Suffering Is A Blessing

What?!? Dave, have you completely lost your mind? I know that’s what most of us (including me) think when reading that title. But it really is true. The suffering we pass through really is a blessing.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)

I don’t know about you, but my first reaction to suffering is to certainly consider it something – but not pure joy. What was James smoking? I want some.

We rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us. (Romans 5:3b-5a)

I think Laura Story has it right in her song Raindrops – suffering really is God’s blessing in disguise.

There are two reasons we suffer. One we bring on ourselves, and the other God brings on us. Either way, it’s a blessing.

The suffering we bring on ourselves is the logical consequences of our unrighteous actions. I’ve heard it said that God doesn’t punish sin as much as he allows it to punish itself. He removes his hand of protection and lets us taste just a bit of the stew we’ve cooked. Just enough to bring us to repentance. This is a blessing – God doesn’t leave us in our sin, but he uses its logical consequences to free us from it. He brings us to confession and repentance, getting our attention through suffering the logical consequences.

If we keep a short tab with God and repent quickly when he allows stuff to catch up with us, we avoid longer-term consequences. The suffering is a blessing – it keeps us from something worse.

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. (Hebrews 12:7a)

The second type of suffering is the type God brings on us for his glory and our benefit. Remember the debate God and Satan had over Job? Who brought Job into that conversation? God did! Twice! (See Job 1:8 and Job 2:3.) “Have you considered my servant Job?”

Often, God brings difficult things, suffering, into our lives to give us something we can endure. Not only to build character into our lives, to make us more like him, but also so he has something he can reward us for. That’s a tough pill to swallow, especially when you’ve suddenly lost a loved one or you’re going through some other tragedy in your life. I don’t want to make light of that or be flip about it. It’s not easy. It hurts. It hurts bad.

But God is in there. I went through a tragedy in my life and was on my face for a year-and-a-half crying out the Lord. He met me in that place, and in the very difficult years that followed. My story is a testimony to his faithfulness and presence through great pain.

A lot of times the suffering doesn’t seem fair. And it’s not. The suffering is only for a season, but the rewards of bearing up under it well and with faith are forever. Totally not fair, but not fair in our favor.

Worship (corporate and private) is the greatest comfort to me in my times of suffering.  How about you? Has the Lord been faithful? Can we stand with you in something while you’re waiting? Tell us in the comments.

You Are Not What You Do

For so many of us our identity is in what we do or what we’ve done. Especially men – what’s the first question we ask each other when we meet another man? “What do you do?” There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s safe small talk. But that’s not who we are.

God loves us based on our position not our accomplishments – our position as His son or daughter. Nothing we ever accomplish (good or bad) can ever change that. Nothing we do can make Him love us more or less than He does in this moment. In every moment. He’s that consistent.

We all say we believe that, but many of us secretly don’t. I say “secretly” because often it’s secret even from ourselves. We can test ourselves to see if we inwardly believe we are what we do, though. When we get mad at someone for disagreeing with us, when we take someone’s disagreement with what we said or did as a personal affront, it’s often because we believe that we are what we do. “If you attack what I do or say, you’re attacking me!” Do you see it?

You are special to God because you are you. You are valuable because you bear the image of God (see Genesis 1:26-27) whether you realize it or not. The trick is to understand who you really are, the unique person He made you to be.

Psalm 139:13-14 says, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” So before you were even born, before you had done anything good or bad, you were God’s wonderful work. And nothing we do can ever undo His work.

So let’s stop trying to be what we do. Let’s discover and walk in who we really are. Ask Him to take you on a journey of discovery.

Have you started this journey? What are you discovering? Do you identify with this? Tell us your story in the comments. What do you think?

The Power of “What If…?”

There’s one question feared by the enemy above all others. There’s one question that, if we dared to ask it and follow the answer, would disrupt the status quo more than anything else. “What if…?”

There’s something on our heart that God’s put there, but the distractions of life drown it out. The daily slog doesn’t leave us with any energy for our dreams. But what if we did follow that dream?

What if I wrote that book?

What if I reached out to that person?

What if I started my own business?

What if I dared to do what God’s put on my heart?

What if I took that risk that makes my heart sing?

What if I dared to believe who Jesus says I am?

What if I ……?

Fill in the blank for you. What is it in your heart that the daily slog is drowning out? What dreams make your heart leap? God put them there. Take the first step.

What if God’s calling you to that dream? If that were true and you were actually going to do it, what’s the first baby step you’d take in that direction? What if you took it? Take it.

We have to reach the point where we’re more afraid of not trying then we are of failing. – Jeff Goins

I reached that point and that’s why this blog exists and why I’ve written two print books (available here), and one free eBook (available here). I’m working on a couple more free eBooks that should come out by the end of the year. How about you? Have you taken the first baby step?

Does this resonate? What makes your heart sing? Are you pursuing it? Leave us a comment or shoot us an email. And please share (buttons below) if you think this would bless or inspire someone else.

Peace Making vs Peace Keeping

The beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-12 are pretty self-explanatory, if very counter-intuitive. But there’s one in particular that’s often misunderstood. At least it was by me for a long time. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9). But there’s a world of difference between peace making and peace keeping. I had them confused the majority of my life, and I’ve paid a high price for it.

When we mistakenly think Jesus said, “Blessed are the peace keepers…” we live by the ungodly principle of Peace At Any Price.

But wait a minute, I thought peace was a good thing! It is, that’s why peacemakers are blessed in the Kingdom and called sons of God. But Peace At Any Price is not a good thing at all. Peace At Any Price sacrifices the plan, wisdom, and calling of God to avoid conflict. It brings unity around a false peace. And false peace is not really peace at all – it’s oppression.

Peace making is bravely going into an interpersonal conflict and bringing the plan and the wisdom, not to mention the calling and the purpose, of God to it. If God’s wisdom is accepted, it brings true peace to the situation. However, if God’s wisdom is repeatedly rejected, then it’s time for godly conflict.

But peace keeping is quite different. Peace keeping is acquiescing to the situation. Peace keeping compromises (or outright silences) God’s plans and purposes. We trade God’s calling for peace in our interpersonal relationships. I confess I did this for a long time, and my family paid dearly for it.

By my observation, many husbands live by Peace At Any Price. It takes one to know one – I did for a long time. Too often we trade our vision for our family, and our place of leadership in our household, for peace in our home.

Now common sense here, that’s obviously not an excuse to lord it over your wife. And wives have a significant role and get valid downloads from God just like husbands do. But, c’mon guys, we need to be the spiritual leaders of our home, not our wives.

Peace At Any Price is institutionalized in the culture, even in the church, with regard to home and family. How many times have you heard people, even Christians, say one of these re-phrases of Peace At Any Price:

Happy wife, happy life. Translation: “Sell out your vision for your family in order to keep your wife happy.” Or you could say it this way: “Lack of conflict in your home is worth more than God’s calling on your family.” Sorry, but not true.

If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy! Translation: “If I don’t get my way, I’ll make my entire family miserable!” This is hardly the manifestation of the Fruit of the Spirit in a godly woman’s life. Anybody out there still think this isn’t demonic?

Now please don’t flip out on me. This doesn’t mean a husband should just impose his vision on his family. It’s just as demonic for a husband to expect his wife to roll-over and practice Peace At Any Price. None of us, husband or wife, parent or child, teacher or student, should compromise or abandon what they know is God’s wisdom, calling, plan, and/or purpose on their lives or in any situation.

It comes down to this. Peace at Any Price, a.k.a., peace keeping, is just getting bullied, pure and simple. If you are living Peace At Any Price, you have let your God-given identity get shut down by a bully. You need to repent and stand up to the bully.

In a marriage, when we come out of being bullied, we don’t impose our calling on the other person. We don’t want to become the bully. Instead, we invite: “This is where God is calling me to go. I’m going there, and I’m inviting you to come along.” And we walk toward God’s calling on our life with an open hand back to the other person. They may take it or not; that’s on them. But we are walking toward our calling, and that brings true peace, in our heart if not to the situation.

Blessed are the peacemakers (not the peace keepers), for they will be called sons of God.

Does this hit home to you? Tell us your story in the comments? Are you living Peace At Any Price? Did you used to? How did you come out of it? Tell us in the comments, your story will help others. And if you think this article would bless someone else, please share it with the buttons below.