It's Not the End. It's the Beginning.
One of the most damaging lies we believe in Western culture is the lie of self-sufficiency. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not inherently wrong to become a mature, independent person who knows how to keep a clean house and spend within your means, but the slide into prideful isolation is an easy one. Add hurt to the mix and self-protection will further distance you from the people (and God) you need most.
Another lie we believe is that discomfort is inherently bad and to be avoided at all costs. Maybe that’s more human than Western, but in affluent nations like ours, the avoidance of pain drives whole retail markets. With enough money, gadgets, apps, central air and heating, television, and Egyptian cotton sheets can make you comfortable everywhere you go.
No wonder we have such a hard time with suffering. If we don’t have a community we’re comfortable being vulnerable with in our suffering AND we don’t know how to suffer in the first place, then disappointment, loss, or grief will blindside and flatten us.
Romans 5:3-5 says, “…we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame (or does not disappoint), because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Do you notice that it doesn’t say “we ignore/avoid/numb our sufferings,” but that we REJOICE in them. As believers in Jesus, we can face hardship with JOY, trusting that endurance, character, and hope are waiting for us if we’ll trust God through it. So, how do we endure?
This Sunday, Jake shared some heavy things he’s experienced, but he gave us two lessons he’s learned about suffering. First, get comfortable being uncomfortable. Through difficulty lies a deeper, richer hope and relationship with God.
Second, when we admit we can’t do it on our own, it’s not the end. It’s the beginning. Lean into relationships where you can give and receive love, trust, encouragement, and sharing in suffering. Practice the ministry of presence and let others do the same for you. Stop trying to go it alone and you’ll find you can not only hold the weight of hard things but also come out on the other side deeply hopeful because of the work of the Holy Spirit in you.
To the world, hope because of suffering makes no sense. But in the upside-down kingdom, it’s how we become who we were made to be.