Why Would God Allow us to Suffer for Someone Else’s Benefit?

whyContinued from here.

As I shared in my last blog entry, God revealed to me that the purpose behind my being sick throughout the month of December was because of something He is doing in the life of someone else. God then reinforced this message on Joyce Meyer’s program, Enjoying Everyday Life. I’ll share Meyer’s insights and then add my own.

On her TV program, Joyce Meyer shared that she went through an annoying situation in which God revealed that she had suffered for the benefit of another person. In other words, she went through a situation involving another person in which she suffered, but God did not bring this situation into her life to punish/discipline Joyce or because the suffering was needed to teach her something. Instead, God was teaching the other person something, and for that person to learn the lesson, Joyce had to suffer.

Meyer said that as we mature in our relationship with God, God will sometimes allow us to go through seasons of suffering that have nothing to do with us. Instead, the other person must experience a painful situation in order to grow, and God will allow that painful situation to come about in the person’s relationship with a mature Christian. As a result, the mature Christian suffers, despite having done nothing to bring that suffering about (no unconfessed sin, etc.) because it’s not about him or her.

Let me tell you – that’s not a lesson I have been happy to learn, but it is definitely one that is good to know because I spent quite a bit of time begging God to teach me whatever I needed to learn from this experience so I could recover sooner. The answer was no because it was not about me! I needed to be sick as long as the other person needed to grow because this experience was about that person and not about me.

This is a tough lesson for me because I would have been willing to do just about anything to shorten my period of suffering, but I was helpless to do so. The only tool in my toolbox was prayer. At least I knew what (and who) to pray for once God revealed this to me. However, my prayers did not shorten my suffering, which was frustrating for me, doubly so since it’s been a lot of work for me to get back on track with my spiritual disciplines – I’m still feeling a bit “off” since that experience and welcome your prayers.

However, God reminded me that He was not asking anything of me that He did not ask of Jesus. How much suffering did Jesus do for me? So why do I fight against suffering for someone else? Just as Jesus’ suffering resulted in new life for me, perhaps God is using my suffering to bring about new life for this other person. Thus, there’s joy in the suffering. I confess I’m not yet to a place of “feeling joy” in suffering, but I’m a step closer to realizing that God is bringing beauty from these ashes.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace shrugging and asking, “Why?” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

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Humility: The Sacrifice of Pride

Continued from here.

On her television show, Enjoying Everyday Life, Joyce Meyer has shared that her lowest-selling book is one on humility. It’s not that her books don’t sell well – they certainly do! The problem is that people are selfish. We would much rather spend our time learning how to receive God’s blessings than on making sacrifices for God, and developing humility requires us to sacrifice our self-focus. As I have shared on other blog entries about humility, God actually knows what He is doing. The less your fill with yourself, the more room becomes available to fill with God, which brings joy and peace. Thus, when we resist developing humility, we choose to miss out on the joy and peace that God has available for us.

Paul tells us to be completely humble, so why would a book on humility be Meyers’ lowest seller? The answer is a reluctance to sacrifice … in this case, the sacrifice of pride. We want to read books that build up our pride: How can **I** experience joy? How can **I** experience peace? How can **I** experience healing? Please don’t think I am excluding myself from this statement – that’s my natural state as well, which is why my natural state is also anxious and unhappy.

And yet, Christianity isn’t about us: it’s about God! When we choose to spend our time figuring out what we can get out of our faith, we keep our minds focused on ourselves, rather than God. Jesus gave us two “great commandments,” and neither one has ourselves as the focus:

Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” ~ Matt. 22:36-40

It comes easily to all of us to keep our minds focused on ourselves – on what we want, making it a sacrifice to focus on God and others. But this is what must do to become disciples of Christ.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cover of Testing Your Level of Humility. Courtesy Amazon. ]

 

Praying for the Person Who is Hurting You or Someone You Love

On my blog entry entitled Does Forgiveness Require Reconciliation, Sonja posted the following comment:

hi there, I have a dilemma where my child’s best friend rejected her and ended their 3 year friendship and now expect us to just carry on as nothing happened I do not want my child to be friends again is this wrong?”

I have been in a similar situation as Sonja. In my case, not only did the best friend end the friendship with my son, but he also bullied him and led other children to do so as well. I understand the “Mama Bear” instinct that arises when someone hurts your “cub.” This was my first big test after forgiving my childhood abusers, and I did not know what to do.

While the bullying was going on, my spiritual mentor advised me to pray for the ex-friend. I should have already known to do this as this was the same process I used for forgiving my abusers, but when I was in the midst of seeing my child hurt, I “forgot” what I needed to do. Nothing hurts more than seeing my child hurt, and when I’m in pain, it’s easy to take my eyes off God and place them onto myself. So, step one was to pray for the ex-friend daily.

It’s not easy to pray for someone who is hurting (or has hurt) your child, but that’s the most important thing you can do. Joyce Meyer gave some good advice on her television program, Enjoying Everyday Life: she said to pray for God to reveal the height, depth, width, and breadth of His love for the person who has wronged you. She pointed out that if the offender truly understood the depth of God’s love for her, then she would not feel the need to engage in the hurtful behavior. When I am very angry about someone’s bad behavior, this is one prayer that I can always pray in sincerity.

I also recommend Beth Moore’s book, Praying God’s Word: Breaking Free from Spiritual Strongholds, which I pray out of every morning. When I am struggling with unforgiveness, I pray the “fill in the blank” prayers on the last five pages of the chapter entitled Overcoming Unforgiveness. As I pray for the offender morning after morning, I gradually release my anger or bitterness and invite God’s healing into the situation.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cover of Praying God’s Word: Breaking Free from Spiritual Strongholds. Courtesy Amazon.]

 

Wrap Up of Series on the “Easy” and “Hard” Christian Life

lets_goContinued from here.

As you can tell, I could continue with this topic indefinitely. I hope the sampling I provided drives home the point that deepening your relationship with God is both easier and harder: easier in the spirit but harder in the flesh. Each of us must choose which to feed. Whichever we feed grows stronger while whichever we starve will weaken.

I don’t claim to have it all together – I don’t. The closer I grow to God, the more aware I become of my innate selfishness and how far I am in my flesh from who God wants me to be. My response is to quote Joyce Meyer, who frequently says, “No, I’m not where I need to be, but thank God I’m not where I used to be!” Amen to that!

While I have grown exceedingly more aware of my innate selfishness, I have also grown more aware of the immensity of God’s grace. He loved me completely even when I made no effort whatsoever to follow Him. No matter how selfish and wretched I was, he loved me and saw something of value in me worth redeeming. So, rather than feeling defeated in my growing awareness of my innate selfishness, I fall more deeply in love with God as I recognize that I cannot “out sin” His grace. No matter how self-centered I am in an area of my life, His grace is more. This motivates me to keep chasing God, even as I repeatedly fall, because nothing compares to knowing Him more deeply.

Don’t be afraid of the difficult road of following God because it gets easier after the difficulty. Each new leg of the journey is painful and challenging because you must kill the flesh in that area of your life. On the other side of that pain and challenge is abundant joy that will make you wonder why you ever resisted in the first place. The more your relationship with God deepens, the more you will grow to trust Him, making it easier to obey, not because the road is easy but because you know the journey is worth the struggle. On the other side is a deeper relationship with God, and that’s worth any loss. Nothing this world has to offer comes anywhere close to what you experience as you fall more and more deeply in love with God.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace running and saying, “Let’s go!” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Choosing Discomfort

life_is_hardContinued from here.

Part of the human condition is a strong disposition toward being comfortable, and I am no exception. In my flesh, I will always choose what is most comfortable for myself, and then once I find it, I don’t want to leave. In my flesh, I would be perfectly happy to spend the rest of my life lying in a hammock on a beach, savoring my own comfort and ignoring the pain of other people.

Since I made the choice to follow God no matter what, comfort has become a thing of the past. Someone called into the Christian radio station KLOVE with the following quote:

There’s no growth in a comfort zone … and no comfort in a growth zone.

My flesh’s inclination toward comfort lulls me to sleep to God’s ways and priorities and keeps me self-focused. God is always moving as He reaches out to the lost, but I won’t be a part of His activity if I’m enjoying the comfort of my beachside hammock. So, since my relationship with God has deepened, I have entered into a life of discomfort, which has been hard for my flesh. Whenever I break eye contact with God, I’m tempted to feel sorry for myself because my flesh screams that it deserves comfort.

However, my continual discomfort leads to growth, which feeds my spirit, making my life so much easier as I participate in God’s activity around me. My spirit is empowered each time I defer my preferences for someone who is being unpleasant. I have repeated opportunities to grow my patience and perseverance. Then, when I’m with a group that is being inconvenienced, I’m the one who is relaxed and “going with the flow” while others are expressing outrage in their misery. It’s not that I am a “better person” – I’m not. Instead, because I have grown through much experience of discomfort, I have learned how to tap into God’s joy and peace in those situations so that they don’t bother me like they used to. This makes me more pleasant to be around and causes people to ask how I could remain joyful in an uncomfortable situation, which invites a conversation about God.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace lying on a coach with her hand on her, dramatically saying, “Life is hard.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Armor of God: A Word of Caution

panic_attackContinued from here.

Spiritual attack is a real experience, and the more you grow in your relationship with God, the more fighting will be required of you. Joyce Meyer puts it this way: “New level, new devil.” While spiritual attack is a reality that you will face as you grow closer to God, you need not fear it. Remember that whether or not you win a particular spiritual battle, the war has already been won:

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.’” ~ 1 John 4:4

Spoiler alert – God wins! And because you belong to God, that means you win as well. So, it doesn’t matter how many spiritual battles you lose because the war has already been won.

You might wonder why we must fight battles, some of which we will lose, if the war is already won. God allows us to be attacked spiritually to grow us in Christlikeness. The more you transform into the image of Christ, the less spiritual attack will bother you. To an inexperienced Christian, the battle seems insurmountable. However, to the mature Christian with many battle scars, even very heavy spiritual attack is unable to shake the firm foundation he or she has in Christ.

Some people make the mistake of becoming obsessed with spiritual warfare. If you aren’t careful, the enemy will lure you into filling your mind with thoughts of him and his power rather than God. God must always been your central focus. As long as you keep your eyes on God, it really doesn’t matter what the enemy does. He is a defeated foe. Fear God, and you need not fear spiritual attack.

I hope you found this series on spiritual attack to be helpful. Now that you have the tools, use them whenever you are tempted to despair over your life experiences. This life and spiritual warfare are temporary, but your relationship with God is eternal. Keep pressing on, chasing God with all you have, and then you need not fear anything else.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace having a panic attack. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Finding Hope in Detours

helpContinued from here.

When I reached the part of Tony Evans’ sermon series on detours that addressed how to know that we are reaching the end of our detour, I cried through much of it because it explained what was going on my life that I found particularly frustrating. I found myself helping other people out of their pits while still being stuck in my own. The dynamic was similar to Joseph’s plight, where he wanted out of prison, helped someone else get out of prison, and stayed stuck in the same prison for two more years, wondering what the heck??

This got me thinking about something I learned from Tony Evans as well as from Joyce Meyer, which is the concept of giving to others what you want for yourself. For example, if I need financial provision, I need to give money to help others in needs. If I need a friend, I need to give friendship to others who need a friend. Joseph needed to get out of prison, so he planted the seeds for what he needed by helping someone else get out of prison. Without sharing the specific details of the pit I have been trying to get out of for 8 months, I have planted many seeds by helping others get out of the same pit.

I confess it’s frustrating to still be in this pit when I have helped so many other people get out of theirs. The temptation of envy is a shiny object, seeking to lure me into its snare, but I refuse to go there. I thank God for His provision for every single person I have helped get out of the same pit, and I am truly happy and praise God for the deliverance He has brought them. I also continue to help as many people as I can get out of their pits, not out of a selfish desire to sow my own seeds but out of sincere caring for them. I know how painful this pit is for me, so I want to help others get out as I can.

Continued here.

Link to Evans’ Sermon Notes.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace sinking in quicksand and yelling, “Help!” Courtesy Bitmoji.]