Friday, March 30, 2012

Suffering with Jesus

This morning I was struck by the words of Hebrews 5:8 in the Message Bible, "Though he was God's Son, he learned trusting obedience by what he suffered, just as we do."  In the NASB, those last four words, just as we do, are not included in the text.  But today, as I meditated on this verse, I was amazed at just how good Father God's intentions are towards us.

Many times when we are suffering, we turn our attention from God to the trials and circumstances that we are facing. In the midst of shifting our focus, our God becomes small and our problems become big. Like Jesus on the cross, we cry out, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" Has God really forsaken you or does it just feel like God has forsaken you? If He himself has said, "I'll never leave you nor will I ever forsake you. (Hebrews 13:5), it's probably more that we are believing the lie that God has forsaken us.

So, the question remains: how do I learn trusting obedience through my suffering? To really get to the heart of that, I must first consider how trust is formed. Trust happens when I have a need.  I express my need. There is a response to my need. My need is met and I am comforted (Defining the Relationship, Danny Silk). When my need is met, I believe that you care about me and I begin to trust you. When I trust you, I know that my heart is safe with you and I can be vulnerable, open and transparent with you. I can show you all of me and you will still love me. You will still accept me. I find it interesting that the root word of obedience in Hebrews 5:8 means to give ear to a teaching or a teacher; to comprehend; to understand.

If it is true that teaching happens best during times of intimacy, isn't it interesting that the evil one would try so hard to shift our attention from Jesus to our problems in times of trouble? If we focus on our problems, we're more likely to become offended, get mad at God, ask 'why' questions, feel sorry for ourselves, be jealous of others and the list of pity could go on forever. We're more likely, in that moment, to believe the lies of the evil one and agree with him thus giving him the legal right to torment us. In that moment of looking at our big, big problem, we are more likely to partner with victim, anxiety, fear and worry.

I believe this is why Father God inspired Holy Spirit to include in the gospels the story of Jesus asleep in the boat while a storm raged around Him. It's a great image of the very words Jesus Himself spoke in John 16:33 when He said, " Me you may have peace.  In the world you will have trouble.  But, take heart! I have overcome the world."

So, in that moment, as a son/daughter, I get to choose. Will I look at all that I'm suffering through and be overwhelmed by my problem? Or will I keep my focus, my attention on the One who has promised that I will overcome what I am suffering? In that moment, if I choose well, I learn trusting obedience.

I learn that I can be completely honest and transparent before God. I can tell Him how I feel and what I need. I can trust Him to respond to my needs, in His way, in His time. I give up my right to tell Him how to fix it. I allow God the opportunity to manage His love towards me and I confidently expect that good will come to me. In keeping the posture of hope and reliant confidence in God, I allow myself to give ear to Teacher who comes alongside as my Helper, my friend to walk with me through seasons of suffering. In those times, Holy Spirit speaks gently to my heart, maturing me, allowing me the opportunity to see who God wants to be to me and how He wants me to be. It's an amazing opportunity to learn more about Father's nature while having the fruit of the Spirit formed in you in an even greater way; transforming you more and more into the image and likeness of His dear Son.

If my focus is on my problem, I miss the opportunity to learn more about God and more about myself. No, I do not believe that God brings trouble to teach us a lesson. I do believe, however, that God can use the trouble that happens in this fallen world to reveal more of His goodness, His bigness and His great love for His kids to us. Many of us, however, miss the opportunity to learn more about God because we wallow in the gravity of our situation instead of remaining steadfast in the magnitude of God's bigness and His love for us.

The answer is not in the whirlwind. It's not even in our circumstance or situation. If there is no response to my need, my need goes unmet and I never have the opportunity to receive comfort. When I am not comforted, mistrust develops.  Comfort can never be found in inanimate objects( your problems, your circumstances). If I want a response to my need, I must look to the One who holds the answer. The One who can wake from a dead sleep and command the wind and the waves to be at peace. In Christ alone, my hope is found. He alone has the key. And in that place, I learn to trust Him. And in trusting Him, I learn to hear His voice, teaching me, growing me, maturing me into the glorious freedom of sonship.

There is a method to the madness. There is a purpose in the pain. Find comfort in the circumstance and see Jesus standing there, asking gently to take the pressure, to take the sense of being overwhelmed or being swept under. See Jesus standing there, waiting to make a divine exchange in the moment of your suffering. See Jesus standing there waiting to teach you, to give you an upgrade so that you can see the love of His Father, our Father in an even greater way.

I bless you to look with your eyes and see the One who holds you in the palm of His hand. I bless you to know that He is with you. He is for you. The Lord your God is a Mighty Warrior and He has arrived to live among you. He rejoices over you with great joy! With His love, He calms all of your fears. Only look to Him, He is mighty to save!

What are you learning about Father God in the midst of your suffering? Who does He want to be to you? What part of Himself is He offering to you? Who is He asking you to be? What fruit of His Spirit is He asking you to display in this season? What would your life look like if you allowed yourself to more overwhelmed by God than your circumstances?

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