Joy in Suffering

suffering

Suffering is not a desirable thing.  In fact, suffering often sucks.  It typically involves tragedy, health issues, relationship problems, the list goes on.  It is uncomfortable to say the least.  It’s heartbreaking and often unbearable.

As a Christian, I believe the Bible.  I believe it’s truths about life and Jesus.  So, when I read that we need to find joy amidst suffering, it makes me pause and think.

How in the world am I supposed to find something good out this horrible tragedy?  Is it even possible?

One of my favorite verses is James 1:2-4:  “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish it’s work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

So what is joy?  I think joy is something deeper than happiness.  Happiness is an emotion.  It changes amidst circumstances.  Joy on the other hand is different.  Joy is that burning fire, deep inside your gut.  It is that unshakeable mountain of hope that sits protected from the storms of life.

So if joy is not necessarily an emotion and it is tied to hope, what does it look like, practically speaking?  It begins and it ends with Jesus.  Believing that He came, He died, He forgave, and that he provided a way to eternity.  It’s knowing that, no matter how bad life gets, there’s hope beyond our here and now.

The beautiful and mysterious thing about God, is that he often uses the tough times, the times of suffering, to glorify Himself.  Very often, it isn’t until we are at our wit’s end, that we even consider calling out to our Creator.  There is a saying, “God is more interested in your character than your comfort.”  This is so true.  He is more concerned about our eternal state than He is with our earthly state.  Sometimes, actually, often times we don’t see the big picture.  I think that if a tough situation can lead a soul to God, that is His main concern.

Now, let’s be real here.  Yes, I believe the Bible and I believe in Jesus.  Does that make suffering easier?  I guess it does.  Does it make the pain and struggle go away?  Heck no!  There WILL be troubles in this life, that is guaranteed.  No fun.

I am not at all attempting to minimize tragedy and the evil that happens everyday to people near and dear to our hearts.  I am just trying to shed light on the Light that is available at the end of the tunnel.

The fuel that fans my flame is this: I know that the suffering is temporary.  Meaning, that in light of eternity, this life is a mere mist.  We are as temporary as dried grass on a summer day.

There are those who have no hope though.  This world is it.  It doesn’t have to be that way.  Through Jesus Christ, we have eternity to look forward to.  We just need to dive in and believe.  Is it possible to find happiness in suffering?  That’s tough.  Is it possible to find joy in suffering?  I think so.  As far as our broken selves will allow us to experience it.

Have you suffered greatly?  If so, were you somehow able to find joy through it?

God Bless,

Paul

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Book Review: “And Then The End Will Come!”

Out of the box.  That’s the first phrase that comes to mind in describing Brandon Andress’s book:  “And Then The End Will Come!”

The different writing style and format offers a different reading experience.  The single line statements and non-clogged-paragraphs keep my hyper mind interested.  It’s as though you’re not really reading a book, but having a conversation over a hot cup of coffee.  I like that.

This is not a typical end times book.  The focus is not as much on the how, the when, or the sequence of the end times events.  The focus is on the here and now.  What we, as Christ followers should be doing in light of the end times.  Treating others as Jesus did.  Loving, being humble, turning the other cheek, serving, sharing.  This stuff is so important.

“Responsibility has been given to us presently, while he is not with us, to be sensible, wise, and prudent… until he returns.  Responsibility has been given to us presently, while he is not with us, to keep the light of our good works shining even through the darkest hours… until he returns.  Responsibility has been given to us presently, while he is not with us, to take what has been entrusted to each of us and put it to good use so as to extend God’s reign on earth… until he returns.”

As Christians, getting our own relationship with Christ in tune is discussed.  When times get dark and worldly hope fades, what an opportunity to let Christ’s light shine through and around us.  Brandon does a great job of stressing this point.

“If we aren’t living like Christ presently, when times are relatively good, then we will never live like Christ if times get really difficult in the future.”

Overall, I think this book takes the focus off the “end times” and points to the real source of life; Jesus Christ.  That’s how I know that this book is a winner.  It speaks truth and professes hope.  We can all use some of that, right!?

I strongly recommend this book.  Great read!

God Bless,

Paul

Earning Heaven

Scoreboard FB

I was driving to work this morning and I was thinking about my faith.  The little I do know and the whole bunch that I don’t.  I easily find myself in the trap of earning approval.  Not just from others, but from God.  It’s a habit.  One that was formed years ago and one that is in need of breaking.

Many, many times, I have caught myself discounting my place in Heaven due to a lack of knowledge.  For some reason, I have thought that only the people who have it all figured out get a solid place next to Jesus.  It’s not really a main thought that goes through my head, it just lingers there, clouding some of the joy that I could experience.

The truth is this:  none of us will ever fully understand God and His ways.  It wasn’t until recently that this has truly sunk in.  There’s a huge freedom in that truth.  Our faith will always be imperfect, because we are an imperfect people.  There’s a verse in Luke (Luke 17:6) where Jesus said that if we have even the tiniest bit of faith, even as small as a mustard seed, He can use that.  He accepts that.  He always wants us to be growing, but a mustard seed is a good start.

None of us deserve Heaven.  Plain and simple.  Through Jesus, we’ve been given the gift of eternal life, for free.  That’s called grace.  After we accept Him as our Savior, our journey through life is also covered by His grace.  I think it’s easy to forget that.  He knows that our intentions are messed up.  That our faith is drenched with ignorance and pride.  That we all battle selfishness and hypocrisy.  He loves us anyways.  Crazy.

I think of the thief on the cross next to Jesus.  He did some bad stuff in life, which landed him on the cross.  He deserved it, Jesus did not.  He went his whole life apart from Christ until that final moment when he asked Jesus to think of him when He gets to Heaven (Luke 23: 42-43).  Jesus accepted that plea of faith.  Amazing in comparison to this life.  The thief only knew Jesus briefly, he had a mustard seed faith.  Jesus was ok with that.  We, as Christians and Non-Christians have that same freedom and grace extended to us!

The thought that knowledge and deeds will earn our way through the Pearly Gates is a trap.  At what point does God decide that you have scored enough points to enter?  When does the “earning” ever end?  That’s the point, there are no points.  There’s no scorekeeper.  Faith is the key.  It’s being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

I’m thankful for the freedom to fail and fall short.  We all do it.  “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”-Romans 3:23-24.  I’m encouraged to know that there is no such thing as a perfect faith.

This imperfect guy is learning how to live in that freedom.

Have you ever felt that you need to be perfect or earn your way to Heaven?  How about earning the approval of others?

God Bless,

Paul

a prayer of reconciliation to the world…

This is a great prayer by Brandon Andress. It definately reflects my heart. I thought I would share.

God Bless,
Paul

brandon andress

Somehow I forgot to post this when it was written in 2010. Of course it seems as relevant now as it did then. This piece is an excerpt from my 2010 book Unearthed: How Discovering the Kingdom of God Will Transform the Church and Change the World.

Father God,

Too many times we as Christians have been the loudest and most vocal voices and many times we have not represented or embodied the way, life, and teachings of your Son Jesus.

Our judgmental and condemning voices have become a poor representation of Jesus in the community and the larger world and have left many who do not know anything about Jesus with a bad taste in their mouths and a deep contempt for your Church.

Too many times we are quick to say that we are the “defenders of the faith,” or the “protectors of our Christians heritage.” Yet…

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Being a Dad

English: A father and son silhouetted on the f...

I never thought that I would be a dad of two beautiful boys.  I always thought that I would father girls.  If I’m going to be honest, when we found out that our first son was on the way, I was terrified.  It wasn’t the actual having a baby part that made me anxious, it was the great responsibility of having to steer a boy in the direction of becoming a man.

What in the world did I have to offer a little dude?  At the time, I didn’t really know how to do much “manly” stuff.  I wasn’t sure how to be a leader or a godly example.  I ended up facing my own insecurities head on in an effort to better myself as a dad.  Through this, I found out that I had one thing to offer for sure; love.  You can’t go wrong with that!  It covers up imperfection, it allows failure and it provides freedom.

As I attempt to understand my relationship with God as my Father, I use my own experiences as a dad to help me along.  When my boys don’t listen, I love them anyways.  When they push the limits, I love them anyways.  When they’re stubborn, I love them anyways.  When they fight, I love them anyways.  My dad used to tell me, “whether you’re good or bad, happy or sad, I will always love you.”  That’s our relationship with God in it’s most beautiful, simple form!  Only He’s God, so it’s even deeper than that!  Beautiful.

There are so many things that I want to teach my boys.  My desire is for them to be men of integrity.  That they would follow Jesus.  That they would be gentlemen.  That they would be salt and light everywhere that they go.  That they would help the less fortunate.  That they would bless others with the blessings given to them.  That they would experience heart-break and learn how to piece it back together.  That they would fail a bunch and learn from their failures.  That they would be humbled.  That they would learn to say “I don’t know”.  That they would learn to lead, but also how to follow.  That they would view others through God’s eyes.  Loving others like God loves them.

I’m saddened to hear all of the statistics regarding homes without fathers.  There is hope though.  There is a Heavenly Father who loves each of us, despite what our current situations may be.  That’s pretty cool.

I look forward to the years ahead, God willing.  I’m excited to teach more cool stuff.  Better yet, I’m excited to learn new things from my boys.  I’ve found that sometimes our kids can be the best teachers.  Funny how that works.

God Bless,

Paul