Jul 282017
 

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up.” (James 5:13–15 ESV)

Except when He doesn’t…

 

Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:31–33 ESV)

Except when they’re not…

We’ve all anointed and prayed for someone who didn’t recover.

We all know people who are struggling to keep the lights on and who dread checking the mail or answering the phone because they simply don’t have the provision needed.

We know from experience that these “promises” of help are anything but sure.

We massage that reality with sundry theological explanations to allow us to hold on to some semblance of faith.

We deal with our disappointment and discouragement with thoughts about God’s will, God’s sovereignty, a fallen world, or our own sin.

Honestly, those no longer do much for me.

Between the afflictions I own and the afflictions I see, such answers are like cheap band aids that don’t stick properly, but hurt when you pull them off.

There is only one explanation that brings any measure of comfort.

It’s one sure promise of scripture

For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake,” (Philippians 1:28–29 ESV)

Suffering is promised as surely as salvation in the book.

It is spoken of as being given as an honor.

It is said to be necessary for us to be able to endure to the end.

It is said that we share in the sufferings of Christ and that by doing so we play a part in the story of redemption.

Despite all this, we do all we can to avoid suffering or to ameliorate it any way we can.

There are days when it makes us doubt our faith and the goodness of God.

We’re supposed to count it as joy, but I can’t do that kind of math…

If you don’t have days like that, I salute your holiness, but lately I have more days like that then I care to admit.

I survive not with carefully selected scripture verses, but by looking at Jesus.

Jesus came to suffer.

Jesus suffered.

Jesus asked His Father for another way because the suffering was so intense.

When there was no other way, He took the suffering.

He promises there will be a day when all the suffering ends.

It won’t be today.

The God who suffered is a God I can follow.

Still…today we will keep anointing, keep praying, keep asking, keep seeking, keep knocking.

Sometimes the answer is yes.

When it’s not, we will still see Jesus, and Jesus knows our sorrow.

Keep following Him.

There’s no other place to go…

Make your own application…

 

  45 Responses to “TGIF”

  1. Amen.
    Well said.
    A much needed perspective for many saints, who would be relieved of much condemnation. Of course, in some cases, lack is the consequence of irresponsibility, but often it is not.

    If we expect difficulty as the norm, it won’t take us so quite by surprise when it happens.
    ‘My Kingdom is not of this world”.

  2. Thank you, Paige.
    You nailed the “application”…

  3. I’m with you brother. Good word.

  4. Michael

    Right before I left the US last week, I learned that my old editor, Rachel Boulding, had died from cancer at 52. We did three books together for SPCK in England and spent a good bit of time together. She went on to become deputy editor of The Church Times. A committed Christian, talented, funny, with a great husband and a daughter… if any one deserved to live, it was her. I can’t understand it. Then again, it is hard for me to understand worshipping a God with wounds. Truly, as Paige says, His kingdom is not of this world…

  5. Josh…thank you, my friend.

  6. i’ll share something here in hopes that God’s words will be of help…
    when i went thru the unthinkable and had no strength left to do all of the pleading and affirming you’ve mentioned in your post, Michael, God spoke to me as clearly as any words that i’ve ever heard (maybe He did so hoping i would share – dunno)…
    my son, beautiful, smart, healthy (just a few days earlier when he was in for his scheduled immunization the pediatrician remarked on how healthy and active he was for his age) was going to die and they weren’t sure why – encephalitis was their best guess – i didn’t turn to God (hard to do when you’re on the train’s track and it’s just feet away from impact)… God spoke and He told me, “if there was any other way, this wouldn’t be happening.” and He then held me up with His strength thru all that lay ahead… and that included some very cruel words accusing me of not taking care of my child
    my point is that i think many of these trials are not pointless at all and it’s not always for our benefit that they happen… God is in control and He loves you very much and that’s not a platitude

  7. Duane,

    My condolences for your loss…and how that loss impacted others as well.

    The only God I could worship is one with wounds…perhaps better said, I can only love one with wounds…

  8. John 20:29,

    Thank you for sharing that… I do believe that both those things are true.

  9. Question – Is John 20:29 aka em?

  10. Josh, it depends on which web browser i’m in… but, since Firefox isn’t posting what i comment from my rocking chair… i’ll probably just show up here as John 🙂 Em

  11. No problem, just wanted to make sure I was talking to the right person 🙂

    Thank you for your #6.

  12. #8 – God is absolutely in control and never ever doubt that His love overrides everything that happens in the lives of His children (of whom you most definitely are one)

    i remember Paige’s prayer request for her children and to this day i’m still working on being submissive to God’s will where my children are concerned – Satan knows where it hurts and that’s where he’ll hit, i think

  13. Josh, i should have added that there were two whole church bodies praying for my husband and myself… we should never underestimate what prayer can release from heaven…

  14. Yes, very true, good article. Being a “Christian” isn’t all Prosperity Gospel and good times. We all face trials, persecution, health issues, loss, hardship etc whether Christian, Jew, Atheist, Agnostic, Buddhist, Hindu etc.

    It rains on the just and the unjust.

    None of us are getting off this Rock alive.

    But, the difference is the ability to have the fruits of the Spirit in that hardship. But, I do see Atheist friends who are currently going through major health crises that will likely lead to their early death exhibit a good attitude about it, they tell jokes about the painful procedures on their Facebook pages and make it something funny and lighthearted so even Atheists are able to look at the glass as half full even in terrible hardship.

    Of course, we Christians look to Jesus during the hard times and this Life can certainly suck at times, but it can also be awesome and is awesome.

  15. How is an Atheist able to be happy during terrible health hardships without Jesus? General grace?

  16. aka Common Grace (above)?

  17. alex @ 14

    The cults and ism’s believe their religion as much as we Christians believe the gospel. So we’ll see all sorts of folks as you shared who are happy and content facing death. I’m sure scores of them would face death better than myself. Yet they’ve been deceived and will be perfectly judged. Sobering to think about in those instances or for anyone facing eternity separated from God.

  18. E, agreed, they are not saved. Just interesting that many who aren’t saved can exhibit what we would call the “fruits of the Spirit” even though they don’t have the Holy Spirit.

    And vice versa, “Christians” certainly exhibit the “fruits of darkness”. Some a lot LOL

  19. I guess it’s “Common Grace” that allows some non-Christians to have peace and to be happy even in dire circumstances.

  20. i think that there are many reasons why people seem to be happy during hardships – especially health… one is that built in defense mechanism called denial, another is that life gets very intensely precious when we see a cutoff date coming…
    and then there is a thing called genes… i have trouble with people on camera when TV covers a crisis and they are wailing their brains out because a neighbor has just been shot at or whatever the “bleeds it leads” event is… it just isn’t in me to go nuts in public (well, that’s not quite true, i can get pretty intense if i’m angry – by God’s grace i don’t easily get angry) …
    isn’t it possible that some of what we see as brave just may be the keep calm and carry on gene in their makeup and also the one who falls apart may not be suffering more, but just reacts as is their nature to do? as the gentle rain falls on all, maybe we should be ready to support both without favor? dunno … thinking

  21. alex, neither of us know what transpires between a person and God each time someone leaves this earth. Yet we know if they leave while clinging to something else than Christ crucified they will be lost. Not all roads lead to God.

  22. em, a friend who has posted here much is facing serious cancer yet he seems so at peace as a result of his relationship with God. There are many others who I read about on Oden’s prayer requests on FB that make me envious as they are so ready to be with our God.

    Maybe underneath what they show publicly there is some angst for various reasons?

    The news is so callous when it comes to tragedy. Every day they cover these things as there’s an abundance of things happening. There’s times you keep the cameras and microphones away from those who just witnessed something terrible or lost a loved one as a result.

  23. E, i agree with your #22 and i don’t see how folks get thru this life without knowing God … i have a dear cousin who is an example to us all – like your friend – you, your dear wife and your family stay in my prayers… thankfully dusty keeps us reminded on the prayer thread

    i think our TV news is hardening our hearts and confusing our thinking on so many things now

    my observation at #20 was thinking on Alex’s comment on those folks who, without God’s help, seem to do quite well amidst their sufferings… and, too, life can break us, no matter how well we may think we’re doing…
    PTSD is so real… i remember from WW2, a dear friend of the family got thru the war, its combat and ended up in a psychiatric hospital for the rest of his life – a combat pilot who survived a long period in a lifeboat, rescued at sea and then fell apart later

    with the devil’s guidance we’ve done a good job of messing up this beautiful planet

  24. You remind me of Hezekiah, Michael.
    T has had his father’s life extended by the grace of God and answers to numerous prayers. Lucky you 🙂

    Maybe for his sake his father suffers. You can do it.

  25. em @23…. I’d say tv and the rest of social media “is hardening our hearts and confusing our thinking on so many things now.”

    Life has the potential to break us all and the mistake we can make is to think we’re immune from it.

    PTSD or being shell shocked as it was known before has turned countless lives inside out and has driven countless others to take their own lives. I can’t imagine what your friend went through. Yet through it all God is in control and none of this escapes His eyes. Human suffering has caused many to dismiss God or characterize Him as uninterested among other things.

    The devil is good at what he does and he’s making a bigger mess of things every day. Our prayer is that we don’t unwittingly assist him in his evil.

  26. E, ya, I’m not saying all roads lead to God, I’m just noting the facts of observing other fellow human beings and what I stated is “true” and I’m not sure exactly why. Another one of those mysteries that doesn’t make sense, I guess.

  27. Michael asserted the other day that “mental assent” was basically Finney’s angle for Salvation….yet that is exactly what every other Christian denomination asserts in essence when you boil it down and apply critical thinking.

    Every Christian denom essentially asserts you have to assent/understand/profess their particular Doctrine/Theology to be “truly saved”.

    Interesting, no?

    Every Group in general boils Salvation down to an understanding and assenting to a particular set of core/fundamental/essential Doctrines/Theology aka beliefs based on Christianity.

  28. Thank you “John 20:29” for remembering my prayers for my four sons…. I have heard some encouraging testimonies of ‘prodigals’ coming home lately, so that keeps me going.
    Their souls are in God’s adequate hands….and I carry on my position of ‘reminding’ the All Mighty of their need of HIm.

  29. To the point b/c likely 99% of you missed the nuance.

    Maybe it does boil down to mental understanding and assent….b/c in terms of “Fruit!” both Christians and Atheists demonstrate the ability to have both Fruits of the Spirit and Fruits of Darkness….all in the same life journey.

  30. …the Christian ‘saved’ and the Atheist condemned to a hell.

  31. Alex – “Every Christian denom essentially asserts you have to assent/understand/profess their particular Doctrine/Theology to be “truly saved”.

    Lutherans don’t – our claim to fame is that the infant is save by being baptized while knowing nothing. The greatest example of God saving his people whether they assent or not – Jesus says “this one is mine!!!”

  32. Alex – “…the Christian ‘saved’ and the Atheist condemned to a hell.”

    The Bible says that all are already condemned. The question is how is that condemnation removed.

    Those who trust Jesus and his promise “saved” – those who not only don’t, but those who openly say no remain condemned.

    Those who trust we call Christians — those who refuse the offer and do not trust we call “atheist” – note the nuance as you like to say. We are not saved because we are Christians – we are Christians because we are already saved.
    Others are not condemned because they are atheists, the are atheists because they are already condemned.
    I actually love the nuance 🙂

  33. Michael, well said. Our boats are sailing in similar waters lately.

  34. “If we expect difficulty as the norm, it won’t take us so quite by surprise when it happens”

    …..thank you, Paige – I needed this. Sometimes, expectation is everything.

  35. (((((HUGS))))))

  36. I know nothing of pain. I haven’t experienced the loss of close loved ones. I’ve had a relatively easy life.

    Thank you Michael for being a role model to look to when it happens. Thank you for continuing on in the faith when you could easily give up in despair. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that someone who shares their faith so honestly and publicly is going through one thing after the other physically. God is using you to show us to keep following in the midst of suffering. This is what loving God looks like.

  37. JoelG,

    Let me be clear that there are moments of great frustration and despair.
    I’m told that I’m a lot easier to read than to live with…
    For me, the only way to redeem all of this is to share it with people who are going through similar things or worse.
    We’ve pretended for way too long that suffering wasn’t part of the Christian experience…I think it’s actually foundational to it.
    Thank you for always being an encouragement to me, my friend.

  38. Yes. The more I kill my ego/flesh, the less I resist suffering. The pain is usually found in the resistance rather than the actual circumstance. Thankful for you, my wise friend.

  39. #37 – Michael, forgive me, but you are so much like my youngest daughter that for a while i wondered if you two were meant for each other and then it dawned on me that you’d probably kill each other 🙂
    but you’re both good people – nice isn’t the be all and end all with our God

  40. I am compelled to expand on my #39 comment a bit… I did not mean to imply that either of the two were not “nice” … both are God gearing and full of compassion and good deeds, even if they do enjoy cats in their houses… among other quirks 😊
    and both are fully able to manage their lives without my help… ummm … make that last observation: more or less able ..

    It’s sooo hot here that I stayed home while everyone else has gone off to play and I have nothing better to do than sit and wise crack (or is it wisecrack? ), but I promise to stop now

    God keep

  41. Em I appreciate your wisdom and insights. Don’t stop pondering and commenting. 🙂

  42. I love your humor too. You bring a smile to my face everyday.

  43. It does get tough.

  44. Michael,

    Your comments and insights are the most refreshing thing I have read in a very long time.

    When I came to Christ during the waning era of the “Jesus Freaks”, I believe that many of us were given an essentially false or inadequate Gospel. It was about, instant sanctification. It was a shallow, “insurance policy Gospel”. Just say the magic words and you were “in”. It was about communal living, free concerts, Contemporary Christian Music, etc., etc. It was about “the experience”. Suffering was given honorable mention–but only as a remote possibility. This was even before the deadly Prosperity Gospel took precedence. To some one who grew up in terrible want, it was very appealing that one could leave all that behind forever. I liked that Gospel.

    There was just one problem–because of circumstances beyond my control–shortly after that group of happy little sycophants sold me their brand of Jesus and implied that I would never suffer again–I was thrown back to the armpit from whence I came and into even more suffering. I had to leave college, (for which I worked years to gain a scholarship) because of a suddenly acquired seizure disorder. My way out of poverty was nixed and I had to go back to the middle of nowhere. Friends did not come back to see me and I was abandoned. To them I was now a crazy Jesus person who was desperately ill and not desired for company anymore.

    While I waited for circumstances to allow me to leave, I finally quit fussing at God about why I wasn’t supposed to be suffering and read the whole Bible through a few times on my own. It really did refresh me and give me a sense of belonging when I read about others who had suffered and been abandoned for their fidelity to God and His Word. It was not until I read the Bible through one last time that a door of opportunity suddenly flung open and I found myself able to get out and get to the regular fellowship that I had longed for. What I found was unbelievable. While I was sick and sleep-deprived and living remotely under the constant threats of a cult-influenced family member, the people where I now resided were emotionally upset because “Christian Skate Night” was cancelled. I chose not to assimilate into that culture.

    Chronic Economic, emotional, and physical suffering changes you forever. In our country–it’s particularly difficult. Most people may only be exposed to a mediocre Gospel that doesn’t deal well with suffering. Often the attention is even turned onto the sufferer as though it is of their own doing. “Job’s Comforters” come out of the woodwork to make swelling statements that serve no one. They have to come up with something to make things fit into their weak faith paradigm. They do not realize that the life of the American Christian has been abnormally peaceful and, in effect, an anomaly when compared to believers around the world. The norm for a truly salty, truly born again person is not one of ease, but rather one of difficulty and trial. I worry about the believer who lives a life untouched by hardship. We should always preach the Gospel with the truth that the new convert must “count the cost”, because there is definitely a price to pay.

    We should rejoice with those that rejoice and mourn with those that mourn. Words often fail, but a true offer of help or just spending time with someone who is very sick or very lonely can be very therapeutic. Our time and our love will speak Jesus more than our words.

    Dear Michael, I am late to this because of my own circumstances, but we here hold you up in our prayers and pray that God will send you true comforters, true helpers and, ultimately, health and healing.

  45. Another gem, Michael.
    Hope you feeling well.
    Blessings!

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