Offer in our suffering

 By Beverley Russell

9. If the answer is “no”, what then does God offer in our suffering?

God does not offer us a peaceful way to come to death, but He does offer ways to overcome the apprehension of the circumstance. Even then, God is not satisfied to offer life and death but He also offers the after life, eternal life in his kingdom, the ultimate gift.

The message of 1 Corinthians 15 is about life and death and resurrection and how love transforms us. Those words “corruptible” and “incorruptible” have significant meaning for those approaching death. Proverbs 3:20-26 also reassures the weak who are slowly moving towards a spiritually discernable future. “When thou liest down, thou shalt not be afraid; yea thou shalt lie down and thy sleep will be sweet”. Those who have lost their virility can be at ease in the circumstance where God has placed them and are encouraged and reassured with God’s provision of eternal care. We are also all encouraged by “Be not afraid of those who kill the body”, for they cannot kill the soul, and that suffering is like a spec in eternity, for “after they have suffered awhile”, 1 Peter 5:10, “the God of all grace … will make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you”. We know that God is with us in all the torment with this promised comfort, a comforter as the gold is being refined.

For our light affliction, which is just for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but the things which are not seen : for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal”, 2 Corinthians 4:17-18. “Light affliction”? Sometimes it does not seem “light”! It seems to be eternal torment. That is because I am mistaken, for my ways are temporal, and a dot on the horizon of God. It is the ways of God which are eternal.

And as spiritual maturity takes its place, we are often more easily able to understand that to be a victim is better than to be a perpetrator of persecution. The human consciousness of inhuman behaviour is quite acute, and we are readily able to see cruelty. Although it is possible to be swayed by those individuals or highly sophisticated groups of people or nations, who think they have a right to persecute, there is always a doubt, and God can fan that doubt until He is ready to release the sufferer.

God also offers us the information that no one is born wicked, or cruel. Self concerned for survival maybe, but never in combat mode so that we as newborns terrorize other people for our own survival. Torture or inflicting pain on others is a learned response. If deep down in every heart is love and what we know is right, how does it come about that some of us end up hating so that there is evil will and torture and persecution? It is worth then retracing our steps to the initial and lovely response we have one for another as newborns in Christ?

Before he was made whole again Job (19:20, 21) said “My bone cleaveth to my skin, and to my flesh, and I am escaped with the skin of my teeth”. “The hand of God hath touched me.”, Job 19:20, 21. Suffering is God’s design system for it equips us for life now and the future. We can speak to Him, like, “rouse yourself, God, for you have forgotten us? Why are you silent? Are you asleep?” or “Awake, why sleepest thou, O Lord? Arise, cast us not off forever. Wherefore hidest thou thy face, and forgettest our affliction and our oppression. For our soul is bowed down in the dust: and our belly cleaveth unto the earth”, Ps 44: 23-24. That’s how it feels, forsaken and forgotten, and forever appears to be the message.

When, Lord when? When will this oppression cease? Joseph always heard the “soon, soon, soon” croon from God, “Be patient I am ever near”. Similarly, “not yet, not yet”, God says to us, and we do not know when the “yet” will be, but our trust in God is building in the pit, and the letting go and letting God, is working towards our release from the pit. That is His offering to us in our suffering.

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