Suffering Gracefully (Lent 13-2013)

How does one make sense of suffering?

I have a few planks in my theological platform.  One is the Image of God.  One is His sovereignty.  One of them is the perfect sacrifice of the perfect God-Man, Jesus Christ.  One is my hopeless condition as a sinner.  One is the absolute truth of God’s Word.   And one is the biblical art of Suffering Gracefully.

These few planks don’t make a floor, but I’ll pause my listing here to talk about Suffering Gracefully.

Oh, I haven’t suffered like those in the persecuted church, but I’ve experienced enough times of grief and sadness that I’ve probably been catapulted to the top of some people’s “Boy, I’m glad I’m not her” list. 

Today’s Scriptures read:

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. NIV Romans 5:1-5

There is a double-sided blessing of faith in Christ.  On one side, we have peace with God because of Jesus.  On the other, hope from God’s pouring out His love.

I am fond of analogies, as you can probably tell.  Today’s analogy comes from spelunking:  stalactites and stalagmites.

Spelunking is cave exploration and stalactites “grow” down from the ceiling and stalagmites form beneath them.  Sometimes they grow together to form a column as minerals present in the water get deposited before, during, and after the water drips.

This is a picture of Suffering Gracefully.

God so loved the world that He gave us Jesus who suffered and died for us.  By faith, it’s like the sufferings of Christ drip down from heaven and give us peace with God, but then the sufferings in our lives, handled with grace and by faith, cause us to accumulate hope until we become more and more Christlike in suffering.  Suffering allows the love of God to drip down and pile up.  As we continue in faith, the formation becomes visible to others.

Just as the stalagmite doesn’t grow up from the ground, but is the result of an outpouring from above, my growth depends on the outpouring of love from God in heaven.  In Christ, the love of God will be visible as a strong column of love, hope and comfort that testifies to a long drip of God’s grace that blesses me by faith.

    “For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.”      (2Corinthians 1:5 NIV)

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Give it up for Lent: Letting suffering interfere with seeing God’s grace 

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For further study:

  1. Read Romans 8:24-27.  Why is the unseen nature of hope frustrating to us as we try to persevere?
  2. Romans 12:12 states ,”Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”  How does patience in affliction contribute to the slow drip formation of suffering gracefully?
  3. Read Colossians 1:24 in the Message paraphrase (and you can search other versions too).  How can suffering encourage ourselves and others?  Do you know anyone who has a visible column of faith, hope and love piled up from the outpouring of God’s love and comfort? Consider telling them what an encouragement they have been to you.

Categories Articles and Devotionals, Devotionals | Tags: | Posted on February 27, 2013

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