(This is part 1 of a series of 3. The other two blogs are here):
The Blessed Path Of Suffering (Part 2 of 3)
The Blessed Path Of Suffering (Part 3 of 3)
One of first messages I heard online that really helped me to deal with trials was called, “The blessed path of suffering” by Brother Zac Poonen ( https://www.cfcindia.com/sermon/the-blessed-path-of-suffering ). When I first heard it I was in my early 20s. And as I’ve had various trials over the years, going through this path of suffering, I definitely have found it to be a path that has been growing to be not just more bearable, but more sweet - more than I’ve ever thought possible when I first heard this message.
So I wanted to talk about our journey along this path, and what it’s like. As I've experienced different struggles over the years, some small, and others much more difficult, I believe we can sum this path in 3 phases. I also believe we can see these phases in the lives of people in the Bible too, such as the apostle Paul.
Along the path of suffering at first it I would have described this path as: unbearable. Of course it's not (because 1 Corinthians 10:13 promises that it never will be), but often the start of this path may feel unbearable, we don’t know how we will go on, how we will live many or even the rest of our months or years with such a weight of burden. A large part of the weight is not knowing how long it will go on! We may have thoughts of “I wish I could just fast-forward past this... or even fast-forward to Heaven.”
I believe we can even see the apostle Paul had some points in his life where he felt like this, where he felt his immense suffering pushing him to his limits:
2 Corinthians 1:8 "For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life"
Paul was mature at the point, so He had trust in the Lord (v9), but if our faith is still small at first and we are still starting out, we may be like a child at the doctor who is about to get a shot, we spend a lot of time screaming (inwardly) and trying to figure out a way off this path. What we may not see yet is that if we take a shortcut such as complaining to everyone of our problems, or by solving them with money or schemes of men, or clever plans and thinking, then we’ve wasted the path, and we won't discover the blessedness of what’s coming.
We learn to keep crying to the Lord for deliverance, and seek the Lord for that if possible. Paul did that - seeking to be delivered from the suffering (2 Cor 12:8), and that's a good thing. This is where we're learning the habit of going to the Lord frequently, and that's what He wants! Us who were so used to coming along just fine without even thinking about God all day - here on this path we can learn to keep talking to God and going back to Him for help, walking with Him, recognizing His presence with us all the time. What a blessed path to learn this! When anxieties and sorrows are continuing to come - we keep going to God. The constant pressure pushes us out of necessity to stay close to the Lord. It's like if we were in a small room with Jesus, the pressure of the suffering is like a big balloon in the middle that is blowing up so that it squeezes us and pushes us right up close to the Lord, there's nowhere else for us to move or go.
Philippians 4:6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 4:7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
In this phase we do not ‘feel’ it is a blessing. It’s very dark on this part of the path, we can’t see yet the immensity of the blessing of it yet. I've heard that an infant at first can't see very well. So we are like that too, and here at this point we have to learn the habit of faith: of continuously confessing it according to God’s promises and what we know to be true, such as Rom 8:28; not what we FEEL to be true. This is an act of faith. We have to walk by faith which means with every step we take we have to confess ‘this is a blessing’. It doesn’t feel like a blessing, it doesn’t look like it - that doesn't matter. It is a blessing. Many times we stumble and start to complain instead of praise, we’re not perfect or mature yet - but if we keep repenting and coming back to the Lord and His Word and confessing that, and if we continue on in this habit of faith like this, soon we will start to see the reward and enter into the next phase of this blessed path.
Here we also start to learn through the school of suffering to resign ourselves to the Lord’s will, to say ‘not mine but yours’ - to lay ourselves on the altar. This is where that test is, and if we continue in it, then in the next phase we will have the ability to say with a genuine heart as Jesus confessed ‘What shall I say, save me from this hour? No, Father glorify thy name.’ When I was first saved, my mind was still very much consumed with myself - what I would get out of God, primarily forgiveness and Heaven. God saves many people like this, but none of us should stay like this. This path is where we start to be delivered from all that poison of self-centeredness.
Another thing about this path is that it's well hidden: it’s very well covered so that no one else on earth sees the depth of our suffering inwardly - it’s secret- between an individual and God Himself. That way we start to learn here to walk before God’s face alone, and lean on Him alone. No human being can solve our problems, it has to be our Father Himself, we have to find HIM alone as our refuge and strength (Psalm 46:1), and learn what it is to go to the Lord and find strength (1 Sam 30:6).
But then along the way we come onto the next phase on the path, if we have been faithful to keep going, keep believing, keep repenting and going to the Lord, and to get up when we fall.
Click Here To Continue To Part 2 of 3...