When I Am Weak

"When I Am Weak" a blog post by marissabaker.wordpress.comI hope all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. My family gathered at my Uncle’s house for turkey, lots of mashed potatoes, euchre playing, and several enthusiastic Apples to Apples games that could probably have been heard by people driving by in their cars.

Today, I have another C.S. Lewis quote to share with you. As I think I mentioned in last week’s post, I’ve been reading The Problem of Pain. In chapter 6, he makes this statement: “tribulations cannot cease until God either sees us remade or sees that our remaking is now hopeless.”

Comfortable Dirtiness

To put this statement in context, Lewis was talking about human tendency to only turn our attention to God when things are going badly in our lives. When we are scared or in pain, we rush to God and ask him to take it away and bring us through the trial. But all to often, we try our best to forget the thing that brought us back to God as soon as that prayer is answered.

God has had me for but forty-eight hours and then only by dint of taking everything else away from me. Let Him but sheathe that sword for a moment and I behave like a puppy when the hated bath is over — I shake myself dry as I can and race off to reacquire my comfortable dirtiness, if not in the nearest manure heap, at least in the nearest flower bed. And that is why tribulations cannot cease until God either sees us remade or sees that our remaking is now hopeless.

We need our weaknesses and our sufferings to help bring us into God’s family. I did a search for the word “suffer” in the KJV, and found it used more than 50 times to refer to Christ’s suffering and/or the necessity of us following in His footsteps.

For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake (Philippians 1:29)

Importance of Fire

Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. (1 Peter 4:12-13)

The analogy of a refining fire is one that is frequently used in scripture. Gold and silver are purified by fire (Zech. 13:9), pottery needs fired to give it strength (Is. 64:8). We tend often think of fire as a bad thing, perhaps because of the association with fiery punishment. But fire in the context of trials has a positive connotation. Even if the affects are unpleasant, the result should be us moving ever closer to glory.

But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. (1 Peter 5:10)

God Hasn’t Given Up

There are two ways we can take the idea Lewis expresses when he says, “tribulations cannot cease until God either sees us remade or sees that our remaking is now hopeless.” We can either get depressed and worn down by the realization that trials will not end until we are perfected, or we can look at trials as proof that God hasn’t given up on making us like Christ.

And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

Reasons for Suffering

"Reasons for Suffering" marissabaker.wordpress.com
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One of the best sermons we heard during the Feast of Tabernacles was titled “Why Will God Release Satan to Deceive the World Again?” (Sept. 24 sermon, link in Pacific COG archives). I could probably write half a dozen blog posts on different points he brought up, but for now I want to focus on just one. In the context of trying to see things from God’s point of view (such as understanding His decision to release Satan after the Millennium [Rev. 20:1-10]), the speaker brought up the subject of suffering. When we’re suffering, our automatic response is to want the suffering to end because we view it in a negative light, but God’s perspective can be very different.

Blessed Persecution

If we start reading the beatitudes, those who Christ calls blessed are not always in a condition we would consider a blessing. They are “poor in spirit” (Matt. 5:3), they mourn and weep (Matt. 5:4; Luke 6:21), they are hungry (Luke 6:21), they are hated (Luke 6: 22), and they are persecuted.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matt. 5:10-12)

I don’t know about you, but my first reaction when I’m feeling persecuted is not to “rejoice and be exceedingly glad” or to “leap for joy” (Luke 6:23). Yet we should be more like the apostles who, after they were beaten and commanded not to preach Jesus any more, “departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name” and made themselves the target of more persecution by continuing to preach (Acts 5:40-42).

If we suffer with Him

The question, “Why would God allow suffering?” is frequently asked by those in the church and by those who have rejected belief in God. If He’s all powerful, we wonder, why would He allow such terrible things to happen? One answer, as pointed out in the sermon I’ve been referring to, is that God sees suffering in a different light than we do. Often, what we see as negative in this moment will ultimately be for our good. For example, in Romans 8, Paul writes that we will be glorified with Christ on the condition that we suffer as He suffered.

The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. (Rom. 8:16-18, KJV)

This is certainly not the only scripture that talks of our glorious future as being conditional on present suffering. Here are a few more:

our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory (2 Cor. 4:17)

if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed (1 Pet. 3:14)

But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps (1 Pet. 2:20-21)

Why is suffering so important?

Finding these scriptures and understanding that suffering is part of being a Christian is not hard. Accepting that there is a good reason for suffering in your life or in the lives of those you love is the hard part. And this is why I really appreciated this sermon message, because the speaker didn’t just tell people “suffering is good for you, be happy.” He pulled together an easy-to-understand analysis that moved logically from the proper reaction to suffering, to the reward for suffering, to the reason for suffering.

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:2-4)

The reason for trials and testings and suffering is that it helps us learn to be like God. If we were dancing through life without a care in the world, we would forget how much we depend on God. If we never suffered for following Christ, we would have no sense of how much we owe Him for dying in our place. If we did not suffer the consequences of sin, we would never learn to hate sin as much as God does.