Tag Archives: suffering

Vacations

vacation

Taking a vacation this summer may look a little different with the usual destinations closed or only open at certain capacities with restrictions. Wearing masks to the beach or bringing hand sanitizer to the amusement park may feel a little strange, like we are taking the fun out of the experience, but these precautions have become a necessary part of being in public spaces. We must learn to live with it and still let the fun happen.

Now more than ever we are keenly aware that life, even for the Christian, is not full of sunshine and roses. There are things that get in the way of our good times. There are problems that detract from what we had planned. Long before this pandemic came along, St. Paul addresses these disappointments we face that can steal our joy: “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed” (1 Peter 4:12-13).

St. Paul helps us to see that nuisances, difficulties, even fiery ordeals are nothing usual, even on a vacation. Don’t be taken aback by them, but find your joy in Christ. He will give you gladness to carry you through the barriers and detours put in your path. Our joy in Christ should be greater than any inconvenience that comes our way. When we share in Christ’s suffering, we share even more in his happiness that heaven is on the horizon and none of these bumps in the road is going to stop us from our arrival there.

Sweet and Bitter Truths

scrollIn a recent article in Christianity Today, Lisa Fields, an expert on biblical literacy, said: “When it relates to biblical literacy, I always think of Ezekiel, when God commands him to eat the whole scroll, and it will be sweet and then bitter. It just reminds me that in Scripture there will be some bitter portions and some sweet portions. There are some difficult things I have to wrestle with, but because I believe God has called me to this work, I have to take all of it” (“Black Bible Reading Endures,” Christianity Today, January/February 2019, 17).

It is true that the Bible does not sugar-coat the fact that the wages of sin is death and that there will be suffering in this world. It does not hide the fact that people turned against God, that there was betrayal and hardship among God’s people that still happen today. We cannot change the fact that there is sin in the world and that there will bad days sometimes as we wait for the Last Day to come.

But the sweet news comes from St. Peter who tells us, “Rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” (1 Peter 4:13). The sweetness is revealed in Revelation 21:3-5 in John’s vision of heaven:

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’”

In the end in the bliss of heaven the bitterness will be no more and we will only taste the sweetness of salvation won for us in Jesus.

Let the first thing we do each day until that time always be to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8). That sweetness of the goodness of the Lord supersedes all bitterness.

Cope With Hope

cope with hopeWhen I was worshiping at Praise and Worship Lutheran Church in Branson, MO, this past fall, Pastor Mark Hunsaker prayed that we would “cope with hope.” I liked that turn of phrase and it made me realize what a wonderful coping mechanism we have in the hope that we have in our crucified and risen Lord. No matter how bad things get in life, we have hope that Christ has conquered sin, trouble and all our frustrations. We have hope that this trial too (no matter how awful) will pass and we will one day be in paradise with our Lord, where there will be no more tears or pain or suffering.

St. Paul makes it clear: I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us (Romans 8:18).

There is truly light at the end of the tunnel, as St. Peter tells us, “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast” (1 Peter 5:10).

A few things jump out for me in that verse.

• A little while. Though the suffering may seem endless to us now, this really will in the long run be a short period of time of hardship before the glorious joy to come.

• Restore you and make you strong. When the suffering ends, you will not be a shell of a person or a weak shadow of yourself. You will be renewed, re-energized and strong in the Lord. You will be fully you!

• Firm and steadfast. That is how we shall be and what we should be along the way: confident and sure in our trust in Christ to carry us through. No doubts, no questions, no confusion. Just faith in his power and grace to get us to the other side.

That is how we can cope with hope this week.

 

Fast-Forwarding Through Suffering?

fast forwardKathryn A. Kleinhans, dean of Trinity Lutheran Seminary at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, posits, “It’s tempting to fast-forward through Jesus’ suffering and death to Easter lilies and the happy ending. In a broken world, we long for happy endings” (“Easter: The Best News in the World,” Living Lutheran, April 2018, 45).

In fact, the disciples themselves wanted to fast-forward through Jesus’ suffering or avoid it altogether. One time after Jesus explained to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem to suffer and die … and then rise. Peter proclaimed, “Never, Lord! This shall never happen to you!” (Matthew 16:22). And two other times Jesus told the disciples that his suffering was coming before his resurrection, but they did not understand.

In our lives today we too often seek to push a fast-forward button through the inevitable suffering in our lives, But there is no such thing as a fast-forward button through the suffering in our lives. Part of being a Christian in the world entails suffering. Martin Luther even calls it a mark of the Church. And as humans in a sinful world, suffering is the result of our brokenness.

The Bible even says, “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him” (Philippians 1:29). There is no getting around it for Jesus or for us.

But we are assured that there is value in the suffering. As St. Paul tells us, “Suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3-4). We are made stronger people through the suffering.

The best news of all is the suffering will not last forever. Just as Jesus rose from the dead three days after his suffering and death, the day will come when suffering will end and we will rise, too, to the overflowing joy of heaven.

As St. Paul declares, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). The happy ending of heaven will be even sweeter for us because of the suffering.

So though we cannot fast-forward through suffering, we can move through it with grace and resolve because Christ fought through the pain to free us forever. Alleluia!

 

Psalms for Every Time

PsalmsThe Psalms are called the Church’s songbook, which is it. So it is a book we need to go to often for comfort, help and strength at many times in our lives. Here are some Psalm suggestions for reflecting on at specific instances:

When feeling insignificant: Psalm 8

When lonely: Psalm 23

When seeking God’s light: Psalm 36:7-9

When thanking God: Psalm 30:1-5, 11-12

When sick or suffering: Psalm 103:1-5

When feeling attacked: Psalm 70

When hungering for assurance: Psalm 118:1-9

When unsure about where to look for help: Psalm 121

When wishing to praise God; Psalm 150

Let the Psalms be your go-to resource in every circumstance you encounter.

The 7 Visible Marks

churchWhat is the church? It is a question that comes up more frequently these days amid technological and cultural shifts. Amazingly, Martin Luther actually wrestled with that same question 500 years ago. And thankfully for us, Martin Luther expressed what a church is by writing down what he called the seven visible marks of the church:

  1. The Word of God
  2. Baptism
  3. Holy Communion
  4. The Office of the Keys (Confession and Absolution)
  5. Called ministers
  6. Prayer, public praise and thanksgiving to God
  7. Bearing suffering patiently

Luther called these the seven principal parts of Christian sanctification or the seven holy possessions of the church.

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Struck Down but Not Destroyed

birdMy mom gave me this little plaque during a stretch when I was unemployed for several years after college and unable to land a full-time job.

The image of a squat and forlorn little bird and the text of 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 seemed to capture my predicament at the time exactly.

But I have kept that plaque and referred to it often through the years when I encountered  other struggles and trying times that my 22-year-old self could never have imagined.

It reminds me that the Word of the Lord can meet us again and again with the same words in whatever plight we may be experiencing and their effect on us can be just as powerful and uplifting as it was before.

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