Encouragement in Suffering

This may seem like the lazy way of blogging, but this entry from the blog of Reema Goode, author of Which None Can Shut, is so encouraging, it’s worth sharing.

…excerpt from Paul E. Miller’s “A Praying Life” …

“After you’ve gotten over the initial shock of suffering, a determination often sets in to fix whatever is causing the pain. You have faced enormous obstacles before and overcome them, and you are going to do the same with this…. It’s a short trip from determination to despair, where you realize that you aren’t going to change the situation, no matter what you do. It hurts to hope in the face of continued failure, so you try to stop hurting by giving up on hope. …Despair, in its own strange way, can be comforting, but it and its cousin, cynicism, can kill the soul.

In contrast, people of faith live in the desert. Like Abraham, they are aware of the reality of their circumstances but are fixed on hope. Paul describes how “in hope [Abraham] believed against hope” (Romans 4:18). …Abraham stakes his faith on the hope line, but never takes his eye off the reality line.

He does have his moments though. He tries to get out of the desert by suggesting to God that his steward Eliezer become his adopted son…. Sarah tries to close the hope-reality gap by asking Abraham to sleep with her servant Hagar. The hardest part of being in the desert is that there is no way out. You don’t know when it will end. There is no relief in sight.

A desert can be almost anything. It can be a child who has gone astray, a difficult boss, or even your own sin or foolishness. Maybe you married your desert.

God customizes deserts for each of us. Joseph’s desert is being betrayed and forgotten in an Egyptian jail. Moses lived as an outcast in the Midian desert for forty years. The Israelites live in the desert for forty years. David runs from Saul in the desert. All of them hold on to the hope of God’s Word yet face the reality of their situations.

The theme of the desert is so strong in Scripture that Jesus reenacts the desert journey at the beginning of His ministry by fasting for forty days in a desert while facing Satan’s temptation. His desert is living with the hope of the resurrection yet facing the reality of His Father’s face turned against Him at the cross.

The Father turning His face against you is the heart of the desert experience. Life has ended. It no longer has any point. You might not want to commit suicide, but death would be a relief. It’s very tempting to survive the desert by taking the bread of bitterness offered by Satan.– to maintain a wry, cynical detachment from life, finding a perverse enjoyment in mocking those who still hope.

God takes everyone He loves through a desert. It is His cure for our wandering hearts, restlessly searching for a new Eden. Here’s how it works.

The still, dry air of the desert brings the sense of helplessness that is so crucial to the spirit of prayer. You come face to face with your inability to live, to have joy, to do anything of lasting worth. Life is crushing you.

Suffering burns away the false selves created by cynicism or pride or lust. You stop caring about what people think of you. The desert is God’s best hope for the creation of an authentic self.

Desert life sanctifies you. You have no idea you are changing. You simply notice after you’ve been in the desert awhile that you are different. Things that used to be important to you no longer matter….

The desert becomes a window to the heart of God. He finally gets your attention because He’s the only game in town. You cry out to God so long and so often that a channel begins to open up between you and God. When driving, you turn off the radio just to be with God. At night you drift in and out of prayer when you are sleeping. Without realizing it, you have learned to pray continuously. The clear, fresh water of God’s presence that you discover in the desert becomes a well inside your own heart.

The best gift of the desert is God’s presence.”

(excerpted from pages 181-185)

Ah, yes, suffering—not my favorite word. The very word connotes that it isn’t something that goes away quickly—it goes on and on and on—and hurts.

We all suffer; it’s part of the human condition. As Christians, we’re told that we’re supposed to suffer differently than the world without Christ. The reality, as we play it out, is that we often don’t—but we can.

This excerpt was encouraging to me. In addition to various other desert experiences the Lord  has allowed in my life, we’ve been locked in a beleaguering drought in our area. This week it rained—the first time in over a month. It won’t save the corn crop, but it brought hope.

I’ve been to the desert. It was beautiful—when I could ride a camel and leave. I was grateful I wasn’t there when a sandstorm raged for the next two days after I snapped this photo.

© Cristine Eastin, 2012
Categories: Christianity | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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