Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from a Jacobite and Orthodox Perspective

Malankara World Journal
Penta Centum Souvenir Edition
Volume 8 No. 500 October 14, 2018


Chapter - 12: Suffering

Power Made Perfect in Weakness By Rebecca Konyndyk Deyoung

What does it mean to have courage in the face of suffering, pain, or even death? ...

Peace, Be Still! A Short Sermon from the Sea of Galilee by Dr. Ray Pritchard

Where there are no storms, there is no faith.
No storms, no faith.
Few storms, a little faith.
Many storms, much faith. ...

Seeing God In The Midst of Adversity

It is often difficult to recognize the hand of God when we are in the midst of adversity. We often feel God has hidden His face from us. ...

Stand By Your Savior (When Disaster Strikes) By Julie Clinton

Difficult, life-changing circumstances. Extraordinary courage. These three women realized that though life was testing them in ways they never could have anticipated, they could choose their response, and their response would determine the course of their lives. ...

When Tragedy Strikes by Chuck Swindoll

What do you do when tragedy strikes? What do you do when a test comes? What's your first response? Is it to complain? To be angry? To blame? ...

Worshiping with a Broken Heart by Rachel Coulter

A broken heart might be a woman who gets the call from her doctor that she has miscarried. It's the child who learns that his father has cancer. It's broken relationships, debilitating depression, dreams dying and crumbling in our hands. ...

Look Beyond Present Suffering to The Presence of God by Fr. Tommy Lane

The good times take us through the bad times. So when our cross is heavy or when we are tempted to despair about the meaning of life, let us look beyond the pain of the present moment and remember those times when we got glimpses of God, those times when God sent us his consolations. ...

How the Bible Sustained Me During My Darkest Days by David Qaoud

"Let the afflicted hear and be glad." The afflicted! Not the person in success, but in suffering. Not the one in prosperity, but in peril. And that person was me. ...

12. Chapter - 12: Suffering

Power Made Perfect in Weakness

By Rebecca Konyndyk Deyoung

What does it mean to have courage in the face of suffering, pain, or even death? While our culture may idolize strength in adversity and tough self-reliance, courage has another side that many of us have not thought about much. It is revealed when our vulnerability is greatest and our own strength is exhausted.

When the Apostle Paul was struggling with personal pain or difficulty - the mysterious "thorn in the flesh" that he endured - he received from the Lord this answer to his recurring prayers for relief:

"My grace is sufficient for you, for [my] power is made perfect in weakness"
(2 Corinthians 12:9).

Several years ago, a young couple was featured in the newspaper, holding a picture of their 21-month-old daughter Macy, whom they had buried the day before. She died of a rare genetic disorder called spinal muscular atrophy. These parents went through a lot caring for Macy in her short life, but they knew exactly what they were up against. The same disorder had also claimed the lives of Macy’s older twin brother and sister just two and a half years earlier. The twins were diagnosed when they were six months old. They too died before their second birthday.

You might expect parents in a situation like this to be bitter, angry, and hardened by their experience. Macy’s mother and father freely admit how difficult life has been for them, how many questions they have for which they can’t find answers. As her father put it, "When they first told us this was a fatal disease, we didn’t know the half of what we were getting into." Even the blurry newsprint on the front page of the paper conveys faces marked by wounds that are fresh and deep. It is plain from the article, however, that their love for their children is greater than their pain. "‘We see Macy as a dancing angel,’ said her mother. ‘She is in heaven, able to breathe freely, playing with her sister and brother.’ The couple is not sure whether they will try to have another baby or adopt. But they do know they want to be parents again."

What does it mean to have courage in the face of suffering, pain, or even death? When I first started writing about the virtue of courage, the newspapers were full of stories about the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania. Our vulnerability to suffering had suddenly become real. Whether pain and fear come on a large or small scale, we all need to face it somewhere, sometime.

Courage is probably one of the most familiar virtues. From cowboys to superheroes to decorated veterans, models of courage abound in our films and stories. In our culture, courage is perhaps better known as an American value than a Christian virtue, since it epitomizes qualities that Americans idolize: strength in adversity, tough self-reliance. Despite its apparent familiarity, however, courage has a side that many of us have not thought about much - the side of courage that is revealed in the endurance of great suffering and sometimes even death. This courage shows its real character when our vulnerability is greatest and our own strength is exhausted. Then, as the Apostle Paul puts it, God’s power is made perfect in our weakness.

In America we value independence, being able to take care of ourselves. As a result, we treat weakness, vulnerability, and suffering as evils to be avoided, prevented, and overcome. We live in "a cultural climate which fails to perceive any meaning or value in suffering, but rather considers suffering the epitome of evil, to be eliminated at all costs."1 For many, eliminating the evil of terrorism was the obvious response to the events of September 11. The suffering caused by those attacks was a horrific evil; there isn’t one of us who doesn’t want the world rid of it. Several years and multiple strategies later, however, it is easier to ask, Is the battle to eliminate all threats to our security one we can really hope to win? And at what cost?

A Christian view of courage knows that suffering, for all its horror, is not the greatest evil. It is worse to do evil than to suffer it. Christian courage also knows that it need not fear weakness; for it knows that suffering can be a crucible of self-transformation, an opportunity for new vision. Like Job, it is precisely when we are bent low from desperate weariness and pain that we are most likely to learn to say, "My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you" (Job 42:5, NIV, emphasis added).2 This way of thinking about suffering has its source in a radically different understanding of strength and power.

Who Is Our Model?

What is the source of this understanding? As Christians we have a different ideal of goodness because we have a different role model in mind: becoming virtuous amounts to becoming more and more like Christ. Being created anew by the Spirit means emulating Christ’s character - his wisdom, gentleness, and truthfulness. To understand each of the virtues, then, we should look first to what the person and life of Christ reveal to us. To understand the virtue of courage, we need to ask, What does Christ teach us about true strength?

He teaches this: that love can lead us to endure suffering and pain and even death on a cross. Do you want a model of courage? Look at Christ’s life of suffering love. This model of courage is worth thinking about precisely because it is such a startling contrast with the typical American picture of courage. Perhaps it is a model of courage and strength of which only a Christian can make sense.

St. Augustine defines courage as "love readily bearing all things for the sake of the object beloved."3 For courage to point beyond itself, for love to bear all things, we must have something we love more than the suffering and pain we fear. Love is the sine qua non of courage. Without it, all the bravery in the world is mere gritted teeth. "The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him," G. K. Chesterton once said of courage, "but because he loves what is behind him."4

Because we value independence and being
able to take care of ourselves, we live in "a
cultural climate which fails to perceive any
meaning or value in suffering, but rather
considers suffering the epitome of evil, to
be eliminated at all costs."

One mistake we make about suffering is the idea that we must avoid pain at all times and places as the greatest evil. Even Socrates argued that it is worse to do injustice than to suffer it, because there is nothing worse than the moral corruption that comes with perpetrating evil. In opposing the view that suffering is the worst thing imaginable, however, we must not glorify suffering for its own sake. Suffering isn’t intrinsically good; it is not an end in itself. For this reason, Aquinas called courage an enabling virtue - it doesn’t realize the good itself, but rather serves as an indispensable aid when the good is threatened. If there were no obstacles to truth and goodness in this world, there would be no need for courage. The courageous suffering we endorse, then, is not merely enduring pointless pain in a meaningless world. The suffering the Christian is called to bear is most often the result of trying to love others in a world full of sin and wretchedness. Great love almost always involves suffering, whether it is in small doses of self-denial or great dramatic losses. Just as speaking in tongues and moving mountains is of no value without love, so courage is of no value without something good worth suffering for. If someone is suffering injury or pain because he doesn’t love or respect himself, because he has been beaten into submission and selfhatred, then suffering can deaden the soul, not enliven it. The martyrs died out of great love, not out of despair.

Aquinas and Aristotle agree that the courageous person doesn’t have to enjoy being in threatening situations, but that person does have to think it’s the best place to be because of the good it will win her in the end. The suffering endured is redeemed by the good for the sake of which it endures, something that is only obtainable by walking through the fire, not around it.

It’s easy to think of suffering as a passive response to evil. Evil comes upon us unbidden, and since we are powerless to resist it, we suffer. What is the virtue in that? Suffering doesn’t seem to fit our picture of courage: courage is an action-adventure virtue, not a walk-all-over-me virtue. Aquinas tells us that the natural human reaction to a present evil is sorrow, and sorrow, when we can’t escape it, easily degenerates into despair. The endurance of suffering can, therefore, involve active resistance to being overcome by despair, an energetic and courageous clinging to something good, a decision to hope. Thus, in contrast to his wife’s resentment and resignation, Job’s courage enables him to say, "The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD" (Job 1:21). A suffering life is not the end for which we are created, even if it is an unavoidable part of our wayfaring to that end. When he set his face toward Jerusalem, Christ’s mission was to suffer for our sakes, for the sake of love and its redeeming power to overcome suffering and death. When we endure suffering, we say by our endurance that we are waiting for something better, and we believe it is still coming. In Lament for a Son, Nick Wolterstorff speaks out of this faith-infused courage: "In my living, my son’s death will not be the last word."5

Christ’s example teaches us that courage is
a spiritual strength. It does not require
physical power or military might or the ability
to overcome another person with force.
The disciples were still trying and failing to
grasp this the night Christ died for them;
perhaps we still are, too.

Looking to Christ’s example also teaches us that courage is first of all an inner quality, a spiritual strength. It does not, therefore, require physical power or military might or the ability to overcome another person with force. The disciples were still trying and failing to grasp this the night Christ died for them; perhaps we still are, too. This conception of courage puts strength of heart ahead of strength of fist and sword. It contrasts with the classic American hero, who through his own strength and cunning manages to escape desperate situations, overcome the bad guys, and win the day. It is also characteristically American that the hero wins the day totally on his own, without any help from anyone else. Whether the leading man is John Wayne or Sylvester Stallone, the ideal of self-sufficient power is one that has a powerful grip on our moral imaginations.

But back up from heroic fiction to real life for a minute. The Lone Ranger model of courage doesn’t tell us what to do when our own strength isn’t enough to win the day. What if we fight to protect ourselves with all the strength we’ve got, and still find ourselves vulnerable? Since September 11, we as a nation have had this question ringing in our ears. What if we exercise, eat well, and see the doctor regularly and still find our bodies riddled with cancer? What if we drive defensively and have a clean record, but still end up hospitalized after being hit by a drunk driver? What if we’re not superheroes after all, but only their bumbling, ineffectual sidekicks who constantly need to be rescued ourselves?

Courage is necessary precisely because we are weak and vulnerable to harm, because pain and suffering are a very real part of human life. This is the way it is for us. We know that all too well after New York, after watching little children die of incurable diseases, after living long enough to see our bodies get sick, hurt, and weary. Courage cannot eliminate every threat; it cannot gain for us guarantees of safety and comfort. Courage can, however, ensure that fear and suffering don’t stop us from doing good. And it can keep fear and suffering from driving us to do evil.

Especially in his moment of greatest vulnerability, Christ showed us the source of true strength - the love of God. The power of God’s love far exceeds the limits of any human power, yet it can become our own. What Christ ensures for us in his dying and rising is that there will be sufficient grace for the journey, and that in the end all our tears will be wiped away (Revelation 21:4). God’s power and promises give us reason to take heart.

Why Is Endurance So Difficult?

Thinking of courage as the endurance of suffering is a very old idea, even if it is a new thought for some of us today. It is also a scary idea. When faced with suffering, our instincts lead us to want to do something about it. A recent survey reported that terminally ill patients who wanted the option of physician-assisted suicide were more afraid of suffering and pain than they were of death itself.

Why is the endurance of suffering so difficult for us? Why does it occasion such intense fear? When Thomas Aquinas considers this question, he mentions three reasons - perhaps there are more.6 First, we suffer and endure when we are threatened by someone or something stronger than us. Counterattack is an option when we are in a position of superior strength and are willing to use it, when we still have some measure of control. We experience two emotional reactions to pains, difficulties, and threats of injury: either in fear we shrink back from them or with daring we strike out against them. Courage’s job is to moderate both emotions so that the threat of evil doesn’t deter us from holding fast to what is good. Both fear and daring are about something that might harm us; they differ according to the possibility of warding it off. We shrink back from evil we can’t overcome; we strike out against evil we believe we can prevent or shake off. Everything depends on how our strength measures up against the threat of harm. If it is possible to keep it at bay, then we mobilize for attack. If it is not, then the task of courage is to dig in and withstand the storm.

What Aquinas’s analysis reveals is that when we suffer, we suffer precisely because we are in a position of weakness. The pain is bad enough, to be sure; what makes it unbearable is the feeling of powerlessness that goes with it. We must endure pain because we cannot prevent or alleviate it. Sometimes courage does require defending ourselves against a threat. Moreover, courage never stands idle when others are in danger or in pain. Yet courage can also uphold us when we are in a position of weakness, when we have lost control over our circumstances, or when we cannot or should not use power and force to fight back. Courage can stand firm and stand fast as well as striking out against. As Macy’s parents show us, sometimes standing firm is all we are able to do. As the cross shows us, sometimes it is all we ought to be willing to do.

The second reason suffering is hard to face is that when we are able to strike back against things that hurt us, we can use anger to our advantage. Anger is a powerful emotional force that can psyche us up to overcome threats against us. What we love about the action-hero type is that he is angry enough to take on injustice and overcome it. Courage is justice’s greatest ally; anger, in turn, serves as courage’s toughest weapon. Anger is powerless to help us, however, when we can’t fight the pain and make it go away.

When we suffer, we carry the extra burden of sorrow, the emotion we feel when evil is already here with us. Our sorrow is an additional weight to bear, and it is a burden that often threatens to undo us. The courage to suffer must therefore stand firm against sorrow inside, as well as threats from outside. This internal firmness can be as much a testimony of courage as any outward act. The martyr’s resistance, despite pain and suffering, speaks boldly for justice when it says, "The truth will stand even when I fall." Even though it is marked by weeping, Macy’s parents’ graveside vigil bears witness that "Love is strong as death" (Song of Songs 8:6).

The last reason why the endurance of suffering is so difficult is that endurance implies suffering for a long stretch of time. As we’ve seen, when we suffer something, it is usually something beyond our control. If we could have warded off the threat or fixed the problem, we would have, and the sooner, the better. If we are powerless to do so, however, then something beside our own will is setting the terms. We don’t decide when to get Parkinson’s disease or how fast it will progress. We don’t decide to face religious persecution and for how long, nor do we know when we might have to choose between losing our job and losing our integrity, and how long our subsequent unemployment will last. We simply have to endure hardship for as long as disease and injustice hold sway.

Added to our natural disinclination for suffering over the long haul is that fact that American culture tells us to expect things to be fixed, and to be fixed without delay. Waiting is hard enough; waiting in pain is unthinkable. As a recent advertisement proclaimed, "We took ‘immediately’ - and made it faster." Why should we have to put up with pain? Call now! See your doctor today! In a culture dedicated to comfort and convenience, we have precious little tolerance for pain and difficulty. We feel as though we have the right to avoid it, and if not, then the right to get rid of it as quickly as possible. Especially when we have these impatient (and unrealistic) expectations, suffering can wear us down over the long haul.

Who Are The Courageous?

If suffering can be a genuine expression of courage, the example of Christ also teaches us something important about who is capable of having this virtue. Centuries ago, Aristotle described courage in terms of battlefield action. This definition, in the world of the Greek polis, unapologetically disqualified women and children, the sick and disabled, the foreigner and the socially disenfranchised, from having the virtue of courage. Later, when Aquinas brought a Christian perspective to bear on this Greek formula, he deliberately shifted his model of courage from Achilles to Christ, thus opening the virtue to everyone capable of sacrificing themselves for another out of love, as Christ did. Today we, like Aristotle, prefer action heroes - those who embody the American moral ideal - who are macho men. Some of us are not men, and even among those who are, many will never be particularly macho. If courage can be expressed in the endurance of suffering, however, then it is no longer open only to those who excel in human strength and physical power. It is a virtue for all of us, even those who may never count as powerful; in fact, it may be especially available to the weak and the wounded.7

It is tempting to avoid suffering at all costs. It is hard to live with pain and difficulty and not be able to ‘do something about it.’ It is hard to face our own vulnerability and weakness. It is tempting to trust our own strength or to impatiently return evil for evil. Courage is the strength to resist these temptations, to own up to the limits of our own power and control, to "love God…with all [our] might" (Deuteronomy 6:5). Courage, says one author, is "nothing else than to love [the] good, in the face of injury or death,…undeterred by any spirit of compromise."8

As the apostle Paul reminds us, it is when we are wounded and helpless that we see most clearly that courage is not finally about trusting our own strength. Only God has the ultimate power to overcome evil. Only God has faced death down and defeated it. When our own strength is exhausted by suffering, we see most clearly that true strength is rooted in God’s power, and true courage inspired by his love. That love has the power to hold us steadfast as we endure the pain of broken relationships, or walk through the rubble in New York City, or stand beside little Macy’s grave.

God promises us, as he promised Joshua long ago, "I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you…. I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go" (Joshua 1:9). N. T. Wright points out that, surprisingly enough, the most frequent command God gives us in Scripture is "Do not be afraid…. Fear not."9 The promise to which we hold fast is God’s promise to help us stand firm against fear, and to stand with us when we are powerless to avoid suffering, so that love - not fear - has the last word in our lives.10


1 John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae, I.15.

2 Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

3 De moribus ecclesiae catholicae et de moribus Manicheorum (On the Morals of the Catholic Church), XV.25.

4 Illustrated London News, January 14, 1911.

5 Nicholas Wolterstorff, Lament for a Son (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1987), 93.

6 Summa Theologiae IIa-IIae, qq. 123-124. See my "Power Made Perfect in Weakness: Aquinas’s Transformation of the Virtue of Courage," Medieval Philosophy and Theology 11:2 (Fall 2002), 23-25, for a more extended discussion of this point.

It is hard to face our own vulnerability and
weakness, and tempting to trust our own
strength or to impatiently return evil for
evil. Courage is the strength to resist these
temptations, to own up to the limits of our
control, to "love God…with all [our] might."
Power Made Perfect in Weakness 19

7 Aquinas goes so far as to argue that the act most fully embodying courage is martyrdom. Does that mean courage is only for super Christian saints, instead of actionadventure superheroes? I think the opposite is true. First, even the martyrs’ suffering is unlike Christ’s in this respect: no human being can repeat his redemptive work on the cross. That was already done for us. Secondly, for all Christians, Aquinas argues that the fundamental moral task is to intentionally become more and more like Christ. Each day of imitatio Christi requires, therefore, that we reaffirm our baptism, dying to our old selves and welcoming the birth of the new, dying with Christ and like Christ in order also to rise with him (Philippians 3:7-11). As Henri Nouwen notes (A Letter of Consolation), suffering this daily mortification of the old self is part of the rhythm of discipleship. Laying down our lives and taking up our crosses, in this analogical but no less important sense, is a courageous task for all of those who claim Christ as their own.

8 Josef Pieper, The Four Cardinal Virtues (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1966), 131.

9 N. T. Wright, Following Jesus: Biblical Reflections on Discipleship (London: SPCK, 1994), 56.

10 This article is a revised and expanded version of my "Courage, Weakness, and September 11," Perspectives: A Journal of Reformed Thought 17:6 (June/July 2002), 3-5. I am grateful to the editor for giving me permission to incorporate that material. The opening story is from The Grand Rapids Press, February 2, 2001.

About The Author:

Rebecca Konyndyk Deyoung is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Copyright © 2005 Center for Christian Ethics at Baylor University

Peace, Be Still! A Short Sermon from the Sea of Galilee

by Dr. Ray Pritchard

Gospel: Mark 4:35-41

It was only a week ago, though it seems much longer, that I awoke on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. We were about to start Day 5 of our Holy Land tour, and already we had seen so much that the mind could not take it all in. After landing in Tel Aviv, we paid a quick visit to Joppa where Jonah took a boat to Tarshish in a failed attempt to run away from the Lord. The next morning we visited the amazing Roman ruins of Caesarea by the Sea where Paul was held in jail and then tried before King Agrippa (Acts 26). From there we drove to the top of Mt. Carmel where the prophet Elijah defeated the prophets of Baal in one of the most dramatic encounters in the Old Testament (1 Kings 18). We stood on the plaza of the monastery overlooking the broad plain of the Jezreel Valley and envisioned it as the scene of the last great battle of history - Armageddon. Then it was on to visit Megiddo, a crucial crossroads fortress that had been destroyed and rebuilt so many times that the ruins themselves form a mountain with layers of civilization going back thousands of years. Late on that day we stopped in Nazareth, a crowded, bustling Arab city that has the honor of being the boyhood home of Jesus.

Our guide pointed out Mt. Gilboa where Saul and his sons died in battle with the Philistines (1 Samuel 31), Mt. Tabor where Deborah and Barak defeated Sisera (Judges 4) and the mountain in between where Gideon defeated the Midianites (Judges 7-8). The next day we visited the "Jesus Boat," an actual first-century fishing boat that might have been used by Jesus and his disciples. Then we went to the Church of Beatitudes, a lovely Catholic church overlooking the northern end of the Sea of Galilee. No one knows if this is the mountainside where Jesus actually gave the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), but as with so many other sites in the Holy Land, if this isn't the exact spot, we know we're "in the neighborhood." Then we traveled north and east into the Golan Heights, a much-fought over region both in Bible times and today. We eventually arrived at Caesarea Philippi, which in Jesus' day was something of a resort area built around a steam flowing from an imposing rock cliff. Originally it was a center for the worship of the Greek god Pan. For Christians it holds huge significance for it was here, in this remote location, that Jesus asked his disciples, "Who do people say that I am?" and then "But you–who do you say that I am?" (Matthew 16:13-19) When Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God," he was the first apostle to openly profess his faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God from heaven. Peter and his bold confession became the rock upon which Christ continues to build his church today. Peter spoke for himself and for all the apostles, and he stands in the place of every believing Christian who unashamedly professes Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. "It all started right here," I told the group. "Without Peter's courage, and the courage of others who followed his example, there would have been no Christian church.

As we left the area, it began to rain and continued to rain on and off for the next several hours as our day wrapped up with a baptism service in the Jordan River.

Seagulls on the Sea of Galilee

And now it was Sunday morning in Tiberius, which was a Roman city in Jesus' day but is now predominantly Jewish. When I looked out the window, I could see dark clouds rolling across the mountains that line the western shore. It looked like bad weather was one the way. But storm or no storm, no tour would be complete without a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee so bundling up to keep warm and dry, we walked to the nearby dock. As the rain began to fall, we clambered onto the rocking boat, grabbing hold of whatever we could find to keep from falling over. Once we were all safely aboard, the captain gave the signal and the boat slowly left its mooring. The skies were slate-gray, with gusts of wind and light rain pelting the boat. Within moments of leaving, the captain ordered the American flag raised and played "The Star-Spangled Banner" over the intercom. We all stood at attention and watched with pride as our flag was raised. Then our guide took pita bread, broke it, and held the fragments out over the side so that the seagulls would fly by and take it out of his hand. Mark tried it and so did I. It was unnerving to see a large bird come flying right at you, snatching the bread from your fingers.

After passing the kibbutz where we saw the "Jesus Boat" the day before, our guide pointed to a valley called the Arbel. Two thousand years ago there was a road through this valley that led from Nazareth to Capernaum. No doubt Jesus walked that road many times. Because it is lined on both sides by steep mountains, the Arbel is sometimes called the wind tunnel. Any storm coming from the west would blow through that valley and hit the Sea of Galilee with enormous force. Thus the lake (that's really what the Sea of Galilee is, a large lake) might be peaceful and then a storm would suddenly arise, with driving rain and gale-force winds. Any boat on the Sea of Galilee would be in peril when that happened. The many boats at the bottom of the Sea of Galilee bear testimony to the power of a raging storm in the middle of the night, when a boat is tossed helplessly by the wind and the waves and there is no one who can rescue you and nothing you can do to save yourself.

A One-Point Sermon

The rain continued to fall intermittently as the wind picked up and then slacked off. We had a brief service on the boat, singing "Holy, Holy, Holy" and "How Great Thou Art." Then I spoke briefly from Mark 4:35-41. I told them that I had a one-point sermon from this familiar story.

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, "Let us go across to the other side." And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, "Peace! Be still!" And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, "Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?" And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?"

As I read the text, an amazing thing happened that we all noticed. When I read "And a great windstorm arose," the wind began to pick up and the waves rocked the boat. When I read, "And the wind ceased," just like that, at that very moment, the wind died down, as if the Father in heaven said, "This is how it happened, just like that, just that quickly, two thousand years ago."

Whose Idea Was It?

This is what I shared with our group on the Sea of the Galilee. The key to understanding this story lies in one important question. If you know the answer to this question, then you know what this story is about. If you don't know the answer, or if you skip over it, the meaning of this story will be lost to you.

Whose idea was it to get in the boat in the first place?

Go back and read the text. The answer is very plain. When evening came, at the end of a long day of ministry, after Jesus and his disciples had spent hours ministering to the needs of people, after giving and giving and giving of themselves for the needs of others, it was Jesus himself who said, "Let us go across to the other side." No doubt his disciples were glad to hear that word because they were very tired. Mark 4:1-2 says that such a large crowd gathered to hear Jesus teach that he had to get in a boat and teach them while they pressed to the edge of the water. It had been like that everywhere they went. Crowds came to hear the Master. Sick people came to be healed. The confused came to find hope. On and on they came, day after day, wanting to hear Jesus, desperately wanting to be near him. Helping hurting people, if you really care about them at all, will cost you everything you have. Serving others takes a toll on the spirit. Who among us has not gone to bed at night so weary from phone calls and meetings and a day spent solving difficult problems and trying to untangle the problems of others that we wanted nothing more than a good night's rest? When you have given all that you have, rest is what you need. And I do not doubt that the disciples were glad to hear that they were going to go to the other side of the lake. Several of them were fishermen who knew the Sea of Galilee intimately. And that night the skies promised smooth sailing from the west to the east. They had made that journey themselves many times in their fishing boats and they looked forward to a few hours of rest.

It all started very well. As the boat left the western shore, the lake was so calm that Jesus decided to go to sleep in the stern, resting on a cushion. Suddenly a great storm arose, the wind rushing down across the mountains and through the Arbel, whipping up the waves and causing them to come crashing into the boat. As the water entered, the disciples furiously tried to bail it out but the water rushed in faster than they could bail it out. The little fishing boat bobbed like a cork as wave after wave crashed into it. Nothing could be more terrifying than to be on a boat in the blackness of night as it takes on water and slowly begins to sink.

"Lord, Don't You Care?"

Finally, the disciples woke Jesus up, asking him a question that to us may seem impertinent, but it is one we have all asked in moments of desperation:
"Do you not care that we are perishing?"

Lord Jesus, don't you care that my child is sick?
Lord Jesus, don't you care that my marriage is falling apart?
Lord Jesus, don't you care that my friends have deserted me?
Lord Jesus, don't you care that I have no money?

Lord Jesus, don't you care that I feel so alone?
Lord Jesus, don't you care that I want to give up?
Lord Jesus, don't you care that my husband has died?
Lord Jesus, don't you care that I lost my job?

We have all asked that question in a million ways a million times. We never question the Lord's compassion when things are going well. But God's compassion is not measured by our circumstances nor is his kindness limited to our understanding. God cares just as much when the tempest is raging as when the seas are calm and the sun is shining. His mercy is not limited to the sunlight nor this mercy to the stillness of the waves.

When he awoke, Jesus spoke three words: "Peace, be still!" Eugene Peterson offers this colorful paraphrase: "Awake now, he told the wind to pipe down and said to the sea, ‘Quiet! Settle down!' The wind ran out of breath; the sea became smooth as glass." And just like that the storm ended. I find it encouraging that the text says Jesus rebuked the storm - not the terrified disciples. To them he simply said, "Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?" Implicit in those words is a lesson we all need to learn. The disciples were afraid because they were men who were used to being in control of life. They knew how to handle hard situations. There wasn't a weakling among them. And yet, when put in a life-threatening situation beyond their control, their faith turned to fear. Instead of putting them down, Jesus simply says, "Have you still no faith?" The answer is yes and no. The had faith in Jesus. They truly believed in him. But their faith, though real, was not yet full-grown. And how do you get the faith that enables you to survive the storms of life? The only answer I know is to get in the boat with Jesus and ride with him wherever he wants to go.

Where there are no storms, there is no danger.
Where there is no danger, there is no fear.
Where there is no fear, there is no testing.
Where there is no testing, there is no learning.
Where there is no learning, there is no growing.
Where there is no growing, there is no faith.

Here is the shorthand version:

Where there are no storms, there is no faith.
No storms, no faith.
Few storms, a little faith.
Many storms, much faith.

No Shortcuts

So it is for all of us who follow Jesus. There are no shortcuts along the pathway of spiritual growth.

The storms of life are not a detour.
They are not a mistake.
They are not a trick or a trap.
They are not sent to cause to destroy you.

Your storms are sent by God to cause you to reach the end of yourself so that you will cry out to the Lord in utter desperation, "Don't you care that I am perishing?" And in that moment - not before it, but in it, when the water seems about to engulf you and all that is dear to you is lost - in that moment, the Lord rises and says, "Peace, be still!"

So that you will not miss the point, let me repeat it one more time. Who told them to get in the boat in the first place? The answer is Jesus. It was his idea all along. Did he know about the storm in advance? Of course he did. And he told them to get in the boat anyway. Did he warn them in advance? No, because that would have ruined the lesson they needed to learn.

All of us have moments - most of us have many of them - when we feel utterly alone and forgotten by God. When life tumbles in around us, even after we have tried to serve God to be the best of our ability, there are moments when we feel that God has left us completely.

There is no avoiding those moments of utter despair.
Sometimes we bring them on ourselves by the choices we make.
Sometimes they come because we have done what the Lord told us to do.
Sometimes the storms of life seem to come out of nowhere.

The Choice We Must Make

In those moments we have a choice to make.

Either we choose to believe that the Lord sent the storm to us for his own purposes or we choose to believe that the Lord has abandoned us and left us to our own devices.

I do not believe we can manipulate God into avoiding the storms or somehow making them suddenly disappear. If anything, this story is meant to teach us exactly the opposite. Sometimes our path takes us into the storm. Sometimes we see the clouds gathering and know it is coming. More often the winds suddenly rise up and our life, which had been so well-planned, suddenly turns upside down and we begin to sink beneath the waves.

Jesus is the Lord of the wind and the waves.
When he calls us, we get into the boat.
When he sleeps, we toil on.

When the storm comes, we cry out to him.
When he awakes, he calms the storm.
When the storm is over, our faith is stronger.

Are you in a storm at this very moment? You are not there by accident but by your Father's design. He does not intend to hurt you even though you feel like screaming because your pain is so great. You are not alone though it feels that way now. You may have lost everything, but you have not lost the Lord. He is still with you though you cannot see him or sense his presence.

Fear not. Keep believing.

The Master of the sea is by your side. When the time has come, he will say, "Peace, be still," and the storm will run out of breath and the sea will become like glass. Eventually the day will break and the sun will shine again. And when you look back, you will see that you faith has grown stronger by the storm you passed through.

What a Christ we serve!

Even the winds and waves obey him!

© Keep Believing Ministries

Seeing God In The Midst of Adversity
"O LORD, when you favored me, you made my mountain stand firm; but when you hid your face, I was dismayed"
(Ps 30:7).

It is often difficult to recognize the hand of God when we are in the midst of adversity. We often feel God has hidden His face from us. When the Lord takes us through deep valleys, there will be fruit from the deep valley that we cannot see. You must press into Him with all you have during this time.

God uses the deep valley to frame our lives to create a change in our nature, not just a change in habits. The depth and width of our valley is often an indicator of the level of calling and influence we will have on others in the future. Our adversity is not just for us, but others who will be in our future path of influence. This is not very comforting when you are in the middle of the valley, but know this is a truth in the Kingdom.

It is often years later when we discover the wisdom of God and why He intentionally led us through the dark valley. Life is often lived forward, but understood backward. It is not until we are down the road and we stand on the mountain looking back at through valley that we can appreciate the terrain God has allowed us to scale and the spiritual deposits He has made in our life while we were there. "He reveals the deep things of darkness and brings deep shadows into the light" (Job 12:22). When you begin to realize this, you sit back and breathe a sigh of relief because you know that God was in control all along. It didn't seem like it at the time, but He was.

Do you find yourself in the valley? Now is the time to fully trust Him to guide you to higher ground.

Source: Marketplace Meditations

Stand By Your Savior (When Disaster Strikes)

By Julie Clinton

Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh; is anything too difficult for Me?
- Jeremiah 32:27

Roxanne Gardner never anticipated that her husband, a former state wrestling champion, would one day be paralyzed from the chest down.

Tamara Carlson (not her real name) had no way of knowing that her fiancé, Tad, would be severely wounded and disfigured by a car bomber in Iraq before he became her husband.

Sheila Amberlain (also not her real name) had no idea that the "additional work load" her husband was supposedly carrying was actually his cover for a mid-life marital affair.

Pain and adversity can easily strip us of energy and heart. All three of these women have been challenged by difficult circumstances, and all three made courageous decisions to stand by their men. They know two important things about their relationships and adversity - who they are and where they're going. First, with their husband, "they are no longer two but one" (Matthew 19:6). And secondly, "in time of need" they know to "boldly" approach the "throne of grace" to "obtain the mercy" they need (Hebrews 4:16, NKJV). Blindsided by the storms of life, they now offer hope and encouragement to women with relational challenges.

For Greg and Roxanne Gardner, the morning of January 11 started as just another day. But it didn't end the way it started. On that unusually foggy morning, Greg left for his morning jog. While running, he was hit by a vehicle and taken by ambulance to the hospital with a broken leg. But his condition steadily worsened, and by the end of the day, he was paralyzed from the chest down.

While struggling to absorb the news herself, Roxanne had the tough job of telling the couple's three girls that their father might never walk again. Then she set about the difficult task of learning what she needed to know to care for her husband. She oversaw the renovation of their two story house to accommodate his wheelchair and learned how to watch for additional dangerous complications from his injury.

Roxanne recalls her first unsuccessful attempt to help Greg transfer from his wheelchair to the bed. Sure that she could handle it even though he outweighs her, Greg talked her in to helping him make the transfer. Roxanne was mortified when she lost her grip on him and Greg slid to the floor between the chair and the bed, unable to move. Then she panicked. How am I supposed to get him up? she recalls thinking. Undaunted, Greg reminded her about the workmen who were renovating their home and calmly asked her to get them to assist him. It was the first of many experiences that required Roxanne to begin a new way of thinking. Now her mantra is, "I can and I will."

Tamara Carlson's mantra is the same. Her husband, Tad, is one of the 20,000 troops wounded in Iraq. When a car bomber disabled his truck, Tad was engulfed in flames and blinded in one eye. His skull was shattered, riddling his brain with shrapnel. Doctors later removed his left arm below the elbow and three fingers of his right hand. Tad was also disfigured beyond recognition - his ears, lips, and most of his nose burned away.

When Tamara learned of her then-fiancé's injuries, she flew from her home to an Army medical center with one suitcase and a week's worth of clothes. She lived there well over a year.

She's learned how to handle dressing changes, feeding, and personal hygiene. Though Tad is independent, she still buttons his pants because that's one thing he's not able to do.

Now settled into the home Tad bought before departing for Iraq, the couple is navigating the white waters that the first year of marriage brings. Tad took a medical retirement, and Tamara is furthering her education. Together, they are looking ahead to the future, hoping that the worst is behind them. (1)

Sheila Amberlain didn't think twice when her husband began logging extra hours at work. His job had always required a varying seasonal workload. It wasn't until a friend shared how she learned of her own husband's affair that Sheila began to have suspicions. She told her husband about the conversation with her friend and was devastated when he confessed to an affair of his own.

Until now, her marriage had been a strong one - or so she thought. Sheila and her husband were extremely compatible and enjoyed each other's company. They spent time together with their children and a wide circle of friends, enjoyed similar pursuits, and had recently helped each other through the death of one of each of their parents. Yet the bond was not strong enough to hold when a co-worker began aggressively pursuing her husband. Though he was wracked with guilt, he responded to her flirtations and the excitement offered by a new romance. One thing led to another and soon he was arranging clandestine meetings planned around his children's sporting events.

When she learned the truth, Sheila wanted to throw him out of the house. But she knew her response would help determine the future of her marriage - or lack thereof. In despair, she locked herself in the bathroom and dropped to her knees on the cold tile floor. Between sobs, she cried out to God and asked for His wisdom and guidance. Almost immediately, an uncanny peace settled over her. Though her initial reaction was that her marriage was over, she realized she had a choice. She could let current circumstances undo a relationship that had 26 years of history behind it, or she could work to salvage it.

Though Sheila was deeply hurt and her self-esteem was shaken, when her husband asked for forgiveness and a second chance, she gave it to him. He ended the affair and immediately began looking for another job to remove himself from further temptation. He held himself accountable to Sheila by letting her see his cell phone and text message bills each month to assure her that the affair had indeed ended. He also began coming home immediately from work each evening, bringing work home with him when necessary but never staying late at the offices. His willingness to accept responsibility for his actions and work to regain Sheila's trust empowered her to forgive him. Recently, when talking to a friend, she said, "We both realize what we almost lost, and things are better than they've ever been between us."

Difficult, life-changing circumstances. Extraordinary courage. These three women realized that though life was testing them in ways they never could have anticipated, they could choose their response, and their response would determine the course of their lives.

Whether you're in difficult circumstances or not, the power of choice and courage is a combination that all extraordinary women wield wisely. Problems are not the real issue in life - it's what we choose to do with them that determine the future. When the storms rage, press in close to Jesus - He will safely guide your steps home.


1 Shaunti Feldhahn, personal e-mail, February 15, 2007.

About The Author:

Julie Clinton M.Ad., M.B.A. Is president of Extraordinary Women and host of Ewomen conferences all across America. A woman of deep faith, she cares passionately about seeing women live out their dreams by finding their freedom in Christ. Julie and her husband, Dr. Tim Clinton, live in Virginia and are the parents of Zach and Megan, who is married to Ben Allison.

Copyright ©2016 Dr. James Dobson's Family Talk All Rights Reserved

When Tragedy Strikes

by Chuck Swindoll

I'm deeply impressed by the man's gentleness. Though Elijah deserved none of the woman's blame, he stood silent under her blast. That's gentleness. Someone, somewhere, has called this fruit of the Spirit "the mint-mark of heaven." When it is present in a highly-charged setting such as this, it becomes a testimony of the Spirit of God at work in the one who could lash back, but doesn't. It is His life, at that gentle and tender moment, being made evident.

I am also impressed with this grieving mother. She, without question or hesitation, places her precious, lifeless son into Elijah's arms. Perhaps the prophet's gentleness suddenly melted her and prompted her, once again, to trust him.

Then, Elijah, the man of God, silently climbed the stairway to the room where he had been doing battle before God on a regular basis. I say this because I believe that Elijah had spent hours, even days, on his knees in that room. He had formed that habit while alone with his God at Cherith.

Do you have a room like that--a place where you meet with God? Do you have a quiet retreat where you and the Lord do regular business together? If you don't, I strongly urge you to provide yourself just such a place--your own prophet's chamber where you and God can meet together. It will be there that you will prepare yourself for life's contingencies. Without it, you'll lack the necessary steel in your foundation of faith.

What do you do when tragedy strikes? What do you do when a test comes? What's your first response? Is it to complain? To be angry? To blame? To try to reason your way out of it? Or have you formed the habit of doing what Elijah did? Do you go to your special place and get alone with God? Elijah provides a wonderful example for us. No panic. No fear. No rush. No doubt.

When a test comes, go first to a private place and get alone with God.
-- Charles R. Swindoll

Excerpted from Charles R. Swindoll, Great Days with the Great Lives (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2005). Copyright (c) 2005 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Source: Today's Insight from Chuck Swindoll

Worshiping with a Broken Heart

by Rachel Coulter

I looked across the table at my boyfriend and replayed his words in my mind. "I just don't enjoy spending time with you."

I never knew a heart could break so suddenly, so rudely - in only one sentence. I was desperately grasping for anything to help soften the sharpness of those eight words. I could only muster three, "Take me home." As we drove, my thoughts were as blurry as the trees going by. How can a three-year relationship end in three minutes?

The term "broken heart" is so widely used in our society that it often sounds romantic. In those moments, I learned just how terribly unromantic it is - the kind of tearing, ripping brokenness that demands your full attention, the kind of pain that won't let up.

A broken heart might be a woman who gets the call from her doctor that she has miscarried. It's the child who learns that his father has cancer. It's broken relationships, debilitating depression, dreams dying and crumbling in our hands.

I walked into church the day after my heart broke. Broken, aching hearts fill the pews in each of our churches every Sunday. Although surrounded by community, the pain still felt intensely personal. "The heart knows its own bitterness" (Proverbs 14:10). The deep ache can feel as isolating as a prison cell. The enemy wants nothing more than to lock believers in that cell of pain, and keep us trapped in isolation. But God wants the opposite. Here are three things to remember when you are tempted to stay home on Sunday morning with a broken heart.

Broken Hearts Are Open Hearts

There are many sorts of broken hearts, and Christ is good at healing them all.
- Charles Spurgeon

Imagine your heart is failing and you require a very risky open-heart surgery. At the hospital, there are several doctors who claim to be proficient at this surgery, but only one has a spotless record - nothing has ever gone wrong with his procedures. Everything he does is perfect.

Would you then choose a doctor with lesser experience, or a poorer record? Not if you value your life.

God is the only Physician who can fully heal a broken heart, and he has never failed in his ability to heal. Sarai, David, and Hosea all suffered broken hearts for different reasons - a barren womb, a shameful trail of sin, unrequited love - and God healed them all. A broken heart is an open heart, and an open heart is vulnerable. In this time of vulnerability, let him be your refuge. Let him fill you with healing through the singing, praying, and teaching of your church family.

Pain Is Personal, Healing Is Corporate

Have you ever had a close friend going through a great deal of pain, and they didn't tell you? It's painful when you finally learn about it. It's painful for at least two reasons: 1) It hurts you that they are in pain, and 2) it hurts that you were not trusted to carry their burdens alongside of them.

As believers, we are called to carry each other's burdens (Galatians 6:2). No one would argue that one man can lift more than ten men lifting together. So why do we often ignore the hands extended to help us carry our burdens, and try to bear the weight on our own? We may always bear the heaviest portion, but encouragement and support from brothers and sisters will significantly lighten the load. Battle hurt with heartfelt singing, loneliness with community, and discouragement with the ministry of God's word.

Surround yourself with God's people, and you will see that healing does take a village - and that the village is stronger for it. We must combat resounding pain with resolute worship to the Father, alongside brothers and sisters who can pray with us and for us.

Worship Creates Perspective

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in his wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of his glory and grace.

Though suffering is never a small thing, God is always greater. Worship refocuses our minds on God's greatness, and puts our pain in its rightful place - under the reign of an already victorious Father.

As strange as it may feel in the moment, lift your hands in praise and remember that the victory has been won. Remember that the God who holds your life in the palm of his capable hand is leading the victory march.

"He will not leave you or forsake you"
(Deuteronomy 31:6).

Standing at the top of the mountain of adoration, we are suddenly aware of our smallness. And it's not offensive to us at all. We find joy in knowing that Christ is glorious beyond our imaginations and gloriously in control of all things, including every inch or second of our heartache. Nothing can touch you except that which has been carefully filtered through his loving fingers.

Let heartfelt praise remind you of his great love and absolute sovereignty, and let these reminders bring healing to your broken heart. Worship is a balm for even the deepest of wounds.

About The Author:

Rachel Coulter is a freelance writer living in Minneapolis. Rachel graduated with a degree in Human Development from Virginia Tech, and is pursuing a career in the nonprofit world.


Look Beyond Present Suffering to The Presence of God

by Fr. Tommy Lane

"Twins, a sister and brother were talking to each other in the womb. The little sister said to the little brother, 'I believe that there is life after birth!'

Her brother protested: 'No, no, this is all there is. This is a dark and cozy place, and we have nothing else to do but to cling on to the cord that feeds us.'

But the little girl insisted: 'There must be something more than this dark place, there must be something else where there is light and freedom to move.'

Still she could not convince her twin brother. Then...after some silence, she said hesitantly: 'I have something else to say, and I am afraid you won't believe that either, but I think there is a mother!'

Her little brother now became furious: 'A mother, a mother, what are you talking about? I have never seen a mother and neither have you. Who put that idea in your head? As I told you, this place is all we have so let's be content.'

The little sister finally said: 'Don't you feel this pressure sometimes? Its really unpleasant and sometimes even painful.'

'Yes,' he answered, 'what's special about that?'

'Well,' the sister said, 'I think this pressure is there to get us ready for another place, much more beautiful than this, where we will see our mother face to face! Don't you think that's exciting!"

(Unfortunately I do not know the source.)

In that story the twin brother did not believe there was anything beyond what he could see and hear and touch while his twin sister believed there was a life beyond what she could see and hear and touch. That story reminds me of life. We are like the twin sister, we say "we are only passing through," meaning that this life is preparing for eternal life. We live in strange times with lots of tragedies and appalling accidents and many people dying young. During times like this we need more than ever to remember that our lives here on earth are a pilgrimage to God. We are sons and daughters of our heavenly Father since baptism. Like the girl in the womb who could not see her mother, we too believe that eternal life follows this life and that there is more to this life than we can see and hear and touch.

On the mountain Peter, James and John saw that there was more to Jesus than met the eye. During the transfiguration they got a glimpse of the future glory of Jesus' resurrection. Like them we too get glimpses of the presence of God in our lives.

  • We get glimpses of God in the love we receive from other people.
  • We get glimpses of God when badly needed help suddenly comes to us from out of nowhere.
  • We get glimpses of God when we look back over our lives and what we couldn't understand in the past makes sense now.
  • We see glimpses of God when we see someone making a sacrifice to help somebody else.
  • We see glimpses of God in the beauty of a fine day, a nice beach or a beautiful sunrise or sunset.
  • We see glimpses of God when a passage from the Bible or a homily strikes a cord in our hearts.
  • We get a glimpse of God when we spend time in prayer and experience the loving presence of God in our lives.
  • We get more than just a glimpse of God when we receive the body of Jesus in Holy Communion.

The Transfiguration reminds us of the glory of Jesus risen from the dead.

When Jesus and the disciples came down the mountain Jesus ordered them not to tell anyone about his transfiguration until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. Of course they did not know what he meant. Unknown to them the glory of Jesus' transfiguration was preparing them to accept the scandal of the cross. They would understand this only afterwards when looking back.

The good times take us through the bad times. So when our cross is heavy or when we are tempted to despair about the meaning of life, let us look beyond the pain of the present moment and remember those times when we got glimpses of God, those times when God sent us his consolations.

  • Let us look beyond the pain of life and see the presence of God in our world, and the offer of life that God wants to make to each of us.
  • Let us look beyond the illusion of happiness that this life offers to the real happiness that God offers us.
  • Let us look beyond this world to eternal life with God.

St. Paul tells us in 2 Tim 1:8-9:

8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, 9 who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began,
2 Timothy 1:8-9 (NKJV)

Paul is exhorting us to bear the hardships for the sake of the Good News, relying on the power of God who has saved us and called us to be holy.

In Gen 12:1-4, we read that Abram was called by God to leave his present place and go to a new country. He was seventy-five when called to leave his own country but he had to wait another twenty-five years for the promised son Isaac to be born so that the promise of future descendents could be fulfilled.

That was a long wait. It was a long time for him to be continually looking beyond the present to the promise of God.

With faith we can see what we cannot see with our eyes. The girl in the womb knew there was more to what she could see and hear and touch. On the mountain Peter, James and John looked beyond the appearance of Jesus and saw his future risen glory.

Let us look beyond, and see that God is really with us. God has not left us on our own, God is with us.

copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2001-2019

How the Bible Sustained Me During My Darkest Days

by David Qaoud,

I just got out of one of the most difficult seasons of my life. The Lord had me in the furnace for several months. I've dealt with physical ailments, tensions within friendships, family drama, and the pressure of major life-decisions. Most days, I could barely think straight, and some days, I could scarcely lift my head.

I received encouragement from Lecrae's song, 'Far Away'. The song is about the devastating Earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010. The unapologetic premise is God's perceived absence amid hard times. That's how I felt. I stopped asking, "How long, O LORD?" And started asking, "Are you even there, O LORD?"

How the Bible Sustained Me

Things began to slowly change. In this season, the last thing I wanted to do was read, but I did. In God's Providence, I had a copy of Tim Keller's book, Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering laying on my desk. Reluctantly, I opened it, and right away – in the Introduction, before I started the actual book, Psalm 34:1-2 was on the page:

"I will bless the LORD at all times, his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the afflicted hear and be glad."

And that's when, as they say, everything changed.

I must have read those verses a hundred times, and they never meant a thing to me. But this time - they did.

What changed my perspective was verse two: "Let the afflicted hear and be glad."

I was quickly reminded of a John Calvin quote, "There is nothing in afflictions which ought to disturb our joy." My heart changed. All I wanted was joy, and I thought I couldn't have it because of my life's circumstances. I was wrong. "Let the afflicted hear and be glad." The afflicted! Not the person in success, but in suffering. Not the one in prosperity, but in peril. And that person was me.

This one phrase changed my thinking, and reminded me that, even in afflictions, I have unspeakable joy in Christ. Indeed, afflicted people are not only allowed to have joy, but commanded to do so.

The Lord is Near to The Brokenhearted

Still, life was hard. The past few weeks have been dark and empty. I was also plagued with a serious viral infection, so I could hardly pray or read or do anything for the next 10 days. But I was desperate, so I continually went back to my Bible, again and again to Psalm 34.

This time it was verse 18: "The LORD is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in Spirit."

This verse carried me through the next few weeks. My heart was broken, and my spirit, crushed. And even though at times it didn't feel this way, I knew – because the Bible says so – that Lord was near, and he would deliver me.

It didn't matter if my friends and family and job left me, God wouldn't. He is near to me, and the preciousness of this truth, for the first time, came alive to my weary soul. Though painful at the time, I don't think I would have learned the beauty of the Scriptures this way, apart from my trials.

John Piper's mother passed away when he was 28. She was hit by a bus. After the phone call of hearing of his mother's death, he told his wife, Noel, and then wept at his bedside for two hours. What came to mind as he wept was Paul's words to the Corinthians: "Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing" (2 Corinthians 6:10).

These two things, which seem diametrically opposed, were a living reality for Piper for the first time ever. And it was only learned through suffering.

"Walking through suffering enables us to experience things the Bible talks about, which, until then, you only read about," says Piper.

There are some joys in life that you can only learn through the school of suffering.

Christian, do not despise your suffering. Instead, rejoice in it, and cling to your Bible. Ask the Holy Spirit to illuminate your heart, and the Bible's words, and then cling for dear life. There's so much beauty and power and joy and wonder in the Bible that you can only see when you're hurting. And if you look long enough in the Scriptures, your life will change, even if your circumstances don't.

I'm in a better season now. Things seem on the rise. I look back on this past season in faith, but I'm still perplexed. I don't understand why I went through everything I did. I don't know why the Lord sent so many trials my way. I don't know why I experienced so many seemingly senseless difficulties. There's a lot of things I don't know, but there is also one thing that I do know: "It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statues" (Psalm 119:71).

About The Author:

David Qaoud is a Christian, writer, and blogger from St. Louis, MO. He blogs regularly at

This article was originally published at Used with permission.


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