Suffering and joy…

I’m re-writing this post, because I think God is telling me to. I think the focus was wrong.

I wrote it because I think we need to stop judging God’s actions. Last week’s post explained why it’s a good thing that God does things we don’t understand. This post was meant to take it a little farther…to show how sometimes we’re unwilling to admit that God did what He did, or allowed what He allowed, because to our understanding, it seems contrary to love.

This blog is titled “Hope Is Calling,” and where is the hope in this, though?

The hope is found, I believe, when we humble ourselves, stop clinging to our own ideas of right and wrong, good and evil, and start clinging to Him instead, for we should cling to nothing more than we cling to Him. We must ask Him to show us the world through His eyes.

The original version of this post quoted what Katie-in-Uganda (I wrote about her here) shared yesterday morning. Much of it is what she’s working through, but the most significant part of it, to me, was when she said that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was never meant for us. Yet we label things as good and evil according to our own natural thinking and base our prayers on that, without ever asking God if such-and-such a thing was allowed by Him for a specific and very good purpose.

I believe we need to start seeking God more about this. I’m not saying our ideas of good and evil are completely wrong. The Bible makes quite a few good and evil things perfectly clear. And many, many things are the result of sowing and reaping.

But Paul said, “We know in part and we prophesy in part.” (1 Cor. 13:9) I believe that we all need to seek God more often to discover when knowledge that we think is complete is really only “in part.”

Isaiah 19 is the prophecy for and against Egypt. I have had this chapter in my heart for a year or so now, and I’m not sure why. But when God led me to read it, two things stood out to me. One was how very precious Egypt is in the eyes of God. Also, verses 21 and 22 stood out to me:

21 Thus the LORD will make Himself known to Egypt, and the Egyptians will know the LORD in that day. They will even worship with sacrifice and offering, and will make a vow to the LORD and perform it.
22 The LORD will strike Egypt, striking but healing; so they will return to the LORD, and He will respond to them and will heal them.

That striking but healing seemed a paradox. How can God strike and heal?

The answer…I don’t know. God firmly said that judgment would not be poured out again until the end of time, so this strike is not one of judgment. Indeed…doesn’t it say what this strike is of? It says it is one of healing!

But how many Christian Egyptians, in that day, will look at the strike against them and say that it is evil, and therefore Satan did it? How many will look at that strike and give glory and praise to the Surgeon whose hand struck them to heal them?

What about us in the USA? Many of us are praying that God will heal our land…but what, exactly do we mean? And do we have expectations of what that healing will look like?

Do we want the economy healed, or do we want families healed? Do we want laws to change so that they line up with God’s word, or do we want hearts to change so that millions know God truly and walk with Him? Do we want America to receive another Great Awakening? I think we all agree on that one…but what if God wants to do something new and different?

What if the one negates the other? What if God knows that the best way to bring millions of Americans back to Him is to allow our circumstances get so dark that we have nothing else to cling to but Him?

The prophecies of the end times speak both of great darkness and of great light. What if He wants to allow things to get that dark, that the great light that He wants to pour out may shine all the greater?

What if there comes a day when circumstances are awful in the natural, yet God shows His people how to walk in the kind of peace and joy that others marvel at and cannot understand… peace and joy so profound that none of those circumstances matter… people who have become a channel for God’s healing power… still others who have become a channel for love. What if those who cannot see this spiritual flow look at these people and think that they’d never want to endure what that person has to because it seems so bad in the natural? Is that person walking in blessing or not? The things that God allowed that made them what they are…are they gifts from a good God, or did God have nothing to do with allowing it?

How about Christians around the world and throughout history who have never known even a fraction of the natural blessings that we in America have today? Are we blessed? Even in our darkest moments…are we blessed? If we are, then are they? Did God do a good thing when He placed Jja Ja Marie in Uganda and her life of hardship, and did He do a better thing when He placed me in a sheltered life of comfort in Ohio? If you look at our natural lives, He did a better thing in placing me here and allowing little (compared to Jja Ja) to touch me. But if you look at the spiritual, He did a better thing for her, for she has learned to receive His joy much greater than I have.

Christians throughout the Roman empire probably celebrated when Emperor Constantine I professed Christ, signaling the end of the persecution they’d experienced under Diocletian and earlier. But was Christianity becoming the official religion of the empire a good thing? It led to a watering-down of Christianity, and the loss of the power that the church had walked in before that.

So did the devil ask God for permission to persecute the church, and He gave permission? Or did the devil ask permission to make the persecution stop that he would more easily be able to twist and subvert the power of the gospel, and God gave permission? Or did both happen, and God gave permission for both? (I believe it’s the later.)

Throughout history, persecution has had the effect of purifying and strengthening the church…so when the devil has asked permission to persecute the church in any area of the world, and God allows it, is He doing a good thing? Is He, perhaps, answering the prayers of His people?

Do you see what I’m trying to point out? That our knowledge is imperfect, and will always be imperfect. That I think we all-too-often forget that nothing evil can come against us unless God has given permission… so while the thing may be evil, the decision that God made has to be good, because He only does good. That’s a difficult thing to admit because it requires a deeper humility and willingness to trust God and suffer if He so asks it of us, for His sake.


Am I making claims as to what God is going to do?

No, I am not. I do not know the future, and I don’t know how God will do what He has planned.

I simply think that, when we think of what the future might hold, and we pray for revival, and we pray for God to heal our land…I think we should be willing to realize that the answer to our prayers might look nothing like how we would do it. The spiritual blessing we are praying for just might involve suffering in the natural. And if it does, are we willing?

Are we willing to learn what Paul did?

Phil. 3:8:

More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ.

Phil. 4:12:

I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.

More in a day or two, ’cause I have the perspective of a pastor in Iraq whose church is being persecuted to share…

1 thought on “Suffering and joy…”

  1. Oh yes. I've thought these thoughts for years. And many more past them. And now think things even more complex. God is not a candy God. But he is wise. And good.

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