This Too is My Portion
How could we ever have imagined that this would be the road God would have us walking down at this time in our lives. We couldn't. And yet we could. God has appointed to each of us a measure of adversity in our lives. We live in a broken world, and every single one of us suffer. Suffering is a part of the fabric of our lives because of the fall. I preached a sermon back in August 2011 titled, “Living Strong When It All Goes Wrong,” and I needed to preach it to myself again this week:
In Matthew 7, Jesus tells a story about a couple guys who build houses (their lives), one on the rock and one on the sand. The same storm hits both houses, which ought to tell us that following Jesus will not exempt us from the storms of this life. That fact rubs against our expectations because sometimes suffering seems unfair or happens for no good reason. We've got to get a grasp on the reality that things can fall apart, even when we are walking with the Lord, growing in Jesus, and loving and serving others. John the Baptist is filled with the Holy Spirit and loses his head; Joseph goes to prison for being upright; Job is a righteous man and loses everything; David is a man after God's own heart and ends up with more enemies than friends; Paul spreads the gospel and is shipwrecked and beaten; and the apostles devote their lives to discipleship and are all brutally slaughtered.
Great men of faith are not immune to the storms of this life. Charles Spurgeon, arguably the greatest preacher of all time, battled depression; John Owen, a great reformed theologian in the 17th century, buried 11 of his 12 children; C. S. Lewis married in his 50s and lost his wife to cancer 4 years later.
The apostle Peter lets us know we should expect tough times (1 Peter 4:12). And when they come, we must not minimize our suffering. Romans 8:28—the “all things work together for good” verse—is one of the most encouraging in Scripture. It can also be one of the most dangerous when it’s used to downplay the extent and nature of pain. There are no quick fixes for pain, and a platitude falls short of bringing comfort.
When you have the chance to offer comfort to someone who is hurting, remember this: when the bottom falls out of a person’s life, it just plain sucks for him. It’s not reassuring to have that pain minimized in the name of cheering him up. Don't do that. Instead, enter into his pain—empathize, love, know that sometimes it’s enough to just sit and be there. Pastor Lionel has shared this quote from Bonhoeffer often, "The physical presence of other Christians is a source of incomparable strength and joy to the believer." Bonhoeffer was right.