(This is part 2 of a series of 3. The other two blogs are here):
The Blessed Path Of Suffering (Part 1 of 3)
The Blessed Path Of Suffering (Part 3 of 3)
The next phase on the path of suffering is ‘Bearable.’ The path is still difficult, but as we’ve been faithful to lean on the Lord, we are finding His grace is sufficient (2 Cor 12:9) (grace = God's strength/power to rise above and overcome sin and our circumstances).
We used to think we ‘knew’ so much of this truth, but now as we’ve been living it, we are experiencing some genuine ‘feeling’ in our heart the truth of it. The truth is coming down from our head to our heart. Praise God! We are being changed inwardly by His Holy Spirit. Nobody can change themselves no more than a leopard can change its spots (Jer 13:23), but by the power of God's Holy Spirit, our character is ACTUALLY changing from the inside! This is a miracle.
We’re like a bird learning to fly, rising above our circumstances - we’re starting to pop our head out above the storm, we’re walking on top of water more and more.
And we look back and see how ignorant we were, and we start to recognize, "If there was so much I thought I knew then and didn't... there must be even more I need to know, which I don't know now! More victory to obtain, which I haven't yet. I was just scratching the surface!" This path has the most opportunity to grow in humility than in any other path.
Also as we look back we can see how as we’ve followed this path it has been cleansing us of much selfishness and pride that was there within ourselves. We’re seeing the value of it. And we have more gratitude to the Lord for it, and we start recognizing "I desperately need to continue down this path. I need this suffering to cleanse me." This is similar to when Paul said, “I need this suffering so I don’t puff up with pride” (2 Cor 12:7).
In phase 1 we found ourselves ‘thinking’ a lot; our minds constantly revolving around the problem to try to answer many questions like ‘why’ and ‘how’ to fix it. But now in this phase we move into the realm of LEANING. During my path of suffering the Lord has spoken to my heart a word that has helped me - ‘Less Thinking, More Leaning.’ It has really helped me. And in this we oddly find that our leaning accomplishes much more than all our years of wasted thinking and worrying put together!
Here in this phase of the path we are learning more and more to ‘rejoice.’ We are tested and have to choose to rejoice - to not lose the joy of the Lord in the midst of what used to feel like torment (James 1:2). I remember one time I was having a struggle and the Lord spoke a word to my heart so clearly: "It is critical that you don't lose your joy in Me here." I had always treated joy as a "nice to have", but I hadn't seen how critical it is. It was then I saw that if we lose our joy we lose our strength (Nehemiah 8:10), and if we lose our strength we lose the battle. We have to fight for joy, it is not enough to just 'not sin' in the trial - it is also critical to not lose the joy of the Lord at any cost. And this phase of the path gives us plenty of opportunity to learn this fight for joy, which is just as much a command to stay in as any other (Php 4:4).
And then we can discover a very odd lesson that we never knew, which couldn't be explained to us - it has to be lived out. It's the lesson that: Joy is a choice. Peace is a choice. Anxiety is a choice. Before this we thought that these things sort of just 'happen' to us. But as we've seen God's power more clearly, we learn that the reason why these are choices is because God’s given us the complete power by the Spirit to surrender and rejoice, to rise above every sin, above every anxiety or lack of joy (Rom 6:14). If God gave me the power, and ability, and opportunity to rise above the suffering (1 Cor 10:13) and I am not doing that, then it has to only because of one reason: it was my own choice to remain in slavery. Why would a slave who has been set free stay in slavery? Because it was his own choice. I can't blame people, or the difficulty, or God Himself. We can learn in this phase to crush every seed of blame that creeps up in our heart and to come to the point that David had to come to, which is "I'm the man" (2 Sam 12:7-13).
If our suffering is due to someone else, we pray faithfully God won’t hold it against them, and we start to genuinely desire their good. We see our battle is not with them (against flesh and blood - Eph 6:12), but with Satan and all the forces of darkness who are laboring behind the scenes, and with our own flesh. We start to have our eyes opened to see these things in the spiritual realm, and it’s an additional comfort and challenge and encouragement for us to be faithful, and keep laboring in the war alongside Jesus. There's so much more going on inwardly and spiritually than we see in these small outward circumstances. Every step down the path is becoming lighter and easier as we can see more clearly the Lord's plan, as we're growing in zeal to fight the kingdom of darkness and its ally which is inside me (my flesh), and to trust the Lord with bigger faith for the many things we still don't see.