Our pastor asked a question last week. It was something along the lines of asking us how we handle suffering and whether or not we’d consider writing or emailing to him to give some input on the topic.
It’s sometimes dangerous to ask people those kinds of questions – but, characteristic of the folks that fellowship together at our church – the report this morning was that the responses were a blessing.
In fact, rather than preaching in the traditional manner, our pastor asked a couple to come forward and read some of the responses that were shared. You can listen to the service online, if you’d like – and even get the note sheet! Here’s the link.
It wasn’t a totally random question, by the way. We’ve been doing a series on Romans, and we’ve been in Chapter 8 forever since March.
I should stop right here and preface all of this with a little editorial on the preaching at our church – which I refer to most of the time as CMBC. See, I’ve been going to this church since I was 4 years old. The pastor who was there when I was just a little tyke – up until I was college aged – was the Reverend Albert J. Wollen – wow! What a man of God! His wife, Roberta, had perhaps the most profound impact on me as a young believer of anyone I’ve ever met. I could go on and on about her – and undoubtedly will at some future point in time! But what I want to say right now is this: our pastor, Carl Palmer, has a gift. He – much like Al – has a passion and a deep love for the Word of God. Know what I love? I love it when the pastor up front says, “Let’s turn to Romans chapter 8, and verse 17.” And you hear the wind of 1,000 Bibles being turned to that reference. THAT, my friend, is a holy thing. Anyway, Carl has this gift – and his gift, IMHO, is to teach clearly, concisely, carefully through scripture. And THAT, my friend, is a GIFT from God – for those of us who sit in the pews.
So anyway…. Ever have one of those moments when God’s giving you a little nudge? You know, the one gently in the ribs where you know He’s saying, “…ahem… yeah, that’s you. You need to do that.” Well, yeah, I got THE NUDGE last week when Carl asked. Life got busy at our house this week. I had my niece and nephew here for the week. We had lunch guests several days of the week. Jessica was home from camp for the week. William came down with THE WORST ear infection in the world – and is still suffering horribly with it. I had physical therapy. I had William in the doctor’s office twice. I was doing dishes, laundry, chasing chickens, running errands, cooking meals…
OKAY LORD, I’ll do it.
Funny how sweet peace is when you obey.
So this is what I wrote…..
The thing is – I don’t know that I can give a whole lot of insight into what could be called “answers” about suffering.
I’m not sure what I’ve been through is even classified suffering.
What I do know is that I do ponder the heartaches, the pain, the dismay, the fact that some of what I’ve been through is NOTHING compared to what others have.
I think about the constancy of God.
I think about the fact that without Him I certainly could not have the strength to draw the next breath when the horrible to contemplate sometimes is overwhelming.
What I do know for sure is that I wouldn’t willingly choose a heck of a lot of the stuff that has the potential to be called suffering.
…the only one who knows exactly all of the details and doesn’t need me to explain it all – but is willing to listen anyway
…brings encouragement in the funniest, most obscure, but sometimes blaringly obvious ways.
I know I feel honored to be counted worthy to suffer – *anything* – for the name of He who knit me together, holds it all together, sees the outcome – and with whom I will spend my eternity – worshipping at His feet.
My question to you, dear reader is this: What about suffering? How do you handle it? Is God friend or foe in the midst of your suffering? Is there a Bible verse that anchors you?