A Prayer for the Hurting This Christmas

Heavenly Father,

You are Immanuel, God With Us. This brings me such comfort, as I am hurting badly and need to know that you are near. This time of year is filled with gifts and the blessing of Christ coming into the world—but I can’t help but grieve. I can’t help but wish that all was well, or that I could run from the pain. All is not well. I am hurting.

My great comfort is that you see me and have provided for my deepest need; you’ve forgiven my sin and washed me white as snow. The grave offense that once kept me from you has been dealt with in Christ. Thank you, Father, that there is now no condemnation for me because of your Son, my Savior. I want to preach to my soul your salvation because this reminds me that you will not leave me or forsake me in my pain. You are with me, Immanuel. Even when it hurts. Help me to know this, to believe you.

Give me eyes to see you this Christmas in ways that I wouldn’t apart from the pain…

Continue reading

Advertisements

No. 2 | Christ Came into Hostility

If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. (John 15:18)

A world of hostility toward truth, a world infatuated with sin, a world full of broken people who want to rule themselves—Jesus was born into this world. And if Jesus was received in this way, with hatred, should we expect to be received any differently?

For some of us, Christmas carries with it a suffering and hardship rooted in hostility. Perhaps a close friend, relative, or spouse has betrayed you, leaving behind wakes of bitterness and confusion that make it difficult to rejoice in this season. Perhaps the political climate and culture wars harshly remind you that all isn’t right with the world, that total justice has yet to be served, that our nation teems with lost souls who need the rule of Christ the King.

Perhaps this Christmas, rather than joy and peace flourishing in your relationships, tensions are high and truth is a battle to be fought. Christ came into this world, freely and joyfully, and he walks closely with you in yours.

Continue reading

God Knows When You Don’t

Right now, there’s a lot I don’t know.

I don’t know what today will bring. Or tomorrow, for that matter. I don’t know how long I will live, or when I will die. I don’t know how many kids my husband and I will raise, or if we’ll be able to have them at all. I don’t know where we’ll be living in a year, five years, 10 years. I don’t know when this season of pain will end—or if it ever will.

I don’t know a lot of things. But regardless of what I don’t know, God does.

God knows.

Continue reading

Join Me in #MakingMercyGreat

May I make a request of you?

Yesterday, our pastor wrapped up his series on contentment in the Christian life. (It is nothing short of excellent, so please listen if you have the time!) Of all the sermons and points he preached, I found myself continually going back to one application in particular: “the rhetoric of the Spirit.” It has already proven in these past three weeks to be an enormous grace during times of hardship, pain, and suffering.

Here is what Pastor Colin preached:

Make more of your joys than you do of your sorrows. Make more of your gains than you do of your losses. Do this in your thinking, in your speaking, and even in your praying, and you will grow in contentment. I’ve included praying here because of what Paul says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6). If you do this, “the peace of God… will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (4:7).

So bring your requests to God. But if your prayers are only a long list of requests, your praying will not bring you peace. All you are doing is filling your mind with problems in the presence of God. Don’t let your prayers become an exercise in worrying on your knees! Bring to mind the blessings of God in your life. Give thanks for all Christ has done for you and for all that you are in him. Bring your requests to God, with thanksgiving, and the peace of God will guard your heart and mind.

Luther has a wonderful comment about “the rhetoric of the Spirit.” (Rhetoric relates to speaking, and so “the rhetoric of the Spirit” is Luther’s way of describing how the Holy Spirit speaks.) “If a cross comes, to make the cross but little, but if there is a mercy, to make the mercy great.”¹

The Devil has a different way of speaking, “If there is a cross, the Devil makes it greater than it is, and so brings discontent. And if there is a mercy, it is the rhetoric of the devil to make the mercy less. ‘Aye, indeed,’ [the Devil] says, ‘the thing is a good thing, but what is it? It is no big deal.’”²

When you are listening to music, you have some choices as to how it will sound. You can turn up the treble or you can turn up the bass. The music is the same, but it will sound quite different depending on the settings that you choose.

Turn up the ‘mercies’ in the music of your life. The rhetoric of the Spirit magnifies your mercies! A person who is filled with the Holy Spirit makes more of their blessings than they make of their sorrows.

[1] Cited in Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, p. 155, Banner of Truth, 1964. [2] Ibid., p. 156.

Let’s Start Something

Brothers and sisters, can we start something here today? Can we resolve to make more of our joys than we do of our sorrows? I’m envisioning a wave of mercy-filled thanksgiving that proclaims the greatness of God’s mercy, so that our struggles, sufferings, and pains become smaller in comparison.

So many of you are suffering. So this is for you, and for the body of Christ as a whole. Do this in the privacy of prayer, or add it to your social media feeds. Make the crosses in your life but little, but if there is a mercy, make the mercy great!

Here’s mine to start:

A great mercy is going shopping at the big grocery store, and making it through without pain! #MakingMercyGreat

A few practical ideas:

1. Pray

Take Pastor Colin’s suggestion, and don’t let your prayers become an exercise in worrying on your knees! Make God’s mercies great, especially as you commune with God in prayer.

2. Post on Social Media (#MakingMercyGreat)

For the sake of being encouraged by each other’s mercies, let’s call it #MakingMercyGreat on social media. Any time you see God’s mercy and desire to “turn up the ‘mercies’ in the music of your life,” use the hashtag to tell us what you are thankful for!

3. Send Me an Email

really want to hear about how God’s mercies are making your crosses but little. Send me an email: kleighwetherell@gmail.com. (If I can use your “mercy” on this blog, let me know. I might put together an article with a bunch of them listed.)

Take one of these actions right now. Ready, set, go!

Two Reasons to Draw Near to God in Suffering (Rather Than Reject Him)

Picture David laying prostrate before God in a dank, dark cave, the sweat of suffering coating his brow, as he cries out for comfort and deliverance from his enemies, who hotly pursue him.

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?

   How long will you hide your face from me?

How long must I take counsel in my soul

   and have sorrow in my heart all the day?

How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? (Psalm 13:1-2)

Before the Lord, David pours out his frustration and distress, unsure if he will see the light of another day. In his isolation, as he hides himself from the ruthless King Saul, thoughts of defeat torment him—maybe God has hidden his face and will not help.

Yet, something beautiful is happening in David’s soul during this seemingly torturous scene in the cave. Rather than rejecting God and despairing of life, he is drawn by suffering to the throne of the only One who can save to the uttermost.

What made the difference?

Continue reading

Four Reasons to Be of Good Courage in Suffering

What does it look like to suffer well?

It’s easy to answer this question in theory, but when suffering enters our experience, it’s much harder to reckon with. What are we to do with our many emotions? How are we to talk about our suffering with others? What does it mean for our prayer life? We wonder, Is God even there?

I’ve pondered all these questions, as I’ve struggled on-and-off-again with sleeping soundly through the night, with chronic physical pain, and with a general weariness of body, mind, and soul. I’ve wondered if it’s okay to be angry, when it’s right to ask God for deliverance from trials, and how it’s possible to be joyful despite perplexing circumstances. Continue reading

Do Not Regard God’s Discipline Lightly

I’ve never met a person who said that discipline was pleasant. Parents battle their kid’s temper tantrums with heavy hearts and tears, athletes break their bodies in order to build strength and train for victory, and reckless drivers receive expensive tickets so the roads are kept safe.

Discipline is often painful in the moment, but its rewards are great. This is what the writer of Hebrews was expressing when he cited Proverbs 3:11-12:

My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,

   nor be weary when reproved by him.

For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,

   and chastises every son whom he receives. (Hebrews 12:5-6)

The Lord’s discipline is a means to our growth in holiness:

Continue reading

Suffering Is Not What It Seems

What if suffering isn’t quite what it seems?

Often, suffering is viewed as a mood-destroying interruption (in our best moments) or a faith-wrecking obstacle (in our worst). Whether we are hitting one too many red lights, causing us to be late for work, or we have just received a bad diagnosis from the doctor, our instinctual reaction to suffering is to flee.

Suffering is our foe.

But what if we are wrong? What if the pain we feel in our arthritic bones is actually evidence of our comfort? What if the heart-wrenching sorrow we experience during a messy breakup is actually a means to joy? What if the grief we are enduring from losing a loved one actually points us to a rejoicing hope?

It all sounds too good to be true. My suffering hurts and, if I’m honest, I would prefer to dwell on how it is affecting my life because…well…giving into negativity is way easier than the alternative.

And what exactly is the alternative? It is believing that suffering is not actually what it seems – but it takes some serious renewing of our minds to see and understand suffering for what it really is.

What Suffering Isn’t

Think about a time of your life when you suffered. Picture it. What thoughts ran through your head? More importantly, what did you find yourself believing about God, even if you never put your thoughts into words?

Often, we think of suffering as proof of God’s absence or as displaying a flaw in God’s person, such as a lack of love (“If God loved me, he wouldn’t let this happen”) or a lack of sovereign power (“This is disastrous. How could God let this happen?”). But what if we realized that suffering assures us of God’s presence, bearing his mark of love upon us and displaying his sovereign control over every detail of our lives?

Consider Paul’s words in Romans 8:16-18:

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

No, according to the Lord, suffering is precisely the opposite of how we often interpret it: It is evidence that God, in his tender love, has saved us and is changing us, by his wise sovereignty, to be glorified with Christ.

And if we realized this in our day to day lives, if we viewed all of our suffering through this lens, it would change everything. It would change how we endure.* Suffering would no longer get such a bad rap and would instead be the impetus for rejoicing among God’s children.

Fallen, Finite, Forgetful

Even though we read what God’s Word says about suffering, we still struggle to apply this marvelous truth to our lives. Why is it that our reaction to suffering continues to be “bad,” “flee,” and “resist”?

There are three primary reasons for our instinctively negative response:

We are fallen sinners. For those who have put their faith in Christ, a battle is underway between the flesh and the Spirit, between the law of sin and the law of God (Romans 7:21-23). At the moment Adam and Eve believed the serpent’s lie, the perfect law of God within the human heart became depraved and distorted. This means that our fleshly tendency is to respond to suffering in a number of different ways, including anger, frustration, bitterness, self-pity, cynicism, depression, and even despair.

We are finite creatures. Not only are our minds affected by sin, our bodies are as well. The aging of the physical body unto eventual death is equally a result of the fall, for the soul and the body were never meant to be separated. This means that most of us will experience physical pain that blatantly hurts. And pain is distracting! The enemy of our souls loves to use pain to take our eyes off our identity as God’s chosen children, we who actually prove the Father’s love and sovereignty in our bodies through the grace of suffering.

We are forgetful saints. Finally, we battle spiritual forgetfulness**. We read promises like Romans 8 and, in the next hour, find ourselves grumbling again. We forget that we actually deserve much worse than suffering: We deserve God’s wrath. We forget that Christ suffered immeasurably for our sake when he died an excruciating death on the cross and, therefore, we forget that he understands, empathizes, and draws near to us in our own sufferings. We forget that Christ’s suffering was a means to his glory, when he defeated death through the resurrection. We forget his promise in the ascension that he will send the Spirit to bear witness to our identity as children of God. We forget that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us in eternity with Christ.

Fall on God’s Grace

What is a fallen, finite, forgetful saint to do?  Fall on the grace that Christ’s very suffering purchased for us in the gospel. Yes, we will suffer. And yes, we will forget. We will negatively react to our pain, despite the wonderful gospel-reality that our suffering reflects. But praise be to God, our Lord and Savior knew suffering unto death for this very reason: to redeem a fallen, finite, and forgetful people for himself.

Our suffering is not what it seems, for it is so much greater than it seems. It is infinitely better and ultimately worth it.

[Post credit: The Gospel Coalition]