I look forward to the weekly Bible Study I’ve been attending now for several weeks. As I share highlights, I trust you’ll receive even a little ray of what I’m able to glean. One thing I’ve learned is you can never be too far into your widowhood to receive a blessing from fellowship with other Christian widows, and you also are never beyond learning about any subject.
The topic for the third week was suffering. A beautiful book was read during this session and will be in the following session: My Beautiful Broken Shell written by Carol Hamblet Adams. I shared a portion in my last posting. It’s well worth reading that post if you haven’t done so. If you’re interested in purchasing that little book of hope, it’s available on Amazon ( http://www.amazon.com/My-Beautiful-Broken-Shell-Refresh/dp/0736908706.) No matter how broken we are, how much we’ve suffered or are suffering, God will give us strength to continue on if we allow Him. (The author is also a speaker and her information can be found online, as well.) http://carolhambletadams.com/speaking/
No one can live this life without experiencing suffering in some way. Suffering started from the time Adam & Eve sinned and will continue until Christ makes all things new.
There are many causes of suffering. In our study we discussed many examples of suffering found in the Bible. One of the causes of suffering is sin. Even today we can fall into sin, and the consequences from that sin sometimes bring suffering. This is something that’s between the person suffering and God. One thing for sure, it’s not something another person can, or should, know.
Unfortunately, there’re some who feel they can judge others and why they’re suffering. Starting from the beginning, many people have fallen into this trap. John 9:1-3 is one example. Jesus was asked, “Who sinned to have caused the man to be born blind?”
We must be careful never to judge! I know of someone whose own church brought this type of judgment on a family when their young child suffered and eventually went to be with the Lord. How sad. God warns us against this when He tells us, “Judge not, lest ye be judged.”
Another cause for suffering, pruning, is found in John 15. Suffering due to God pruning us is hard. Yet, while pruning hurts, it brings forth good fruit, and makes us vessels more worthy of use for our Lord.
Some people suffer for another’s good. Hudson Taylor suffered for the good of others, and of course, our Lord Jesus suffered for our good.
Suffering for God’s glory is found in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9. As widows, we suffer from the loss of our loved one. We suffer for God’s glory when we trust God through our trial. Our suffering is used for His glory when others who are observing us see that God’s love is real and that He does carry us through all of our trials. When “we are struck down, but not defeated,” we might be “Cast down, but not destroyed.” When we continue to trust Him through our trials and suffering, we magnify Him.
In our last session, we discussed different attitudes a person could have about suffering. Our attitude plays a big part in our life and needs to be in the right perspective. The leader of our study told us that at one point, her attitude was wrong. She looked at her loss and other trials she suffers daily and started to feel very sorry for herself. Along with that, she started to head toward depression. Thankfully, she did an attitude check on herself and, recognizing the pathway she was on, wrote herself a prescription. The script said, “Get over yourself!” She said the prescription worked! Self-pity is from the pit, and it makes a person smell of smoke! It can only pull us down.
It’s wrong to have the attitude that a person who is “good” shouldn’t suffer. I have heard it stated many times. “It’s not fair!” Someone once said that to me about my husband when his cancer went into his brain. My reply was, “God owes us nothing. There is no such thing as fair or not fair.” We live in a fallen world, and there will always be suffering. No one is exempt.
Another attitude is that all things work together for good. Although this is true, ultimately, for the Christian, this attitude should never be expressed toward the one suffering. Your attitude toward them needs to be one of love, hugs, and understanding. Later in their journey they can come to the realization of this truth.
There were several more attitudes discussed, but I’ll share just one more. This is the attitude of holy indifference. Holy indifference took the most thought on my part to understand. I learned that everything in our life should be viewed with this attitude. Nothing we endure should be viewed as detached from our Lord and His Word. When we keep an attitude of holy indifference, we may see several results that God wants to bring about in our lives from our suffering. To me, this last attitude is the most important.
Once we view our suffering this way, we’re able to recognize some results that God might want as the outcome. Sometimes God tests our faith in others to strengthen it. As I stated earlier, we also can be an example to others through our acceptance of our trials. God may desire to increase our appreciation of heaven. In 2 Corinthians 1:3-11, Paul felt God’s comfort, and we too will receive the same comfort. Sometimes we suffer so we may be able to comfort one another through the things we learned as we walked through it. It also tells us that we shouldn’t trust in ourselves, but in Jesus, and lastly, we suffer that we may give thanks for the things God does for us.
When we suffer with a holy indifference, our suffering will produce character, boldness, and reliability. Romans 5 addresses these principles and tells us that the righteous are bold as a lion. The right attitude with suffering will give us an attitude of dependence on the Holy Spirit.
Poor responses to suffering can cause a person to have the attitude of rebellion against God. Once this happens there is the danger of bitterness. Bitterness destroys people.
The attitude of resignation is another poor response. This goes along with the “woe is me, self-pity” response. Thinking this is where I am and where I will stay mindset is very destructive. As a widow early on, I realized that I couldn’t just stay at one place during that grief and never move on. I had to not look at myself and my loss and feel, “Here I am, a broken widow, and here I am to stay.” I needed, as all people who suffer loss need, to move on to a new place in my life. I needed to decide to put one foot in front of the other and start on a new path of life.
We need to be sensitive to recognize if we are becoming a complainer or worrier from our suffering. This will drive others away from us and increase loneliness.
To end our study this week, we discussed some right responses when to suffering. There are five good responses:
First is to pray for God’s strength. We aren’t meant to suffer alone. We need to humble ourselves and ask for His help. This needs to become the way we start each day and ask again throughout the day, as well. In the first stages of your loss you may need to ask God every hour or more!
Secondly, we need to persevere and, as already discussed, never give up.
Third, pay attention to what He is teaching us. This goes along with the Godly indifference.
Fourth, we need to claim God’s promises. Most of the time, we depend on our feelings. We must claim His promises by faith. He promises never to leave nor forsake us. This promise is found in Deuteronomy 31:6. Again, in Hebrews 13:5 God also says, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. “ Search all the promises He has in His word that apply to you and write them down where you can look at them daily.
Lastly, once you claim God’s promises, expect Him to work.
To end our study, we discussed ways we can help others. Remember that every person’s grief is unique. Learn to listen actively. Don’t say, “I know how you feel.” Instead, help them to be able to express how they feel. Guide them to not trust in their feelings or circumstances but that their faith must rest on God alone. Feelings during grief can’t be trusted or stable, and circumstances can change quickly. Help them to see things with an eternal perspective. If you realize someone is continuing in denial after a reasonable amount of time, help him or her to talk about it and work through the suffering. And lastly, help them to learn to live one day at a time by not borrowing from the next day’s trouble. It’s so easy to think, “What will I do when……..? or “ How will I feel when______?”
I have suffered from anticipating those same questions. It’s something we all can do if we don’t remember to give those days or events to the Lord to handle for us.
One good tip that was shared is LIVE WITHOUT EXPECTATIONS OF OTHERS. If we have expectations, we often can have disappointments and anger. With no expectations from others we won’t have those disappointments. Look for what you can do for others, not what they can do for you.
I trust you’ve been helped and encouraged by these nuggets as I was!
For His anger lasts only a moment,
but His favor lasts a lifetime;
weeping may remain for a night,
but rejoicing comes in the morning.
God bless you,