Thursday, January 30, 2014

On Suffering

Maybe it's odd, but I like to read theological books on suffering. Since we have to face it every which way we turn, in every shape and size, I figure that learning about it helps me navigate it with better focus, remembering that it's more than aggravating or intimidating or excruciating; it's a tool God uses to shape and refine me, helping me to trust Jesus who knows suffering--and sympathizes with me in mine (Hebrews 4:15). He's taking the "bad" and using it for good (Roman 8:28).

Lately I've been listening to a sermon series on Job, Job: The Gospel of Suffering, preached by Tullian Tchividjian. (Great name, huh?) The messages are meaty and encouraging; I highly recommend them.

Here's an excerpt from the sixth one (of eleven) in Tchividjian's series:

If the foundation of your happiness is your things--in other words, if you go through life concluding that the thing that makes me who I am is this position, the things that make me matter are these relationships or having this name or this money; if your things, your ambitions, your dreams, your material well-being, your relationships, your position, your possessions, if your things is what you are basing your happiness on--then suffering will be pulling you away from the uttermost foundation of your happiness because that is what suffering is. It's taking away something that's important to you...But if, like Job, your joy is anchored in God, then suffering drives you deeper into your source of joy and happiness. See the difference? If you build your life on things, suffering takes you away from the source of your joy, but if you build your life on God, suffering drives you deeper into your source of joy.

Mercifully, even when we build our lives on things that won't last, God uses suffering to show us our shifty foundation, and we are given the invitation to move from it, to Him, where we always find rest, security, hope, and joy, no matter the circumstances.

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