Did you know that it’s possible to rest in the midst of suffering? In our culture, we’re told that if anything makes us unhappy or uncomfortable we should try to change it. Or that someone else should be trying to change it for us. Consciously or unconsciously, when we suffer we repeat the messages to ourselves that “It’s not fair,” and “It’s not supposed to be this way.”
But is that what God says about it? Over and over again, we are told that suffering and sorrow are not conditions to be despised or escaped from or railed against:
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. (James 1:2-3)
I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.(Philippians 4:11-13)
We also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.(Romans 5:3-5)
Many of us have accepted a lie that sorrow is the lack of God’s intervention in our lives. But if we look at the lives of Moses, Joseph, the prophets, the apostles, and even Jesus himself, we see that God ordains suffering and sorrow-for our good and the good of others.
But Joseph said to [his brothers]…’As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. (Genesis 50:19-20)
In the midst of suffering it can be incredibly difficult to see His hand at work. But if we begin with the understanding that our sorrows are not evils to be fought against, perhaps we can find a sense of rest and well-being even in the most painful and difficult seasons.
In my own life, I faced a season of suffering when my health gave way and I was in almost daily pain–sometimes excruciating. The hardest thing about that time was that I didn’t know if God had a good plan for me; I didn’t know if I could trust Him with my future. In the end, by his grace, I was able to let go of all the pictures I’d cherished of what my future would look like. I let him rewrite my story. I learned to rest in the sorrow he’d brought into my life, and I found Him there–better than any rose-colored future, I found Him. The sorrow was a passage to His heart, where I found rest and peace and the best gift of all–intimacy with him–all while the pain and uncertainty about my future were still with me.
Are there sorrows or places of suffering in your own life that you find yourself anxious or angry about? Is God asking you to release any of them to him? To enter into rest, even in the midst of pain or deep heartbreak? I continue to wrestle with this every time a new disappointment enters my life. But I want to live more and more in the continual sense of rest that my citizenship in the Kingdom of God affords me. How about you? Leave a comment below sharing how you’ve found rest in the midst of suffering or sorrow-or how I can be praying for you.
With love, Sarah