God, This Hurts

Philippians 1:29

“For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him”

I added the “daily bible verse” tab to my facebook page, and for the most part, the verses have been pretty popular, famously quoted verses.  Today’s verse in Philippians, however, struck me in its transparency and straightforward truth.  The nature of a Spirit-filled body in Christ is such that we are “not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him” (verse 29).

In my personal life, it has become a habit to talk to God whenever suffering enters my life.  This is one of the fantastic qualities of our God – He is a Father who desires us to come to Him with everything, our triumphs and sorrows.

I will try not to go into the issue of pain and suffering too much – C.S. Lewis does a far better job in “The Problem of Pain.”  I merely want to state that in today’s society, I often find myself subconsciously adopting a secular mindset in my faith.  In the drive to find a major, a career to pursue, I often receive the advice,  “If you don’t enjoy it, it isn’t for you.”  This advice is almost always followed by this enticing, all-familiar phrase: Do something that makes you happy.

Yes, of course God gives us natural gifts and desires in a certain field, and it would be foolish to ignore those talents.  Proverbs 22:29 says, “Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will serve before kings; he will not serve before obscure men.”  Needless to say,  a significant amount of suffering is involved to achieve that level of skill.  The struggle to become like Christ is no less demanding.

My issue is perhaps best illustrated through the book of Psalms.  The book of Psalms is a heartfelt chronicle of man’s struggle to live a God-pleasing life; Pastor Krishna spoke on the Psalms, saying that as God-breathed scripture, the psalms are God’s way of telling his children how to pray to Him.  And yet, as I read through the book of Psalms, I find that I often miss out on a key message God has for me, which He reiterates through Paul in Philippians – suffering for God.

Take a look at this unashamed cry to God in Psalm 69:

1 Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. 2 I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me. 3 I am weary with my crying; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God.”

Let me make something clear – the writer of this psalm is an upright, God-fearing man.  Later on in the psalm, he writes,”7 It is for your sake that I have borne reproach, that shame has covered my face. 8 I have become a stranger to my kindred, an alien to my mother’s children. 9 It is zeal for your house that has consumed me; the insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.”

This is the suffering that I believe is expected of us as followers of Christ – why should we expect any different treatment than what He received if we are being truly Christ-like?

But to return to the first part of the psalm, I felt a doubt rising in me as I read, “the waters have come up to my neck. 2 I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me. 3 I am weary with my crying; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God.”

Because quite honestly – and I hope I’m not alone in this – those moments can happen whether or not I’m in tune with God.  And when I find myself floundering, I ask myself, deeply, whether I am doing God’s will – after all, could it really be this horrible for me?

At Sunday School we recently watched a documentary on a missionary who brought the word of God to a very remote part of Asia; his openness about his doubt in doing God’s really resonated with me.

Regardless, the last few weeks, I have made the mistake of embracing the “do what makes you happy” mentality in my spiritual life, completely ignoring the call to suffer as well.  I pray for wisdom in my decisions from this  point on, that I may find joy in pursuing God in all aspects of my life.

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