What You Cling To In Suffering Matters
I am Forty years old and have never had a kidney stone in my life until March 15, 2018. This was the day that I had my first and—by the grace of God—last kidney stone. I went from comfortably reading my daughter a bed time story to falling on the floor, only to find myself in the emergency room within 45 minutes. From that moment, pain ebbed and flowed through my body for two weeks.
This article shows what the Lord Jesus showed me during that time through four lessons. (1)The type of suffering that people deal with varies; (2) suffering is not always discipline but sifting; (3) your mind will reflect on what you have put into it; and (4) cling to Christ because He is all we have.
- The type of suffering that people experience varies according to the specific conditions being faced; however, all suffering requires the Holy Spirt to see it rightly.
Someone facing terminal cancer suffers differently than one dealing with a wayward child. A person under persecution for his faith is suffering differently that one who is fighting for Godliness rather than surrendering to sin and looking at pornography. As I walked through the valley of pain due to a kidney stone, I started off strong the first day. But after a few days went by, I began to get weary of the pain. I had a dear brother sitting with me in a board meeting saying, “Tommy, everyone of us suffers and it varies, but who we cling to matters most.”
This dear friend of mine who gave me the comforting advice has a wife that is battling cancer right now. I had two very low points through this whole experience. The first one was the night after I left that meeting—a very strong pain hit me that night. I made it through by telling myself that Christ did not promise an easy life but suffering in this life, and there are others who suffer worse.
“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; 13 but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.” 1 Peter 4:12–13
Why? We live in a broken world striped of its original glory before the fall. Suffering comes to everyone in all shapes and sizes. I am thankful that we can get outside of our suffering when other believers encourage us to see it rightly and empathize by letting us see their suffering. We must realize that we are not alone. I do believe that this is why Peter penned the above words to the early church.
- Suffering is not always discipline but sifting.
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat;” Luke 22:31
Upon the ER floor, the first thing I asked God was, “Where is the sin that brought about this suffering?” As Christians, sometimes this is our knee jerk reaction to suffering. I am not saying I am perfect, and I am not saying that God does not discipline (because He does), but not all suffering is discipline.
We must realize that sift and pruning takes place in order to make us depend on and cling to this passionate God that we serve.
Notice in the text what Luke is showing us through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit: the enemy has to get permission from Daddy before he does anything to us. Nothing, and I truly mean nothing, happens in human history without the direct permission of God, because the Christian God is going to work out all things for His purpose.
“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28
In your suffering, you are submitting to the will and purpose of our great King. This sifting has a purpose in the mind of an omniscience God. He knows all things and works with an eternal purpose in mind. Maybe you are in a valley of suffering right now. Comfort yourself with the promises of God found in the Scriptures.
You can prep yourself before that day comes by saturating your mind with the Word of God.
- Your mind will reflect on what you have used the most.
Biblical input assures you that in tough times, you will have sound Biblical output. Your brain will give you what it has been fed in order to comfort your soul. However, please remember that someone who is on mind altering drugs (like morphine and other drugs) will need help from other Christians. So, this statement is not a hard-fasten rule, but instead a productive guideline. Everyone should be motivated to daily feed on the word of God in order to remember it when the trials and suffering invade your life.
When I hit my second valley, I kept repeating short and partial verses: “The Lord reigns let the earth be glad,” “Worthy is the Lamb,” “Give thanks in all things.” I started calling my kidney stone a gift from God, which gave me a different perspective as I suffered. This kidney stone was teaching me one valuable lesson, which is the fourth lesson below.
- All suffering is designed to throw us into the waiting arms of Christ. Cling To Him!
I had a Christian friend tell me one day, “Tommy, your relationship with the one true God is more important than life itself.” I had never thought that way before. So whenever I am confronted with a new thought, I try to compare it to the word of God. God knew how much I would need this phrase and gave it right before my kidney stone. It was preparation for what God would teach me during that two-week period.
I was reading through Deuteronomy one day, trying to focus my mind upon the Lord. I came upon:
“You shall follow the Lord your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him.” Deuteronomy 13:4
This is a command situation, in the context of a warning, for Israel not to follow false prophets or men’s dreams that lead to false views of God. The last three words jumped off the page and hit me right between my spiritual eyes. I took a dry erase marker and plastered those words right in front of my bathroom sink mirror: CLING TO HIM!
My friend’s voice came rushing back in my head, “Tommy, your relationship with the one true God is more important than life itself.”
Here is what thee Lord wanted me to learn of suffering: I had to, and have to, presently CLING TO HIM. He is the only unchanging part of my life, and yours is included. Our bodies are going to eventually turn on us, and we will take our last breath. However, the relationship that we cultivate with the one true living God will not fade. Actually, the opposite takes place: our relationship with God will become crystal-clear on the day we see Him face to face. Your relationship with God is more important than this temporal tent you live in. It is going to fold up and be placed a casket six feet under the earth; but the real you will live on.
Suffering’s chief purpose is to teach us to cling to Christ, because He is all we have after this life ends. Glorifying Him is all we should desire as we pass through this foreign land called Earth. Focus in on your suffering and realize how bad Jesus wants you to cling to Him. Worthy is the lamb! Go proclaim the Gospel to see a life transformed, and remember truth that transforms is always worth proclaiming.
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