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Responding to Suffering (A Woman Transformed by the Gospel: Part I. Lesson 6)

“WHO SINNED?

THIS MAN OR HIS PARENTS,

THAT HE WAS BORN BLIND?”

(John 9:2)

RELIGION, IN CONTRAST TO THE GOSPEL, ASSUMES SUFFERING IS DUE TO SIN

BUT JESUS IS CLEAR THAT IS ERRONEOUS THINKING:

“It is not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

(John 9:3)

healing-of-the-blind-man-cropped

On a personal note, I was ready to start us on Lent this week, but Elizabeth alerted me I was a week early! I began to panic, having nothing prepared for you and very little time. Then I realized, once again, God was in control. Here we are, arriving at John 9, a passage dealing with suffering, and our own dear Nila had already sent me her story, a poignant story of their firstborn, Abby, born with a heart defect. I had told Nila, “I’m not sure when I’ll use it, but I will.” Oh — how glad I am I have it! It so beautifully portrays how we should respond to the mystery of suffering. And it is a mystery. Why would God give (or allow) this young couple, these first-time parents who loved Him, such suffering? Why did He do give (or allow) such suffering to the parents of the man born blind?

THAT THE WORKS OF GOD MAY BE DISPLAYED

Sometimes the works of God are displayed when He stops the storm, and sometimes they are displayed when we allow Him to hold us through the storm. It is remarkable, as in the case of Job, when we keep trusting and loving when He does not give us what we want.

NILA’S STORY

Abigail (Abby) was born with two congenItal heart defects. Our old-fashioned doctor kept moms in the hospital for three or four days back then, so a nurse noticed that she was a blue-baby on the morning of her fourth day of life.  We were rushed from our small Wyoming hospital via ambulance to a larger hospital in Montana.  Our daughter was in congestive heart failure. A visiting doctor from a pediatric heart unit in Colorado,  was in the process  of packing up his car to return to Colorado when our baby arrived in Billings, Montana ~  He was immediately asked to accompany us. Within hours we found ourselves on an air ambulance to Denver. This young doctor cut through all the “red tape” when we reached  Colorado General  Hospital. I felt carried along, though I was going somewhere I didn’t want to go. Abby was in surgery that same night. She survived that surgery and after one month in the hospital, she was released on Christmas Eve. We were utterly grateful.

NILANEWmail.google.com

NILA AND NEWBORN ABBY

I learned to administer several medications around the clock through those early months, for Abby still had a hole in her heart, and would be on medication for all of her short life. There were many, many doctor appointments with pediatric heart specialists, to monitor her condition. One pediatric neurologist  told us that our baby was a miracle….. that she should have had brain damage due to the seizures she had suffered. But Abby was a precocious little girl and, though tiny, she began to have a huge influence on all who knew her. Many were praying that God would close the hole in her tiny heart so that no further surgery would be necessary.

My husband and I sensed such a tender presence of God in our baby’s short  life. Before her birth, my husband had prayed that God would, “fill her with His Spirit from birth,” just as John the Baptist had been. (I don’t know if its alright to ask for that, but I am grateful that he did.) One elderly nurse told me that when she looked into Abby’s eyes  she, “felt like Abby knew more about life than she did.“

oneyearabby

Nila with Abby when Abby was one year old.

At age 14 months, the cardiologist said that it was time for open heart surgery.  We drove back to Denver. On that cold January night before surgery, I  collapsed on a cot right beside her hospital crib…… At that very moment, in my broken-hearted fear, I sensed/pictured two things simultaneously:The Lord Himself just holding me, and Him holding my baby girl. This image was literally etched in my heart that night…… Deep comfort calling to deep fear. 

Dec. 2014 Abby, etc 066Painting by Francis Hook

Early the next morning we walked our baby to the surgery doors and reluctantly handed her over to the surgeons. Our Abby did not do well during the long surgery and fought for life for four days following surgery.  At my husband’s leading, we released her to our Lord and a few hours later she went to live with Him.  

The cavern that the joy of her life had carved, was filled with sorrow. That sense of fullness gave way to a sense of emptiness.   I was disappointed with God.  My husband lived with a really sad wife for many, many months.    It was a messy, unpredictable, painful journey emotionally.   Over the following months, the Lord tenderly worked in my heart in such a way that I was finally able to release my clenched fist full of questions and hold an open hand. I was finally empty enough of myself to receive a peace I had never before experienced.     

Isaiah 45:3 says, “And I will give you the treasures of darkness and the hidden wealth of secret places.”   And so He did.   He met me in that dark place – the  treasure of his sustaining presence.   And  the treasure of the hope of heaven often comforted my heart and still does today. “Let not your heart  be troubled.  Believe in God. Believe also in Me.   In my Father’s house are many dwelling places, if it were not so I would have told you.  For I go and prepare a place for you.”  John 14:1,2

 The Mother’s Day following Abby’s death my artist husband surprised  me with a beautiful watercolor portrait of her.  In that portrait you can see an image of Christ reflected in her eyes. That portrait has hung in our home for the past 33 years, a  constant reminder that heaven is a reality. We will meet again in that  better country.

 

Dec. 2014 Abby, etc 065

THERE IS MORE TO NILA’S STORY, BUT I WANT YOU TO CONSIDER THESE CONTRASTING APPROACHES TO SUFFERING:

                                 RELIGION                                                          GOSPEL

When circumstances in my life go wrong, I am angry            When circumstances in my life go wrong,

at God or myself since I believe anyone who is good             I struggle, but I know all my punishment

deserves a comfortable life.                                                       fell on Jesus and while God may allow this

                                                                                                       for my training, He will exercise His

                                                                                                       Fatherly love within my trial.

Sunday: Icebreaker

1. What stood out to you from the above and why?

2. How did you see God exercise His Fatherly love to Nila and her husband within their trial?

3. Does your response to suffering align more with religion or the gospel? Explain.

Monday-Thursday Bible Study 

Prepare your heart with this:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=PsaSmU5AQds

Tim Keller explains that because religion assumes we earn God’s favor, that when we suffer we are either angry at God (because we’ve been good and He hasn’t kept His part of the bargain) or at ourselves (because we haven’t been good enough so we think He is punishing us.) That is what Job’s friends assumed and brought greater pain to Job.

I also believe that while it is important that we pray in faith for healing, that we cannot demand it, for God may have a purpose we cannot see. Not all believers agree with this, but I believe the evidence is strong in Scripture and in life that there are times when God chooses, for His own mysterious purposes, to heal in heaven and not on earth, as He did with Job’s children. Just as Job never knew God’s reasons, sometimes we do not either. But trusting Him when He doesn’t give us what we want shows we love Him for Him, and not just for His gifts. Satan didn’t believe anyone loved God for God — but only for His stuff. Let us prove, even when God does not remove our suffering, that we love Him for Him! Joni Eareckson Tada, one of the godliest women I know, said, “God’s purpose for us is not so much that we be healthy, wealthy, or even happy — though it pleases Him to give us gifts. His main purpose is to make us holy.” I believe that the trust I see in Nila and her husband are evidence of the work of God, just as much as healing is evidence of the work of God.

After Abby’s death, God gave Nila and her husband three sons and two daughters. Here is a picture of Erin, one of their daughters, with her baby girl.Dec. 2014 Abby, etc 018Nila’s daughter and grand-daughter

Erin, at 17, wrote a song to the sister she never got to know. It is called “Home” At one point in the song she refers to  the portrait Nila’s husband painted. Here is the song, which you can hopefully hear on your device, and you can follow along with the lyrics below.

home-erin_mulford

I’ve heard about your laugh, about your cry

And how you got your name
I’ve seen those big brown
Upon the wall
Your face within a frame

Here you are in my memory
A bridge to cross the time
Moments we have shared together
Only in my mind

Who are you?
A face in my memory
A sister to my soul
Why did you leave this family?
I just want to know?
Why did you go home?

I’ve never heard your laugh or heard your cry
Or heard you say my name
I’ve never seen your eyes
Look into mine
Or seen you walk away

Here you are in my memory
A bridge to cross the time
Moments we have shared together
Only in my mind.

Who are you?
A face in my memory
A sister to my soul
Why did you leave this family?
I just want to know?
Why did you go home?

And I know, He’s holding your hand
Your’e with him all the time
But sometimes wish I was with you
And that you could hold mine
Just one time.

I’ve thought about your laugh, and your sweet cry
While whispering your name
I’ve seen that Jesus joy behind your eyes
Captured in a frame.

And here He is right beside me
A touch to heal my wound.
Moments He has planned so perfectly
He knows I’m missing you.

You are His,
A face in my memory
A sister to my soul
You were a gift for a little while
Now I think I know,
Why you have gone home.
Home.

Engraved on Abby’s simple headstone are these words:
She was so small.  But her influence is so great.

And so it is.

4. What fruit do you see in following generations because of Nila and her husband’s accepting the mystery of suffering?

5. Read John 9:1-3.

A. What does the question of the disciples reveal about their theology of suffering? Have you ever shared this theology? If so, explain.

B.  How does Jesus answer them?

6. At the close of Job, God asks Job many questions. What do you think was God’s point?

7. Read Job 42:7-17

A. What does God ask Job’s religious friends to do?

B. Challenge Question: God doubled all that Job lost except for his children. Why, do you think He didn’t double Job’s children?

C. What good purpose did Job’s suffering serve? Has this ministered to you? If so, how?

8. Read Hebrews 11:36-40. What do you learn?

9. What good purpose does the suffering of martyrs serve?

10. How might heaven be able to heal a deep sorrow you have experienced on earth? Be specific!

 

Friday: Free Keller Sermon “Questions of Suffering”

http://www.gospelinlife.com/catalog/product/view/id/5525/s/questions-of-suffering/category/46/

11. What comments do you have on the above sermon?

Saturday

12. What is your take-a-way and why?

 

Lent begins next week — please pray that those He wants to join the journey will join and stay with us!

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215 comments

  1. Why do you think God didn’t double Job’s children, as all else was doubled?
    Yes, it seems very logical that the first set of children were in heaven, experiencing eternal life.
    What good purpose does job’s suffering serve? It was testimony of his love and trust in God, through all of his suffering.
    The request God made of Job’s friends to offer a burnt offering “for yourselves” served to bring justice and then Job prayed for them.
    How fitting!
    The subject of suffering has always been of great interest to me. I have heard Joni Tada speak a couple of times and have been so blessed
    by her life and ministry. Her suffering has touched the lives of so many able and disabled people. I know she prayed to be healed and God’s
    glory was shown by her remaining a quadriplegic.
    Trusting God when we don’t get what we pray for or see the results ourselves is a great testimony. Yet pain, loss, depression are so difficult for us.
    From one of my collected studies on suffering, Why do God’s children suffer? by J. Vernon McGee is the quote from Job 5:7 Yet man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward.

  2.  
    Can’t sleep….
     
    8. Read Hebrews 11:36-40. What do you learn?
     
     
    Those who were great believers were also great sufferers. They experienced horrible deaths. I’m confused about the last few lines though….
     
    “And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.” (‭Hebrews‬ ‭11‬:‭39-40‬ ESV)
     
    They did not receive what God promised? I thought that through their suffering they would receive gods promise? I think the use of double negatives here is confusing me…..the “us” is the disciples, right? So, without Jesus (disciples acting on His behalf) they would not be made perfect?
     
     
    9. What good purpose does the suffering of martyrs serve?
     
     
    I wouldn’t think anything, myself. I suppose they are meant to bring an awareness to others, but why? Why can’t it be a different way? It’s awful how some died….beheaded, sawed, crucified. It’s disgusting. I’m thinking of the young woman killed by ISIS (Kayla Mueller). She went to help Syrian refugees and was kidnapped and now, we find out, this week, killed. What “evidence” was her family given? She wanted to help and was killed. Seems senseless to me. Of course, I’m not brave enough to leave my home and go anywhere in the world these days. Too scary and violent for me. I’m a wimp. Does that mean I am not “worthy” of God’s grace? If someone came to my home and asked me about God, I would defend (thinking Columbine girl who was asked if she believed in God, said yes, and was shot and killed), but I’m not courageous enough to go looking for trouble. I could never be a missionary in another country, and probably would advise against anyone doing so if I were asked. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to put themselves in those positions, but I also could never be a doctor! Thank goodness we have people like that! It doesn’t mean I don’t believe in God any less, it just shows my human-ness. Plus, I don’t think we were all made for the same purpose; some are meant to minister abroad and some are meant to be home and local ministers. I also think of Jim Elliot here. Great story there. He died and saved a tribe….pretty cool, but I still wouldn’t have wanted to be in his shoes 🙁

    1. Laura, I don’t think you are a wimp.  You just recognize that God has not given you the gifts and graces to be a missionary in an overseas field at this time.  Would He call you to that, I suspect you would willingly move forward and go.  Remember, serving Christ happens in many ways.  Robin Jones Gunn, in her book Victim of Grace, indicates her desire as a child to be a missionary, but events prevented her from going.  To make a long story short, she discovered much later in life that she had been a missionary without ever leaving home through her writing of children’s and young adult literature.  
      As far as advising people against going overseas as a missionary – you are right to caution people.  The real issue is have you been called to go.  As a teacher for 30 years, I frequently have advised young people and second career people to think long and hard about a career in the classroom.  My advice, do not step into the classroom unless you know you have been called to teach.  That is a good caution for any action – has God called you to this?

      1. Sherryl Good thoughts on our callings:)

    2. Laura – I just wanted to mention that I think the “all these” of v. 39 refers to everyone mentioned in the whole of chapter 11 – and that includes ALL of the Old Testament believers who were looking to the promised Messiah, Jesus Christ.  They believed God’s Word that Messiah would come – but they died before Christ was born.  The “making perfect” will only happen at the end of time as we know it – when all of the saints, of all the ages and all the tribes of the world are in heaven with Christ forever.  At least that’s how I’ve been taught this particular part of Scripture.  I hope that doesn’t confuse further!!  🙂 

  3. 4. What fruit do you see in following generations because of Nila and her husband’s accepting the mystery of suffering?
    I don’t see any bitterness in Nila or her daughter rather I see His beauty in them. 

    1. I see the same, Rebecca. The suffering of Nila’s family has meaning.  Look how it is ministering to each of us this week.  

  4. 5. Read John 9:1-3. 
    A. What does the question of the disciples reveal about their theology of suffering? Have you ever shared this theology? If so, explain.
     They believed God sent suffering to punish someone for sinning.
    I have had thoughts race through my mind like when Isaac was born with Autism that I deserved it because maybe I was placing my kids as ultimate over God and he was punishing me but those thoughts didn’t stay and fester..He came and breathed truth into my soul through a friend. I am learning to speak truth to my soul..no condemnation for me for I am His..so he wasn’t punishing me, and when something bad happens it is so that His work might be displayed through me. 
     
    As of late, He is coming to me with my whole purpose-who I am-He is my identity. Everything I am and do is so that He would be glorified, not me. It is not about me and everything that happens-it is so that His works may be displayed in me. 
     

  5. 4. What fruit do you see in the following generations because of Nila and her husband’s accepting the mystery of suffering?
    The lyrics of Erin’s song tell much…  Erin speaks of not understanding the Lord’s purpose in having Abby with Him and not her earthly family, but there is acceptance and understanding that there is a larger plan at work, the Lord has a purpose and plan for His people, and Abby is part of His plan.  Nila and her husband modeled faith in the Lord, trust in His provision, acceptance of what is humanly incomprehensible and what a gift they bestowed on their children.  As Rebecca mentions, “I don’t see any bitterness in Nila or her daughter”…that is my sense also; I see hearts of love and a longing for their heavenly home.

  6. 5. A. What does the question of the disciples reveal about their theology of suffering? Have you ever shared this theology? If so, explain.
    The disciples’ theology of suffering is that someone is responsible, someone has done something wrong to bring this suffering upon them self or another.
    When I was younger I may have thought this, but as I have matured and gone through many different challenges and struggles I see differently.  It is true that there are consequences for our actions that can bring challenge and struggle, but there are also times when that isn’t the case and troubles beset us.  I think of last December when my husband’s cousin fell from the tree suffering injuries that would be fatal leaving a young wife and two young daughters, grieving parents and sibling, friends and extended family…to ask what Jason did or his wife, his daughters, his parents, his sister, etc. would be totally wrong.  We don’t understand why things happen as they do and we must trust that the Lord has well in hand…He is good and we are loved.

    1. Such good thoughts, Nanci.  And oh, the example of your husband’s cousin.  I had forgotten, but remember it well now.  How could we survive if we felt responsible for all of the pain in life.  Praise God for His Sovereignty.  

  7. 6. At the close of Job, God asks Job many questions. What do you think was God’s point?
    God’s point is that our human minds cannot fully comprehend His plan, His ways, His means, etc. …we have finite capacity in comparison to His infinite capacity, therefore in no position to judge what He is doing by our human standards and understanding.  The Lord put Job in his rightful place (i.e., letting Job know that Job is not in charge; what was (is) needed is to trust in the Lord rather than question or challenge His plan, way, means, etc.  It needs to be settled in the heart that God is good and has our best interests in mind; His ways are mysterious and unfathomable to the human mind…trust and faith in the Lord is the bedrock.)

  8. Hebrews 11:36-40  My first thought is the magnitude of suffering experienced by the faithful in the past.  This, then, is the magnitude that is expected by the faithful in every generation.  No generation of believers can escape the suffering.  Jesus said it best, “You suffer because I suffer.”  We have been left in this world to lead others to Him, therefore, we will experience the same types of sufferings He did.  As far as the confusing statement regarding the martyrs being commended for their faith but not getting what was promised – they could not receive the promised eternal life until God the Son, walking as the person of Jesus Christ, was able to experience His suffering, death, and resurrection.  Upon that completion, the promise could now be experienced by those faithful living and waiting on the promised act to be completed.  Finally their sin was also forgiven.
    Another thought struck me as I was reading other members’ comments:  suffering produces an environment that drives us to prayer.  Jennifer Rothschild, a Christian writer who is blind and has been for several years, made the following statement in her book, God is Just Not Fair, Finding Hope When Life Doesn’t Make Sense:”  She quotes poet James Dillet Freeman, “sometimes the answer to prayer is not that it changes life, but that it changes you.”  She follows with, “When you meet God in prayer, you cannot help but be changed.  He softens your heart, strengthens your faith, and lavishes you with his love when you are in his presence.”  Powerful words from one who has prayed for healing from her blindness/suffering for over 25 years.

  9. 6.  At the close of Job, God asks Job many questions.  What do you think was God’s point?  In  Job 40:7&8 God says “Dress for action like a man;  I will question you, and you make it known to me.  Will you even put me in the wrong?  Will you condemn me that you may be in the right?”  This falls more or less in the middle of the whole section where God is questioning Job.  Breathtaking.  “Will you condemn me that you may be in the right?” – if this is not a personal application to us in our times of perplexity and crushing sorrow, I don’t know what is.  So in the midst of my anguish and crying I can actually be condemning God?  Well, it seems clear that this is what God is saying here.  Hard to interpret any other way. 
     
    April 6, 1013.  Every detail of that morning is seared into my soul.  The previous night spent in much prayer and beseeching of the Lord to heal Abel…..to spare his life in the land of the living.  And then…..a terse text from my dear daughter Jes.  “I just got off the phone with Ishmael.  Abel died this morning.  Please don’t try to call me.  I need to be alone.”  Thus began a journey of many months of agony like none we had ever faced in our family.  The loss of Abel, my despair over the “not knowing” about the state of his soul and his eternal destiny, Jes’ unspeakable grief….and in the midst of all, her revelation that she was battling late stage ovarian cancer.  I went into a tailspin.  Much like the disciples, my theology just didn’t have room for the kinds of suffering I was going through on so many levels.  My faith seemed a mockery – my prayers were only groanings.  Nothing more.  Was I putting God in the wrong that I might be “right” in determining “justice”????  In so many ways, yes I was. 
     
    The faithfulness of God to His redeemed ones is beyond words.  His grace and patience – stunning.  He knows our frame.  He understands our griefs.  In John 6:66-69 there is one of the saddest statements in the Scriptures…..”After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. “…..and then when Jesus asked the twelve whether they too wanted to walk away, Peter answered with his classic words of faith “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”  This is where I found myself about six months after Abel’s death……indeed where else could I go?  I KNEW Him.  Beside that, everything else paled.  And I think that’s where Job found himself (oh boy, I’m NOT Job!! 🙂 ).  Those last chapters of the book of Job…..God was saying “Job….you KNOW ME….. what else matters???”. 
     
    The very ending of Job is so precious.  I’m floored by Job’s haste to pray for his friends.  Those same friends who were anything BUT friends to him!  Those same friends who ripped him to pieces with their careless, arrogant and stupid words.  And yet……Job interceded for them.  Wow.  There is so much “theology” here that I don’t even begin to comprehend!  God is good.

    1. Jackie,
      Thank you for this post.    I understand. “……. indeed where else could I go?”
      This song immediately came to mind:   
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FPj_2L-uRpM
       
      some of the lyrics:
      “I need you Jesus
      Come to my rescue
      Where else can I go?”
       
       
       

      1. Nila I have not heard this song in quite some time. Perfect for just this.

      2. ah yes, Nila….that song is perfect.  an old favorite of mine.  much appreciated.

      3. Oh  Nila….that song was so wonderful  and just what  I needed. ..brought tears.
        Your whole story of precious  little Abby brought many tears.  Thank you for accepting  Dee’s tender way of using it.
        I am sorry for not posting  much sweet sisters…but I’m here…reading and praying.

        1. Nice seeing your post Joyce. Glad you are here:)

    2. Jackie thanks for sharing. To Know Him what else matters.

      1. 🙂  

    3. Jackie,  your words here penetrate deep. In reading this, just now,  I felt my eyes fill with tears.  And then my heart began to be filled with a steadfast hope.  I have come to appreciate over and over, the depth of your resolve to live above your pain and sorrow and earnestly and fervently seek Him.  Please know that God is using your tenderness in so many ways.  Your sorrow has not been wasted.  Those verses from Job cut deep into my heart too, when I think of the times I have felt overwhelmed with sorrow.  Your examples and experience cuts right to the quick of why God questioned Job.  And I agree.  I was taken aback at how quickly Job prayed for the friends who were so offensive to him.  Wow.  I have so far to go to be even close to doing that.  

      1. Wanda – “I have so far to go to be even close to doing that.”  …..and I am right there with you.  It is surely a supernatural (Holy Spirit!) endeavor!!  But I sure love how we can spur one another on in that direction….you always refresh my spirit with your words, your insight.  🙂

    4. Jackie, I do remember one of Keller’s sermons where he pointed out that this verse, “Will you condemn me that you may be in the right?” was a glimpse of the gospel…Jesus was condemned (by us) that we can be made righteous.

  10. Wow, Jackie, your sharing really touches me. Yes, where can we go but to our precious Savior. He has suffered for us all and He calls us to him.
    We cannot understand the depth, the reasons, the whole picture of these sufferings, but He is there for us.
    Prayer , even when it is groanings, uttered for us by the Spirit, gives us closeness to him. I am convinced that my calling is one of
    prayer. I see those who put themselves in dangerous places to serve and as Laura shared, it scares me too .
    What purpose does the suffering of martyrs sere?
     They show their strong love for Christ and are a witness . I am inspired though sad for the ones left behind. We cannot begin to understand but trust that one day we will know.
    James 1:12 , Blessed is he man who perseveres under trial.. he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

    1. Shirley – I loved that little gem of you sharing that you feel a calling to prayer – my spirit rejoiced at that, and I could learn much from you there I’m certain.  

  11. I’ve been doing some research on the topic of suffering for my other Bible study using Dee’s “God of All Comfort”, plus pondering all our comments here, and I found a song based on a sermon by John Piper that really speaks to me. I think others might find the song and then the sermon to which it is linked very helpful and encouraging as they go through their afflictions:
     
    http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/a-song-for-the-suffering-with-john-piper

    1. Diane–Shane Barnard (and Shane & Shane) is one of my very favorite artists and this song is one of my very favorites! 🙂 SO fitting here–so glad you posted it–praying for you dear sister~

    2. Thanks for sharing this, Diane.  It was shared once before but I had forgotten it and wouldn’t have thought to look for it.   Beautiful song.  

    3. Thank you, Diane, for sharing that song — it was so meaningful!   

    4. Diane thanks for sharing this one is a keeper:)

    5. Diane ~ Oh, thank you for posting this song…. I heard it once, many months ago.    I remember, after Abby’s death, my husband saying, “Though He slay me, yet I will trust Him.”   

    6. Diane…this song  did it again. ..tears!
      Thank you!

  12. A. What does the question of the disciples reveal about their theology of suffering? Have you ever shared this theology? If so, explain.       The disciples seemed to have a theology that believed in a one to one correspondence to good works and subsequent outcomes.  If we do good, we are rewarded with a good life.  If we do wrong, we are punished with a bad life.  This is not at all what mercy and grace are about.  From what I understand, this kind of economy is a lot more like what the teaching of karma is about.    I’m grateful that my parents, by example, showed me that it is  the contentment and peace of knowing Jesus, the renewed inner person and eternal life that is the blessing given for following Jesus.  It didn’t mean life would always be perfect, financially secure or healthy. One thing my dad said frequently was, ‘you gotta take the good with the bad’.  I never forgot him telling me that when I was in the 3rd grade and was devastated by something that would only devastate an 8 year old.  But, while I personally, have not believed that bad things happening are a punishment, that kind of theology was thrust upon my husband and I when our newborn daughter was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis.  I’ve already shared this in previous blog lessons, but it was painful and made me angry to be told that ‘if we had enough faith, she would not be sick.’  I knew it wasn’t true and I resented those who made a difficult situation worse, by saying it.    Again, my dad and mom were such a source of strength and comfort to me.  ‘We don’t know what God has in mind’, said my dad as he wrapped his arms around me and went with us to the hospital conference room where we were given our daughter’s prognosis.  (was a TOTAL touch of God’s hand that my parents were there at all.  They had just pulled in to town for a visit moments before).   And it’s true,  We don’t know the mind of God.  Maybe that’s too ambiguous for some, but it gives me a sense of relief as well.    On the flip side though, I think I have bought into the opposite side of this false equation.  I have despaired as to why some of my friends (whose parenting looked pretty much exactly like ours) are blessed to have all of their children walking with the Lord and there are so many things about their families that seem so less complicated than ours.  So, my faulty thinking was that ‘if I raise my children in the ways of the Lord, pray ceaselessly for them and lead by the example of living out my faith, they will, without question, follow God’s commands and live for Him.”   This hasn’t happened.  Not all of them do follow Christ.  I have despaired often.  But if this philosophy were true, I would be ‘responsible’ for their salvation.  I would have the power within me, to bring it about.  When I look at it this way, it is ludicrous for me to think that the ‘good’ that I do makes me deserve to have ‘good’ returned to me.    It was because of a something shared here on the blog, when Susan shared a link of a testimony she heard on the radio, that brought about this freedom in my heart.  Grace.  It is all about grace.   And Mercy.  It is all about His mercy.  And His Sovereignty.  We truly don’t know what God has in mind.  

    1. Thanks for this Wanda, this was especially helpful:
      “But if this philosophy were true, I would be ‘responsible’ for their salvation. I would have the power within me, to bring it about. When I look at it this way, it is ludicrous for me to think that the “good” that I do makes me deserve to have “good” returned to me.”
       

    2. So true and Amen!

  13. 7. Read Job 42:7-17
    A. What does God ask Job’s religious friends to do?
     
    God told Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar  that He was angry with them because they hadn’t spoken about God correctly.   He told them to take 7 bulls and 7 rams and go to Job.  They were to offer up the animals as a burnt offering and have Job pray for them.  Then God said he would act favorably toward them by not making fools of them.    
     
    B. Challenge Question: God doubled all that Job lost except for his children. Why, do you think He didn’t double Job’s children?
     
    We seem to want God to replace all that Job lost item for item, even doubling each item and each  child..   As we all know, having another child does not replace one whom you have lost — although a newborn does bring joy into your life.  Doubling his children would not make Job forget about those he had lost, but as some of you have already said, he could have the comfort of knowing they were in heaven.   Let’s propose for a moment that God had doubled Job’s children.   It might not have necessarily been the best thing for Job.   Children are a blessing, and at the same time they are a responsibility.   It might have been too much for Job and his wife at the stage of life they were in to have that many children.   I think 10 was a bountiful number!    I believe God did what He felt was best for Job.   We are told Job died, old and satisfied.    
     
    C. What good purpose did Job’s suffering serve? Has this ministered to you? If so, how?

    Throughout it all, I am reminded that the Book of Job is neither historical literature nor biography nor autobiography.   It is a story set in an unknown period of time in an unidentifiable land called Uz.    It is wisdom literature with the purpose of teaching by posing key questions about suffering.   Job inspires me by lifting up his perseverance and endurance as an example.    I am also inspired by all the passages in Chapters 38-41.  The questions God raises with Job are important ones for each of us to ponder, I think.   It puts my life back into perspective, and helps me marvel at God’s awesome abilities and creativity, instead of focusing on myself as the center of the universe! 

     

    1. Deanna, I did so love that last verse that says Job lived to see his children and their children to the fourth generation.  As you said ‘satisfied’.   Perhaps a biblical way to end with a ‘happily ever after.’  🙂

      1. Sorry,  Dee,  I didn’t mean to cause waves.  I didn’t even realize it was debatable.   When I was studying in the Bible College at Phillips University back in the 1960’s, I was taught to view Job as “wisdom literature.”    
         
        Then in the introduction to Job found in my current study Bible (Common English Version), it says:
        “The portrait of Job reflects an experience of deep suffering, with Job as a fictional pious man.  The book isn’t a report about a literal transaction between God and an Adversary (Satan) that could have been caught on a heavenly camera.  The book’s strategy is to take the reader into the world of the story and away from the reader’s time and place (and familiar ideas) to provide a neutral space to consider these important issues.”   
         
        The CEB also says:   “However, the writers of Job are steeped in the biblical tradition, and they occasionally provide a parody of older biblical texts, such as Psalm 8 or Psalm 139.”   
         
        I do find other commentary material (by Googling) that make a very positive statement that Job was an actual living man.   So, Dee,  thanks to your reply above, I have learned that it is at least debatable  whether Job is an actual historical account.    However, my being inspired by Job is not dependent upon it being a historical account.    If Biblical writers wrote the Book of Job in order to encourage others to have the proper perspective while enduring suffering,  I am inspired along with the original intended audience.   

  14. 6. At the close of Job, God asks Job many questions. What do you think was God’s point? This is where I take my approach to suffering: He is all-powerful, with all creation in His hand and able to do whatever, knowing all the secrets of this universe and man’s heart. Therefore, He is able and wise in His dealings here on earth. If He allows something there has to be a reason other than “He isn’t able.” He also loves us more than we can imagine. Therefore the reason also must NOT be “He doesn’t love me.” God’s point: I am wise, I am able, I love you. Trust me.
     
    7. Read Job 42:7-17
    A. What does God ask Job’s religious friends to do? To take a sacrifice to Job and have him pray for forgiveness for them. Somebody pointed out the verse James 5:16 – The prayer of the righteous availath much (don’t have time to go back through comments and see who it was, sorry) – I thought that was a good observation.
     
    B. Challenge Question: God doubled all that Job lost except for his children. Why do you think He didn’t double Job’s children? Others have already answered this very well in the speculation of Job’s children being in heaven. People are actual souls, not property. I always got the impression that Job’s children were prone to sin given that Job was always interceding for them, but scripture doesn’t specifically support that speculation. Given God’s reaction to Job’s friends, even if his children had been sinful, God would have forgiven them based on Job’s prayers.
     
    C. What good purpose did Job’s suffering serve? Has this ministered to you? If so, how? The good purpose is just as John 9 – So that the works of God might be displayed. Job’s faith was God’s work. That God had put such a solid faith and belief in Job… had invested in his heart that when push came to shove, Job did not budge. He believed. He KNEW. Job blesses me because it reminds me that God is there. God doesn’t leave and get distracted multi-tasking. He is there…here. His hands hold the universe and my life. He is my rock.  Psalm 32:10 “…but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord.” Not good circumstances but love. In the end Job was proven right… not for his arrogance but for the glory of God because Job maintained that God is and is powerful and he was proven right. But this “punchline” would have lost its power had Job stumbled and fell in his belief.

  15. I love this, Jill.   “People are actually souls, not property”.    George MacDonald said “We are souls.  We have a body.”   That statement has made me pause many times!  
     
    I’m also really fascinated by God’s reaction to Job’s prayer over his friends.  I’d sure like to know exactly how much we can ‘read into’ that.  I found it encouraging, but I may be overstepping it’s meaning.

  16. C. What good purpose did Job’s suffering serve? Has this ministered to you? If so, how? I think the good purpose that it served was it showed Job’s friends and family he worshiped His God in all circumstances in the bad times and hardships as well as in the good times. It showed Satan He was powerless. It witnessed to Jobs friends who had a religious view of God, and Job was able to pray for his friends in fact instructed to so the Lord would not deal with them according to their folly, and not until he did was it then that God restored to Him that which was lost.
    For me this ministers to me as God was always there and He is God. I will worship Him regardless of my circumstance in All things. There will be friends who may say things during these times and not understand how we may handle our suffering and not understand that we still love and worship the Lord regardless. We can see the bigger picture beyond any earthly suffering. We need to pray for others. The Lord asks us to and He blesses that.
     
    As far as God not doubling Jobs children I  did a little research on that and I think it was due to the fact they were not lost, they were saved and in heaven.

  17. C. What good purpose did Job’s suffering serve? Has this ministered to you? If so, how?    It has ministered to me in helping me see the sovereignty of God.  To see that even one God called ‘blameless, upright, no one like him who feared God and shunned evil” should suffer such enormous affliction and sorrow.  Then, why should I doubt God’s goodness?  Why should I wallow in self pity when life is hard?   And why? why? why? should I compare myself to others?   Oh Lord, help me to remember my words just now, because I am weak and will fall again into all of the above stated traps.     Job’s story also ministered to me because it shows that sometimes, suffering does come to an end and God does restore, here on earth.  At the end of Job’s life, he was abundantly blessed.  This isn’t always the end of a life story though, except that in the heart of the believer, there is still peace.  Sometimes, there is sorrow and pain until the end.  Sometimes, families are not restored.  But faith is still restored.  Because faith brings with it, hope for eternity, where all things are new and perfect.  

  18. What amazes me further about Job’s story, is that considering that it is the earliest (along with parts of Genesis) book, chronologically, Job must have lived before most of the patriarchs and the prophets.  He didn’t have the advantage of knowing their stories.  He just knew God Himself.  And His resolve to trust Him ‘no matter what’ was unsurpassed.  

  19. 6. At the close of Job, God asks Job many questions. What do you think was God’s point?
    This morning I see this more as God was comforting Job by helping him to rest in Him in the mystery. He did this by reminding Job that He is in control of the mystery and -he can do all things and everything, even the ugly scary stuff is for His purposes and glory… God was pressing Job into Him. God knows we bend toward setting our eyes on the mystery of suffering and wonder at that, but God helped Job to turn his face from his misery and place his wonder in God.  In 42 it is obvious that Job’s eyes are on God for he is repenting and in wonder of God.

  20. Yes, Rebecca, I love the fact that Job placed his hope and wonder in God through it all.
    Our God is awesome and just, yet a God of mercy. And the song was perfect that was shared, Though He Slay Me.
    Our suffering is not wasted.

    1. Shirley-me too..I see Job as broken yet His heart was so tender toward God and I think that is the difference..play dough hearts.. that even in His brokenness going through THE ultimate in suffering-only Jesus has gone through this and worse yet, separation from God-Job humbled himself before God and just in being with God melted His heart in wonder..took his eyes off his suffering and onto God. 

  21. 8. Read Hebrews 11:36-40. What do you learn?
     
     
    I learned that many peopel throughout ages in biblical history have sacrificed to bring the word to others who came after them — including me.    They endured humiliation, whippings, chains and imprisonment, being stoned, being cut in two (supposedly Jewish tradition indicates that may have been the case for Isaiah, )  were murdered, and many lived in a state of poverty and need.  
     
    9. What good purpose does the suffering of martyrs serve?
     
    Their willingness to risk their very lives inspired others to believe the gospel, and that enabled the word to be passed along, eventually coming to me (and all of you)!    

  22. I’ve already given my commercial for this sermon–it is truth I think especially now, our world, non-Christians and believers, desperately need to hear. SOme of my notes:
    When suffering comes, I instinctively ask WHY? 
     
    AVOID PAT ANSWERS
     
    There are 2 basic (wrong) responses to suffering. 
    1) Moralism: The religious moralist says—‘why is God punishing me? , what am I doing wrong? Maybe I need to pray more, harder…’ The moralists live by the idea that we are rewarded/punished based on how we act. 
    2) Cynicism: The secular cynic says life is random. There is either no God, or He is incompetent. It doesn’t matter how you live. 
     
    What is the relationship of God and suffering?
    Suffering is Satan’s idea. God does not generate suffering, disease, disaster, death. God did not create a world of disease. They are forces of darkness released when we turned away from God. YET, God is in absolute control. He permits, yet limits the evil. God hates suffering, but He permits it only to the degree it defeats Satan’s purpose. *God only allows Satan enough rope to hang himself with his own plans. (Rebecca’s favorite Keller quote  )
    Satan was allowed by God to bring evil into Job’s life in such a way and amount that it completely defeats Satan’s intention. 
    God hates suffering, but He permits it—only to the degree that it defeats Satan’s purpose and instead refines us. 
     
    Job never learns the “why”. God never tells Job the example he is or that it’s all for good—God reminds Job Who He is. The pat answers are our attempt to be in control. The Bible calls us to serve God though I may never know the reason for the suffering—hold on to the mystery, stay in relationship with Him.
     
    EMBRACE LIVING WITHOUT AN ANSWER
    It’s more than resigning that ‘I’ll never know the why’—I can embrace it, embrace the mystery of it (this is hard for me!). God says, I do not need to know.
    Job serves God out of love. I am called to serve God in such a way that I am not trying to get something out of it. In relationship—when we say we love someone—but it’s really about what they can give me, that’s not love. 
    **We learn to love God for Who He is through suffering. 
    In order to make Job into a man of greatness, Job could not know why. So many times I have said, I could get through this if I just knew why. But I have to be in the position of serving Him for nothing.
    *I cannot know the “why” or else I will never become what suffering can make in me. I have to be willing to serve without getting something from Him. That is how He creates true love between us and Him, free lovers—one who love Jesus for Christ alone. Embrace the not-knowing, embrace the mystery. 
     
    ANTICIPATE THE FINAL ANSWER
    Job says ‘naked I came, naked I die’. In Job’s emotional pain, he holds on to the theology of grace. He does not believe the things God has taken were his—he recognizes everything he had were gifts of grace. 
     
    If I build my life on things, people, relationships, then when suffering comes and takes away those things, I will find myself without joy. But if I build my life on God, then when suffering comes I will find myself drawn deeper into the Source of my joy.
     
    We have resources Job did not have. Satan says to God, ‘Job doesn’t love You, he’s using You’ —but God doesn’t accept it.
    Yet when Satan told Adam and Eve–when Satan tells US ‘God doesn’t love you, He’s using you’, we believe it. The lie of Satan says that we cannot trust God, that if we fully give our lives to Him, He’ll destroy us. 
     
    I find great comfort from knowing He will not waste my pain. The main problem—the reason suffering is so hard, is that we still do not really believe His love for us. And yet we have the ultimate proof–the Cross. The innocent Body, beaten and naked, dying on the cross, the only One truly abandoned by God—FOR ME. He is the only One Who ever served God, loved God, for nothing—and He did it all for ME. He proved Satan is a liar, he is the father of lies. Jesus suffered not that I would not suffer, but that when I do—I can become more like Him. 
     

    1. Elizabeth, 
      I love this whole quote-you have a good memory Elizabeth. ;)) I wish I could communicate the whole quote that well though-suffering is NOT God’s idea, BUT he is in control..he permits and yet limits evil..He only gives satan enough rope to hang himself!  ” Suffering is Satan’s idea. God does not generate suffering, disease, disaster, death. God did not create a world of disease. They are forces of darkness released when we turned away from God. YET, God is in absolute control. He permits, yet limits the evil. God hates suffering, but He permits it only to the degree it defeats Satan’s purpose. *God only allows Satan enough rope to hang himself with his own plans. Satan was allowed by God to bring evil into Job’s life in such a way and amount that it completely defeats Satan’s intention. God hates suffering, but He permits it—only to the degree that it defeats Satan’s purpose and instead refines us. “

    2. Elizabeth,  I think you pretty well nailed it with your notes on Keller’s sermon.    Your notes made me want to listen to the sermon myself, which I finally did.  I really needed this sermon, and it was particularly timely for me this week.   Thanks for doing such a good job on your notes!   I’m not going to post mine, as they would be no better!   

  23. Sorry for the length…tried to condense! My take-away—suffering is inevitable, we are told it will happen. But it will either make us ugly, cynical, bitter—or beautiful, as Nila (thank you for sharing so vulnerably) testifies before us. If we do not turn away when the waves and fires come, if we listen to that still small voice, the Love beneath the waves, if we allow the Potter to take us in His hands and re-shape our broken places, He promises to use it all for our good and His glory. And He draws us closer to Himself through it.
     
    So this is one of those seasons God is really speaking to me from all angles, I feel so close to Him and so overwhelmed by how He is persistently wanting me to know the depths of His love for me. Bringing to mind old memories—healing painful ones, and drawing me closer still. In reading Manning, I have to go slow, as it is uncovering much—teaching me to run to Him, to really believe His love for me is richer than anything I’ve ever known. In my class on Romans, we discussed the access we now have to the Father, and as the professor looked right at me, tears streamed down my cheeks. I shared this with Laura above, but he said, as the President of the Seminary, everyone has to go through a process to make an appointment with him—but his children—bound down the hallway, run into his office, plop on his lap—all because they are “his”. This access, this torn curtain—nothing separates us, me, from His lap. And so in the sermon when Keller says the reason suffering is so hard for us is that we still don’t really believe He loves us, I am opening my heart to really receive it deeper still.  
     
    I’ve been thinking on question #10–how might heaven be able to heal a deep sorrow you have experienced on earth? 
    There was a day it struck me that in Heaven I will love perfectly. I will not be impatient or irritated by little interruptions. I will love unconditionally, filled with forgiveness, grace. It’s hard to imagine, but I love the thought! Today I thought–I will also be able to fully experience God’s love for me—wow. On earth, my sin will always to some degree hinder me from fully believing, fully trusting—but in Heaven, that total access will be known completely, and He will wipe every tear. 
     
    The hesitance to believe I am so loved, has roots of John 9:1-3, a default false belief that suffering is somehow my fault, somehow a form of punishment. But this too, God addressed with me once again this week, here and in my Romans class—God is a just Judge, the penalty for my sin was paid, in full, by Christ. He CANNOT have me “pay” for the same sin twice—the debt was already paid. So while there is much we don’t know and understand about suffering, we do know, it CANNOT be punishment. The Gospel silences Religion.
     
    Last thing–Love this from RC Sproul on Job “God never directly answers Job’s questions. He doesn’t say, “Job, the reason you have suffered is for this or for that.” Rather, what God does in the mystery of the iniquity of such profound suffering, is that He answers Job with Himself. This is the wisdom that answers the question of suffering — not the answer to why I have to suffer in a particular way, in a particular time, and in a particular circumstance, but wherein does my hope rest in the midst of suffering.”
     

    1. Elizabeth–on your #10..you made me think more…to love perfectly..be able to love unconditionally like He does..to live out perfectly His kindness, patience, goodness, self control, gentleness, faithfulness. And His peace in full, His joy in full..I can’t imagine but when I think about the reality of that in the future and the taste he gives us here I am so encouraged.

  24. 10. How might heaven be able to heal a deep sorrow you have experienced on earth? Be specific!    Well, of course, all of the pain; physical and emotional will be gone.  That in itself is astonishing to think about.   I can’t wait to walk with my brother in law.  I’ve only known him living life in a wheel chair.  (Yet, I dare say, it has been his suffering, that has made his heart so tender toward the Lord here on earth).  The lists are endless of people I love who suffered or are still suffering physically (and me too, in lesser ways). We will be made whole.   But, my deepest sorrow is for the souls of my loved ones who don’t know the Lord.  If they are with me in heaven, then of course, my deepest sorrow will be healed.  But if they are not?     How can heaven be perfect if our loved ones aren’t there?  I don’t know.  This has always worried and puzzled me.  My mom used to say that it must be that we won’t know who is missing.  That doesn’t bring much comfort on earth though. But I do know that God’s mercy is wide.  Sometimes, my prayer is just ‘Lord, bring them safely to heaven.’  for I truly cannot see how that will happen.   What else?  Well, certainly all the injustices in the world.  I long for a world where there is no racial biases and no hatred and judgement passed on others because of differences.  This has been a deep sadness of mine since I was a child.  And I get very sad about poverty and war and oppression.  My sorrow over these will be gone (and my anger too) in a world where we are at last one and our love is made perfect.  And that perfect love will also heal all the difficult relationships that bring sorrow here on earth too. 

    1. Wanda, I’ve felt those emotions, too, when thinking about when we are in heaven and some whom we love are not there. Someone once told me that it must be that we won’t remember them, and that made me even sadder…I don’t want to forget someone I have loved, as if they never existed.

  25. 9. What good purpose does the suffering of martyrs serve? Their suffering is a witness and a testimony to us of their great faith towards God and serves as an example with such great courage. It increases my faith. It also shows their eyes were on things beyond this life, life eternal.
    10.How might heaven be able to heal a deep sorrow you have experienced on earth? Be specific! My deepest sorrow was the decision I had made to have an abortion. I have experienced Gods forgiveness and healing here on earth but in heaven I will be able to have the reunion with the child whose life I had ended.
     
     

    1. Liz – what a beautiful promise to meet your child in heaven!
      Good point on martyrs pointing our eyes to things beyond this life! I hadn’t thought of that in my response, but it is so true – their death/suffering reminds us of the eternal.

    2. Liz ~  Such a reunion on the shores of heaven you will have with your child.
      Several months after our baby went to heaven, some friends gave us a book entitled, “My Dream of Heaven”, by Rebecca Springer.   The book was first printed in 1898 and has been in and out of print over the century.  Other than scripture, this little book was the most hopeful and encouraging book I read during those months of intense sorrow.   In it, the author is on her deathbed and is given the opportunity to be escorted to heaven and describes such beautiful scenes.   I loved the reunion scenes she described and the glimpses that I believe the Lord gave her and allowed for her to come back and tell.  
       
      II Corinthians 1:6 says….  “…if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation, or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort….” And so, for each of us, a significant purpose in our suffering, is that we are then, well-suited to comfort compassionately out of each of our personal experiences.  Who can truly comfort a woman who has had an abortion, from a heart of understanding,  except for a woman who has experienced aborting her child?   Who can comfort a mom with a prodigal child, except a mom who has had a prodigal child?      We need each other.   

      1. So good, Nila.  Another treasure of a book. Your post is so rich.  

      2. Nila thanks for sharing about the little book you found such comfort in. Praying for the Lords leading where I could comfort others in their suffering. I am willing to be used to do that.  

      3. Thanks, Nila once again for your powerful testimony and the suggestion of another book above. I will ad it to my list on the FB page.

    3. Yes, Liz.  How comforting the reality of heaven is.  And how rich is God’s forgiveness and mercy to all of us.  So good to know He has brought healing.  

  26. 8. Read Hebrews 11:36-40. What do you learn? That those who suffered for their faith did not receive their promise here on Earth. There is also something about the promise not being complete until we are ALL there. I do not understand this except that God’s promise is for many after the Old Testament faithful and the New Testament faithful and so His promise will not be fully fulfilled until all who are intended to receive the promise, do. ?
     
    9. What good purpose does the suffering of martyrs serve? It wouldn’t be worth dying for if it weren’t true. And while many have died for lesser causes, to die for one’s faith is a testimony of not only faith but of what your faith is in. The good purpose is powerful testimony, a great cloud of witnesses. I also think it buoys other faithful – makes them press in before persecution seeing that persecution is coming. This is good that we may not stumble when we are confronted, but rather stay faithful.
     
    10. How might heaven be able to heal a deep sorrow you have experienced on earth? Be specific! I just read on mundane faithfulness last night about how relationships will be fully restored in heaven – my family has a generational history of difficult family relationships and it is sad and heart breaking, but this will be healed in heaven! I can pray for restoration now, in this place, for the power of the cross to work and heal, but ultimately I can have sincere faith that these prayers WILL be answered. I have also been rejected in friendship so many times (bullied as a kid, challenges as an adult), but in heaven I will be fully and perfectly relationally fulfilled in the physical presence of Christ! While Christ has already started His work in that here on Earth it will no longer be a battle in heaven, but a glorious reality… I wonder if our memory of things hard on this earth will fade in the magnificent presence of Him, or if He will allow us to remember in order to praise Him in His mighty work in our hearts…?

  27. Been thinking of consequences vs. punishment. I think I have finally realized that these are two separate things. Consequences are circumstances that happen because of your actions, these can been both good and bad depending on your actions. If I am prideful in my friendships a consequence will be fewer friendships and this can serve to guide, admonish, and correct me. 
     
    Punishment is “suffering, pain, or loss that serves as retribution.” Jesus took my punishment, so God does not punish because I can not serve enough restitution to become holy or righteous. Even if I could then my salvation would be of my works and not of His.  For some reason differentiating between these was a breath of clarity for me on suffering.

    1. This is a wonderful and rich post, Jill.  I really like how you worked through these and defined.  Thank you.  

    2. Jill, thank you for your thoughts on consequences and punishment. Beautiful words of comfort ” Jesus took my punishment, so God does not punish because I can not serve enough restitution to become holy or righteous. Even if I could then my salvation would be of my works and not of His.”

  28. My take away:  I have been reminded through the posts that suffering is essential in Christian life to hone our relationship with God as well as to enable us to live the gospel message in an evil and corrupt world.  I could not help think of the conversations that are happening all over the US related to the unjust loss of life that has occurred in the Middle East recently.  Yet, Kayla Mueller, in her letter to her parents, recounted that she found God in the suffering.  Oh, how I want to have her wisdom on suffering.  While it is something that must be endured, we must choose to embrace the lessons God has for us in our suffering.  May I be more willing to listen to God’s lessons.
    The other major take away has to do with the nature of the relationship a believer has with God.  Job was so committed to faith and trust in God, that he did not waiver.  There was no option to run from the relationship.  This is similar to be the picture of a marriage relationship as shared in Scripture.  Once entered into, one is committed to the partner through trust and faith.  There is intimacy to such an extent, that one can be open and honest about how suffering is impacting each in the relationship and the relationship itself.  Even in the midst of the most extreme circumstances, the relationship is not questioned, because of the commitment made between the parties.  When we enter into a relationship with God, have we entered with this type of commitment?  If not, doubt may/will wreck or destroy the relationship.  Such commitment secures the relationship, and therefore, brings hope in the unseen aspects of life.  I can suffer with God, resting in the knowledge that He does know the outcome and the reason for my suffering.

  29. Sherryl I need to share withyou that what you just shared here was another confirmation of something the Lord has been speaking tomy heart this week thru a few different sources regarding my own marriage. I am listening Lord.

  30. I’ve been on the road and away from home most of this week, so not much time to participate here.  But, I’ve been following along.  Surely do appreciate wrestling through things here together on this blog.  Hope to post my take-away  tomorrow.
     
     

  31. Hello all…I’m coming in late but have just completed lesson 4! I believe what we have been diving into here is just as powerful as when we went through Song of Songs. And speaking of Songs, I recently heard a pastor, I think, on the radio giving a talk about Songs and he was teaching it as it was all about marriage and sex…I had to turn it off! I kept thinking to myself, “But you are missing so much more…you are missing Jesus all over the place!”
     
    I have to tell Wanda that I loved your deep insight about the Ezekiel passage; the serpent on the pole. You helped me really see this as never before. I had wondered about how they had to look upon the very thing that had bitten them, poisoned them, and was killing them in order to be healed. You said, “Looking to the Cross for salvation is to look at our sin.” Yes, He became sin (who knew no sin) for us. Our sin is what “bites” us, poisons us, and will eventually destroy us…if not for His sacrifice. I loved the video clip of Jesus and the Samaritan woman. I saw portrayed how even when Jesus made her uncomfortable about delving into her personal life, she listened, she considered, she laid down her pride and opened her heart to Him. The Brennan Manning quote is also sticking with me, “Do you believe Jesus likes you – not just that He loves you because theologically He has to?”
     
    I couldn’t wait to jump in to this week.
     
    1. What stood out to you from the above and why?
     
    Nila’s story…Nila had shared with us before about losing her precious Abby, but to see the photos of Nila holding her, to hear more of their story, and Abby’s beautiful face as painted by Nila’s husband…it all moved me so. Nila, thank you for sharing your story with us. Although it has been 33 years ago, I can only imagine how much you still miss your little baby girl. This also stands out…how God impressed upon Nila’s heart that He was holding Abigail and Nila…just like the painting shows Jesus holding the little child. No matter how old we are, we are still that little child who needs to be held.
     
    2. How did you see God exercise His fatherly love to Nila and her husband within their trial?
     
    The first thing is that Nila and Abby stayed for four days in the hospital (truly “old fashioned” today), so on that fourth day, the nurse observed the baby turning blue. Had they been sent home earlier, Abby wouldn’t have received the prompt medical care she needed. Secondly, God intersected their path with the young heart doctor from Colorado, who accompanied them there and sped things along. Abby’s first surgery was successful and she got to be home for Christmas. She also was protected from having brain damage from the seizures, and God’s love shone through her to all who came to know her. Nila and her husband both sensed the presence of God in Abby, and a nurse noticed it, too. The experience Nila had of “deep comfort calling to deep fear” just before Abby’s final surgery. God continued to love and comfort Nila in the months that followed losing Abby. I love how Nila expressed that He worked “tenderly” in her heart.
     
    3. Does your response to suffering align more with religion or the Gospel? Explain.
     
    I have been on both sides. I don’t know that I believe that anyone who is good deserves a comfortable life, but maybe I did? When my nephew died of an overdose, shortly afterward I was in church and we heard a testimony of a man who had been saved and delivered from drug addiction and he had come very near death. I agreed that it was wonderful he was delivered, but then I wondered, “What about my nephew? Why couldn’t that have been his story?” I believed the lie that God must not have cared about my nephew or loved him as much as he did people He rescued out of that way of life. Like the disciples on the boat, I was like them in saying, “Lord, don’t You care?” It was a learning process to come to the place where I stopped demanding to know why, and to experience that drawing closer to God was more valuable than having the answers to my questions.
    When I am made to be uncomfortable, I see just how much comfort is an idol. I don’t like trials and I want them to be over – quick. Yes, I struggle with what I scream is unfair about my life. But then I remember that the most unfair thing was that Jesus was held responsible and guilty for my sin; He traded places with me.

    1. Susan!! I missed you sister..:)

    2. Susan,   You are such a delight!  I have missed having you on the same lesson as us but I am so happy to see you at the end of each week.  And looks like you will be all caught up now.  That impresses me a LOT.  (I’m pretty sure I would have skipped some to stay in stride).  This speaks to me so much.  
       

      . Yes, I struggle with what I scream is unfair about my life. But then I remember that the most unfair thing was that Jesus was held responsible and guilty for my sin; He traded places with me.

  32. 4. What fruit do you see in following generations because of Nila and her husband’s accepting the mystery of suffering?
     
    I see Nila’s daughter Erin walking with the Lord, as expressed through the song she wrote. She is honest about missing her baby sister that she never knew and even wanting to know why Abby had to leave their family, yet she is trusting in the Lord, knowing that He is holding Abby and that “He knows I’m missing you”. God is aware of the heartache; Erin trusts that He knows and that He cares.
     
    5. Read John 9:1-3.
     
    A. What does the question of the disciples reveal about their theology of suffering? Have you ever shared this theology?
     
    The disciples wanted to know who had sinned, or, who was to blame because of their bad behavior, that resulted in this man being born blind. Their theology must have been that bad people/sinners are punished by God. I suppose living around the teaching of the Pharisees of their day contributed to that. The Pharisees essentially washed their hands of sinners; they never tried to reach out to those they considered sinners, they never offered mercy or grace. That’s why they were so offended that Jesus associated with “sinners”.
    I am ashamed to admit that I have, at times, looked at those whose lifestyle resulted in unfortunate consequences and felt superior. I know that when we do sin, we often do suffer consequences, but the truth is that if God ever gave us what we really deserved, no one would be left standing.
     
    B. How does Jesus answer them?
     
    Jesus said that neither the man nor his parents had sinned; the man was born blind so that others would see God do a great work in his life.
     
     

  33. 8. Read Hebrews 11:36-40. What do you learn?
    The Old Covenant saints suffered as the New Covenant saints have and will. In our sufferring, together we are being made perfect in Christ here on earth but in the future when He comes again we will be like Him-perfect-our transformation will be done-the pain of peeling off the layers will be done and the joy underneath the pain that we experience in letting Him pull the layers off here on Earth will be at it’s fullest-inexplicable Joy in full- when we are face to face.
    9. What good purpose does the suffering of martyrs serve?
    Their suffering shows His work in them and it brings Him glory..In that Hebrews passage it says that some were tortured refusing release so that they might rise again to a better life.
     
    10. How might heaven be able to heal a deep sorrow you have experienced on earth? Be specific!
    I surely haven’t experienced the deep sorrow of losing a child, a parent or a spouse yet and when I hear stories like our precious Nila and Dee and others here who have faced the deepest of sorrows in my opinion-their faith strengthens me and will help me when that time comes because it will come. 
     
    My deepest sorrow in the past 15 years lies in the affliction of Autism and Aspergers on my two oldest. How it effects them socially. How alone my one with Autism is relationally. The pain sometimes daily of what it has done to them. The concern for their future. God is giving me a taste of healing now through His transformation of me in this and how He has his hands on my boys, but the future is part of that taste for I cling to the truth that these afflictions are momentary troubles that are achieving for me, my boys and my husband an eternal Glory that outweighs them all. 

  34. My takeaway: SO…I took Andrew to the Doctor yesterday to find out if he had strep. I had the doctor look at two moles on his thigh and he recommended we see a dermatologist in regard to one. The other mole he wasn’t concerned about. It could be nothing or something..I don’t know but this one had different colors. I do know that I am weak in this area when it comes to my children or my husband! Scary thoughts and scenarios passed through my mind but then He is quieting my mind with the truth through our study this week and Nila’s POWERFUL testimony.
     
    This life is momentary and so are our afflictions compared to eternity with Him. There is a bigger picture in our hideous, and it is glorious. 
     
    In the hard times though…It is SO easy to bend toward my idol and forget..so I must be in His Word..and must be in fellowship-which isn’t hard because I love it but life can distract and make me too busy!  I must be constantly reminded of who He is and melt being held by Him. Okay I will stop!! 🙂
     
    One thing I am learning about God and I can’t wrap my mind around it, is that God is beautiful and He is NOT aloof-He is good..His hands are on everything. Ugly painful trials may make me cry out in pain and in grief for years but God doesn’t stop at ugly for His hands are on our trials and He will make us beautiful through them AND AND AND in the future the pain in the trial that lingers here on earth-will be no more and His Joy that fills me even through the stripping off of my scales is nothing really compared to inexplicable joy that lies ahead and so I cling to that. 🙂

    1. Rebecca – what richness you have shared for our pondering!  🙂   From your earlier post as well, I am moved by your heart’s suffering on behalf of your children – and, indeed, how could it be otherwise?  I remember when my oldest son was 6 or so…..a specialist just smiled at me and said “there’s nothing ‘wrong’ with your son…..he just will likely always march to the beat of a different drummer!”.  And so it has been – and much of that marching has been so creative and wonderful and has brought so very much joy to our family and his workplace and friends!!  BUT…..oh how hard were the elementary and middle school years.  My son was indomitable.  Unfailingly cheerful and tenacious.  But oh how alone he was.  Misunderstood, the last to get jokes, just not quite “fitting”, head bent over his homework – everything such a struggle.    Though life has really blossomed for him as the years rolled by, I’ll NEVER forget the earlier years of excruciating HARD.  My heart broke for him.  Even though our paths are entirely different, I do relate so very much to having that child who is always going to be just a little bit different – and hurting so badly because we realize that relationships with others that are so precious will suffer because of that.  God created us to live in community – and yet “community”….even in the body of Christ, sadly…..is not often embracing of what is perceived as a little odd.  OK, I’m thinking of so much more, but will get off my soapbox now!  🙂 
       
      As for concerns for your son’s health…..I surely get that too!  Having a child with a terminal illness has led me to live life with an hourglass in my heart.  I’m so keenly aware that our lives are but a puff of smoke!  (James 4:14).  And yet how precious…..how amazing the gift of life.  My prayers continue today for your sons.  That His glory will be on display in their lives.  Amen. 

      1. Oh Jackie,  Yes, to live with an hourglass in my heart.  I’m so keenly aware that our lives are but a puff of smoke!  (James 4:14). 

      2. Jackie,
        Your post brought tears! If I were to go to any place for solace from my brothers and sisters in regard to my children it would be here to begin with. God is so making you like Him Jackie in your DEEP valley with your daughter’s terminal illness. Your trust..oh.  There is no more powerful testimony of His work than in those who trust Him through these deep valleys and you are pressing on and pressing in sister.

      3. Jackie, what a beautiful reply to Rebecca’s post, from one mom to another…both of you sharing your hearts’ sufferings. I also love the metaphor of the hour glass in my heart.

    2. Such deep and meaningful words, Rebecca.  Thinking of you as you wait for Andrew’s dermatologist appt. too.  Prayers.
       

       God is beautiful and He is NOT aloof-He is good..His hands are on everything. 

      1. Wanda, you are truly a gem here! Thanks so much for lifting me up in prayer.

    3. “One thing I am learning about God and I can’t wrap my mind around it, is that God is beautiful and He is NOT aloof-He is good..His hands are on everything. Ugly painful trials may make me cry out in pain and in grief for years but God doesn’t stop at ugly for His hands are on our trials and He will make us beautiful through them”
      Oh Rebecca…you “hit the nail right smack dab on the head.”  God IS good…He makes us beautiful through the trials/suffering we endure.  Oh that I might “score” for my holy Father in these challenges and difficulties and not give in to Satan’s taunts of doubt.

  35. 9. What good purpose does the suffering of martyrs serve?
    I’ve been thinking about this question off and of for several days.  At first, I thought of Tertullian’s quote, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”  My initial responses seemed so obvious and superficial.  But I believe there is so much more.  I haven’t connected all (or most of) the dots; in fact, I’m still only beginning to SEE the dots!

    More of the dots:
    *Jesus is the ultimate martyr
    *Jesus has overcome death
    *Phil 3:10, 11:  “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”*martyrdom is sort of a “reality check.”  2 Tim 3:12 “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted”
     
    *The martyrs in Rev 6?    From the IVP NT Commentary on Bible gateway:

    The martyrs in chapter 6 were said to be “slain” or “slaughtered.” Here they have beenbeheaded.They are actual martyrs because in John’s visionsallfaithful Christians have been killed. They are not an elite group that is more “spiritual” than other believers. The further description of them as those who had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands (v. 4) places the accent not on their martyrdom as such but on the faithfulness that made martyrdom inevitable.
    Throughout the book of Revelation the Greek word martyriarefers to faithful testimony, not necessarily violent death. Those who reign are not martyrs because they were slain or beheaded. On the contrary, they were killed because they werealready“martyrs” in the sense of bearing faithful testimony to the truth about Jesus. They are simply the “victorious” Christians of chapters 2-3 (see especially 3:21, “to him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne”). They are those who “follow the Lamb wherever he goes” (14:4), who are therefore “his called, chosen and faithful followers” (17:14). To John, they are thetrueChristians, and he seems to know of no other kind.
     

    *Martyrs are faithful.
    *Heb 11: 1 “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”  Martyrdom itself provides evidence of things not seen, of a spiritual reality that is far greater than we can imagine.
    *Acknowledging (but not understanding) the transcendence of the Almighty, Jesus’ martyrdom and conquering of death, the spiritual battles in the heavens puts this life into perspective.  I so often miss the forest, and even the trees, for a vein in one dead leaf!  
    *2 Cor 4:17-18 “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

    Martyrdom gives us a glimpse of the eternal and of a reality far greater than what we can see with our eyes.  It reinforces what we know in our hearts.Sorry for disjointedness.  The dots still are sinking in (and I’m loving it)

    1. Renee,   I can’t read or hear about the martyrs in Revelation 6 and those in Chapter 7 without thinking immediately of that hauntingly beautiful Scandinavian hymn that you and I grew up hearing;  ‘Behold the Host Arrayed in White’.  Had to open my old Lutheran hymnbook and find it.  “…..Who are this band before the throne of light?  These are the ransomed throng, the same that from the tribulation came.  And in the flood of Jesus’ blood are cleansed form guilt and shame,  And now arrayed in robes made white, they God are serving day and night…”    I guess this song comes more directly from Chapter 7, but those who were slain and those who ‘through the tribulation came’ are all wearing robes of white.  
       
      “O happy saints forever blest, hail, ye who have attained your rest!  Faithful to death ye kept the faith though ye were sore oppressed.  The world ye did renounce of yore,  the precious seed ye weeping bore,  Now reap the joy without alloy in bliss forevermore!…..”    
       
      Seeing the ‘seeds of weeping’ and the reaping of joy…”But conflicts past, brought home at last, Gd wiped their tears away; N hunger there, nor thirst they know, no scorching sun doth work them woe, the Lamb them feeds, Himself them leads where living fountains flow”
       

      I didn’t work on this reply as you have done in formulating yours, but I felt so inspired to find these old lyrics.  I love your comment on Hebrews 11:1.  And also this from the commentary:     Those who reign are not martyrs because they were slain or beheaded. On the contrary, they were killed because they werealready“martyrs” in the sense of bearing faithful testimony to the truth about Jesus. They are simply the “victorious” Christians of chapters 2-3 (see especially 3:21, “to him who overcome I will give the right to sit with me on my throne.”

      1. oops. not all of that last paragraph was supposed to be in quotes.

  36. I really wish that I could have participated more this week. It is a very hard subject and is more emotionally draining than others. I am going to read everyone’s responses because I know that they are filled with nuggets of wisdom.
    Years ago in my homeschool with my sons we studied a version of Fox’s Book of Martyrs, it was called Jesus Freaks http://www.amazon.com/Jesus-Freaks-Stories-Those-Ultimate/dp/1577780728 . While it was very hard to read these stories of how others (even children) have suffered torture and death for Christ’s sake, it was encouraging and strengthening to know that these brothers and sisters were willing and given a strength to endure the unimaginable. They viewed it as a momentary event for a never ending testimony about the faithfulness of Christ.
    I have been very distressed to find that when I was faced with unexplainable suffering that resulted in deep depression and anxiety (2 things that I KNEW I was not susceptible to, after all I had to much knowledge and faith to give in to that)  I crumbled like a day old doughnut.
    Through this I am learning that my house fell like it was built on sand because I really was depending on idols (my friendships, my own knowledge, my comfort and securitiy) instead of building on the solid rock. I’m still learning.
     

    1. Bless you, Dawn.  Your honest thoughts about your struggles speak to me.  I fall many times too and think ‘but I know so much better than this”.   We are so weak but I am so grateful for our God of unconditional love.   My son used to have the book “Jesus Freaks’ and I think it really touched his heart.  I should read it.

  37. 10. How might heaven be able to heal a deep sorrow you have experienced on earth? Be specific!
    Not sure how specific I will be, but … 🙂    I know I’ve had an escapist, “happily ever after,” mentality of heaven.  Now I see the both the truth in that and the problem with that.  

    Knowing that “everything will turn out okay,” that I will see Jesus face to face, be reunited with loves ones is encouraging and comforting.  As I ponder the question of the martyrs and reread this question, I can see the possibility that heaven is able to heal deep sorrows I experience on earth WHILE I AM ON EARTH (at least in part).  Though God may not heal specific situations while I’m on earth, He is healing my heart.  Heaven’s healing power will not be complete in this life, but it still is healing now.  (I wonder how/if this is related to the petition in the Lord’s prayer, “thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven”  ???

    A couple reasons I’m not being very specific: (1) It seems as if I could fill in the blanks with 3 or 4 current challenges related to deep sorrow, possibly stemming from betrayal as much as from death  (2) this is SO public 🙂
     
    So, my example is grief, a nonspecific grief/sense of loss that encompasses almost every deep sorrow I experience — and a resulting lack of trust, which increases pain and fear.

    1) When I look at the promise of Heaven, I do have hope for future healing; that does give me a sense of relief.

    2) When I read about the martyrs and “real lives” of Bible guys, I see God’s faithfulness — and that life was hard, the faithful sinned.  This tempers my expectations that life here should be easy for believers.  More importantly, I see God’s faithfulness, forgiveness, and redemption. God uses suffering and even uses sin as part of his redemptive plan, not just for people in general, but for me.  I can trust Him that He knows what is best for me, EVEN WHEN I DON’T UNDERSTAND (i.e., often!!).

    In the past, my view of Heaven was as sort of a “cure-all.”  “God, beam me up RIGHT NOW; the sooner I get there, the better.” (adding my control idol to that was bad news).   I got past the “right now” mentality and have been tolerating some parts of life while waiting for Heaven.  Now, I am seeing that deep sorrow in this life is PREPARING me for heaven.  In contrast to the “eternal weight of glory,” the sorrows of this earth are “light afflictions” (speaking truth to my soul here; it hasn’t sunk in too deeply emotionally).

     I like to be prepared 😀  Um, I tend to over prepare at times.  Other times, I NEED lots of preparation.  My need for preparation and the purpose of “light afflictions” helps me see God’s grace in those afflictions.  He is preparing me for Himself.  Knowing the extent of His love for me, knowing that He is preparing me, the purpose of HIS preparation, and knowing that HE IS WITH ME NOW are healing me and redeeming the sorrow NOW.  I’m not in this alone.  I have the Spirit of God in and with me and a great cloud of witnesses (whatever that means 😉  ).  Heaven heals sorrows in life and in death.  Sorrows always will be part of life; some sorrows will be healed, in part, and new sorrows will arise.  Added up, all the sorrows would be devastating without God’s continuous presence and healing (or else believing illusions).

     It’s not just that the hope of Heaven changes my perspective (though it does, and that in itself is healing).  The Great Physician is with me now, through sorrow, preparing me for Heaven, for Himself.  He is healing me now, to prepare me for Ultimate Healing.  And who better to walk with me than the One who gave His life as the ultimate martyr, the One who understands the deepest of sorrows.  

    I guess I could have answered this question in one word:  JESUS  🙂    (but needed more words to explain to myself)AND THIS IS MY TAKE-AWAY  — unless I have more to add from the sermon!  

  38. As I stated above,   Elizabeth did such a good job with her notes on the sermon that I feel my notes would be redundant.   
     
    However, I would like to lift up one statement of Keller that I think summarizes the sermon: 
     
    “You are being called to stay in a relationship with a God that you can’t control , and accept, embrace the mystery of not knowing why you are suffering, and not expect that you ever will know, and realize that is a way for you to love God for Himself alone.”   
     
    I was glad that Keller pointed out that it is natural to cry out to the Lord and to grieve — that Christianity is not stoicism.   This week I have been struggling with physical pain  (gimpy, painful leg) that has been bad enough that I classify it as suffering.   I have cried out to the Lord.   I needed this study this week that helped to intercept and interrupt my focus on my pain.   I very much needed Keller’s sermon!     It will be my takeaway this week, for sure!   

  39. 10. How might heaven be able to heal a deep sorrow you have experienced on earth? Be specific!
     
     
    I’ve been thinking about this question all week. I’m not so sure I really know how to answer it; so many choices to choose from 🙁
     
     
    I guess the sorrow that covers a lot of different situations, would be my feeling of inadequacy; never a good enough dancer; never a good enough mom, never a good enough wife, teacher, steward of my body, etc. I have never thought I was very “good” at much of anything. Satan has especially been present these last few days. In heaven I will be made perfect! I wonder if I will even know or care at that point.
     
     
     

  40. My take-away this week?
     
    The reminder that heaven is a reality and that there is purpose in our pain.   (I remember in the months following Abby’s death, often just asking Jesus to not let it go to waste, because sometimes it seemed like such a waste.)
    Have loved this fairly new release called, In the End:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PLHe0W9Q1Rk 
    Some of the lyrics:  
     
    Can’t catch a break
    You’ve had your fill of old clichés
    Like “life is hard but God is good”
    And even though it’s true
    It won’t stop what you’re going through
    I wish that I could say it would
    But He’s outside of what you feel
    It might not make sense
    But one day it will

    There’s coming a day
    the sun will always shine
    He’s gonna wipe away every tear from your eyes
    Hold on my brother, things are gonna better
    You’re gonna smile again
    Cause we win in the end

  41. My take away God Is in Control. Satan is not!  God does not cause our suffering but He does allow it. All that happens in our lives is Father filtered. Our suffering can have rich purpose.  A verse for me that was life changing when my oldest daughter was diagnosed with Epilepsy was “In EVERYTHING GIVE THANKS for THIS IS THE WILL OF GOD In Christ Jesus for you” 1 Thessalonians 5:18  What did Job do first after all was stripped away He bowed down and worshipped God. This deemed Satan powerless and He is just that. NOTHING can separate us from the love of Christ. God will use our suffering for His purposes. Most suffering comes to us unexpectantly  BUT Christ KNEW He was going to suffer and willingly did so for us. That amazes me! For that I am so very thankful.
    I want to pray for those who do not yet know Him and know this truth of Jesus who died for them too, so they could experience LIFE everlasting, and to use any suffering I have experienced for HIS Glory. Thank you Nila for sharing your story with us and to Dee for using it on this blog.

  42. The Keller sermon was so good I have listened to it twice and need to hear it again. Suffering always is a stripping away of something and if we build our lives on those things. Suffering will be pulling us away from those things and making us sadder, madder, worse and worse. But if our lives are built on God as the ultimate source in our lives than suffering will drive us deeper into the source of our Joy, Another keeper:)

    1. “The Keller sermon was so good”…Agree!
      “I have listened to it twice”…me too, Liz,
      “and need to hear it again.”…me too…:)  Such rich content…so much to take in and digest.

  43. C. What good purpose did Job’s suffering serve? Has this ministered to you? If so, how?
     
    His life continues to be a testimony to generations after him including mine. Yes, Job has ministered to me at various times in my life and at the latest with regards to my sister’s condition. There is a superimposing sense of peace in my heart despite the ebb and flow of my emotions. Questioning one time and saying, Yes, Lord whatever your will is for my sister at another. I am being ministered to by His Word. Was just reading Psalm 139:9-10 and looked up the metaphor of the “wings in the morning and the uttermost part of the sea” and found this commentary comforting: The Lord is near even when we are at our deepest sorrow or suffering. 
    Verse 9. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea. If I could fly with all swiftness, and find a habitation where the mariner has not yet ploughed the deep, yet I could not reach the boundaries of the divine presence. Light flies with inconceivable rapidity, and it flashes far afield beyond all human ken; it illuminates the great and wide sea, and sets its waves gleaming afar; but its speed would utterly fail if employed in flying from the Lord. Were we to speed on the wings of the morning breeze, and break into oceans unknown to chart and map, yet there we should find the Lord already present. He who saves to the uttermost would be with us in the uttermost parts of the sea.
     
     

  44. My take away:
    Nila’s Abby has been in heaven for 33 years now. Yet her life continues to speak of the faithfulness of God through her parents and her siblings. No pat answers, embrace living without an answer, anticipate the final answer (quoting Keller here). The second one is hard for me as I think suffering will be easier if I knew the outcome.
    This week, I took a team of three students to a district contest. The preparation was like suffering for me (smile here)-late nights, aching back, anxiety over possible failure as the team did not have enough practice due to some health issues, being behind paper work etc. To some degree it was either win or lose but I came to a point of accepting whatever the outcome. I did pray for the team to place since I know it would mean a lot especially to two of the three. And you know what? they won first place!!! All I could think was Lord, it was so worth it! But would it have been the same reaction from me if the team lost? I have no way of knowing except the Lord has prepared me in some way whether we have won or lost. What a “kiss” from the Lord and a lesson on His providence over my circumstances. In joy (the team’s win) and in suffering (mine), the Lord is near.

  45. 10. How might heaven be able to heal a deep sorrow you have experienced on earth? Be specific!
    Well…in heaven I will be perfect; there will be no genetic deficiencies. We all have our trials and although many would call mine miniscule and superficial, it has affected me.  There are hurts early in life as a result of this deficiency that wounded deeply; some wounds have healed, but there is scarring, so to speak.  The “not enough” and “less then” has been a continuous struggle in my life for as long as I can remember…oh to be freed from this… 
    My Grandma died February 2, 1982…oh, how I love and miss her; it has been 33 years.  I so look forward to a reunion with my Grandma in heaven.  I was born on my Grandma’s birthday and am the youngest of her grandchildren; we always had a very special relationship (my Mom was my Grandma’s only daughter and my Grandma had special relationships with all of my siblings.)  I was the granddaughter she gave her prized hope chest to.  Her father made it for her when she was a young girl; she gave it to me when I was 13.  My Grandma was some one who loved with the kind of love that makes you feel SO secure, safe, comforted, and special. 
     
    I echo Liz’s take away…
    “God Is in Control. Satan is not!  God does not cause our suffering but He does allow it.  All that happens in our lives is Father filtered. Our suffering can have rich purpose.”