Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Purpose in Pain

There have been some heavy things on my heart and mind the last couple days. I woke up Sunday morning thinking about the challenges my family and I have faced over the last year and a half and how it has affected my faith. Even now I can't recall the verses I was thinking of, but I can recall my frustration as we struggled to get ready for church on time and that I could see on the screen that the message had already started as we were getting our children checked into childcare. We are members at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville and we LOVE our church. They speak truth from the word of God and they never sugar coat it for the sake of making people more comfortable to be there. Christianity is not comfortable, growth and change require some pain and it is easy to feel like an outcast when you embrace Jesus Christ in a world that rejects him. I am not a preacher or theologian, I do not even feel equipped to be a small group leader and I have a terrible memory which won't seem to allow me to memorize as much scripture as I would like, but I do know this, God does not make mistakes. Our current sermon series is on seeing God, and this Sunday it was on "Seeing God in My Pain". I cannot adequately summarize it so I really encourage you to click on the link and watch or listen to it, especially the interview with Cindy Winters, wife of pastor Fred Winters who was killed in his church in Illinois. God knew this was exactly what I needed to hear this day, I don't question that one bit. I had been second guessing myself and my ability to handle difficult circumstances. I grew up with this "suck it up" mentality, in my family it was never acceptable to complain or let difficulties affect your performance. I'm not saying there is necessarily anything wrong with this, to not complain is biblical, but we have to be careful about being too legalistic and find a balance between complaining and sharing our struggles with those who can reach out to us and lift us up in prayer or even grow closer to the Lord because of the struggles we are facing. To not complain does not necessarily mean to keep it to yourself, I think it has more to do with the attitude behind it. As I sat in church on Sunday listening to Kyle share about Job and the incredible pain he experienced and how God redeemed that pain I didn't necessarily feel comforted, in fact I cried through most of the sermon(something I don't really care to do in public), but I did feel hopeful. God's purpose for us is not happiness, but he does love us and He will redeem us, maybe not in this life, but he will. Job's pain was redeemed during his life on earth, he was blessed with family and wealth and I would say he deserved it though no human, fallen as we are, really deserves any blessing we receive. More than that, as Kyle shared, people have been reading his story for years and years and growing closer to the Lord because of it, amazing.
My struggles are pretty minimal compared to most. I have more than adequate shelter and can put food on the table for my family and clothes on their backs. I never had to try to get pregnant, let alone be denied that opportunity altogether and I have not lost a child which I can only imagine is the worst pain possible, and I am a pretty healthy person in general. That said, my pain is still real. The past year and a half has brought financial struggles, unemployment, loss of three loved ones, a difficult pregnancy, being separated from my husband and having to care for my very young children and maintain our household alone, and after months of looking for a job and waiting for answers we still don't know what the future holds for us. Those are not easy burdens to bear, but given the pain Jesus endured for me on the cross it hardly compares. He may redeem it in this life, he may not, it may get worse before it gets better, it may never get better. But the purpose of my life is not for my happiness, it is to bring him glory to God, so my prayer is just that. I will praise him in joy and in pain and hope that someone may grow closer to Jesus because of it. "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God." Romans 8:18-21

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