and acute, attacks us and makes life almost unbearable. 

People die, food decays, wars rage, governments are corrupt, people take what is not theirs and inflict violence on one another, spouses act hatefully toward one another, children are abused instead of protected, people slowly die of starvation or die suddenly from disease, sexual and gender confusion lives, drugs addict and destroy, gossip destroys reputations and so many other issues.


The Bible does not hold back. It educates and cautions us about the nature of the world, which is the address where we all dwell, at every step. Whether it is a dramatic life story, a concept that instructs, or a wisdom principle about how to live well, scripture works to prepare us, not to live in terror, but to be ready for the things we will all encounter. 

God provides us with all we need to live with realistic expectations and to face times of hardship with faith, serenity, and confident decisions rather than shock, fear, and panic.

Even though I had proper theology in place, my expectations were unreasonable on the ground, and false expectations usually make suffering worse. My point is that I am a live illustration of the fact that you and I never only endure what we experience, but we also suffer how we suffer it. 

Each of us brings elements to our pain that influence the way we endure. We all suffer, but not in the same manner since our suffering is molded by what we bring into our problems.


What is critical to realize is that what is in your heart has a greater influence on your suffering than what is in your body or in the environment around you. Please do not misinterpret what I am saying. My anguish was terribly real, as was the malfunction in my body, the agony I endured, and the weakness that was my existence. 

But how I experienced all of those terrible facts was molded by my heart's ideas, wants aspirations, expectations, appetites, fears, and assumptions. The same may be said about you. 

Your reactions to events in your life, whether physical, relational, or situational, are always dictated more by what is within you (your heart) than by what you are confronted with. This explains why individuals react so differently to the same tough circumstances. As a result, the author of Proverbs says:

Proverbs 4:23 -- Keep your heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.


Your attitudes, choices, emotions, decisions, and responses to whatever you are confronting pour out of your heart like a stream. The heart is the core of your identity. As dry soil soaks in a stream's flow, your heart is your life's core. Suffering exposes your heart's real ideas, attitudes, assumptions, and aspirations.

It is true that we never leave an encounter empty-handed. And we always pull something into the misery that comes through our door. So, how about you? What are you bringing about with you that has the potential to make you trouble your own problem? What has the ability to make you forget that no matter how terrible anything is, as God's child, you cannot bear it all on your own? 

The One who created the world and governs over it with knowledge, wisdom, justice, and love is in you, with you, and for you, and nothing can separate you from his love.



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