3 Ways to Get the Most Out of Suffering

At first, this may seem like an odd pursuit—getting the most out of suffering. Usually, our first response is to extract ourselves from suffering. That response is normal.

But what if we can’t remove ourselves from our suffering—or at least not right away? What do we do then? We have a choice either to waste our suffering or make the most of it.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” – James 1:2-4

James reveals a simple truth about trials and suffering—they are always a test of our faith. How we react to suffering and what we allow it to work in our lives reveals the genuineness of our faith in God. We’ve trusted him when all is going well. Will we trust him now that all seems lost?

Typically, in the middle of difficult trials, at least two soul-rending questions surface:

  • Is God bigger than our trial?
  • Why is he allowing this to happen to me? In other words, can I trust God’s care for me in spite of this trial?

Here are 3 ways to get the most out of suffering

  1. Continue to deliberately trust God through your trial or suffering. Go back to what you know. You know that God is all powerful. You know that God loves you unconditionally—so intensely that he gave his Son Jesus to die for you. You’re his child. Trust him and take joy in that fact. Express your joy openly in praise and thanksgiving to him. (1 Peter 1:3-9)
  2. Persevere through your suffering, allowing it to make you more Christlike. Never give up! As meaningless as your trial seems right now, believe that God doesn’t squander anything on us. He’s using this trial to help us: see him more clearly, focus on what’s really important, and make us more holy. (Hebrews 12:7-13)
  3. Continue to love and serve others. When we’re in the middle of suffering, it’s easy to become self-focused. Resist that temptation. Instead, focus on others. The glory of Christ will shine more brightly through us in trials than when all is going well. (1 Peter 4:12-19)

When we do those things, our suffering produces:

  • Deeper faith and maturity in us
  • Praise and glory to Christ
  • Clear evidence to others of God’s love and power

Suffering and trials are tough enough already. Let’s not waste them and add to our suffering!

©2015 Rob Fischer

 

What’s Your Story?

“Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story!” That’s how Psalm 107:2 challenges us.

How quickly we forget (I forget) all that the Lord has done for us. How easily we dismiss His gracious provision yesterday in light of our troubles today. How casually we take for granted the necessities of life that God has lovingly provided for us.

“Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story!” What has God been doing in your life? What are the evidences of His providence and divine care? Take inventory of all you have and are. Where would you be without the Lord?

This Psalm continues, “Let them [i.e., the Lord’s redeemed] give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.” (Psalm 107:8-9)

As my wife and I recently stepped out in obedience to the Lord to follow Him into unknown territory, He has been so faithful in meeting our needs! Recently, as I had the privilege of writing another tithe check to our church, I was overwhelmed with the sense of God’s goodness and gracious provision! Being able to give back to the Lord is a declaration of His love. He truly “satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.”

What’s your story? What is God doing in your life? “Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story!” Tell someone your story of God’s unfailing love today.

©2013 Rob Fischer

Renewing Your Mind

Romans 12:2, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

Many of us have embraced harmful patterns of thinking and have become stuck in stifling misconceptions for so long that we may not even remember where they came from or how we came to embrace them! These harmful patterns of thinking and stifling misconceptions prevent us from enjoying God, others and life itself. Transformation comes about by the renewing of our minds.

What are these harmful thinking patterns and stifling misconceptions? These may be wide and varied, but a few examples might be helpful. We might hold misconceptions about:

  • Who God is
  • Whether God cares about and takes an interest in us
  • What God expects of us
  • Whether our life brings value to God and others
  • What’s really important in life

Examples of harmful thinking patterns may include:

  • Focusing on our past failures, faults, or weaknesses
  • Self-deprecating talk (negative self-talk)
  • A grumbling or complaining spirit
  • Preoccupation with self and needing everything our way
  • Assuming the worst of others

So, how do we renew our minds? How do we trade out old, harmful patterns for new, life-giving ones?  Renewing our minds is a process that we must pursue in total dependence on and in partnership with Christ. Let me suggest a very practical process for renewing our minds. This process enables us to break free from misconceptions that are inconsistent with God’s truth and grace, and embrace thoughts that are consistent with His nature. This process for renewing our minds involves the following six actions.

Hear it! We receive new information – truth that may contradict or expand on our current understanding. Hearing can come from reading God’s Word, through prayer and meditation on His Word, or from others who are speaking God’s truth in our lives.

Example: Perhaps I am stuck in the misconception that God doesn’t love me because of something I’ve done (or repeatedly done). As a result, I speak negatively about myself and think poorly of myself. But I’m confronted with the truth from God’s Word, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1 NIV) God’s truth challenges my misconceptions and harmful thinking.

Chew it! Once we’ve received this new information, we chew on it, meditate on it, or think about it. We turn it every which way in our minds to investigate it. We think through its relationship with other truths and its implications for our lives. Chewing it may involve further input and dialogue with other followers of Christ. Spend time in prayer chewing on it.

Continuing with the example above, I read 1 John 3:1 and am impacted by its truth and the fact that it stands against the misconceptions and harmful patterns that I’ve been harboring. So I begin to chew on or meditate on this truth. In my meditations I realize that God didn’t merely “save me from my sins,” or “save me from hell,” He lavished His great, unconditional love on me and adopted me as His own child! “If He loved me so much before I came to know Him, how much more now that I am His child?!”

Believe it! After considering this truth, if we become convinced of its veracity (or integrity), then we give intellectual ascent to it. We choose to believe it. Faith is a necessary element in this process. We are agreeing with God. Tell Him in conversation with Him that you are agreeing with Him about this truth and thank Him for it.

From the example above, I continue this process of transforming my mind by embracing the truth that God lavishes His great love on me. He calls me His child. I affirm and believe what God says about me, “I am God’s child!” “Thank You, Lord, for making me Your child! Thank You for your boundless love for me!”

Apply it! Having chosen to believe this new truth, we need to look for practical ways to apply it in our lives.  As we chewed on this truth, we probably considered ways we might employ it in our lives. We must look for specific opportunities to integrate this truth and experience its effects in our lives. Doing so will establish new thought pathways in our brains, thereby helping us to form new habits. We must experience real life victory as a result of it.

Continuing with the same example above, having accepted and embraced God’s truth about me, I now apply that truth to my life. I begin to see myself as God sees me (as His beloved child) rather than as I formerly saw myself. I recognize that my self-deprecating talk must sadden my heavenly Father, because that’s not the way He sees me. So, I begin to talk about myself (humbly) the way my heavenly Father would talk about me. I also begin to recognize God’s grace and love all around me that He constantly lavishes on me as His child.

Share it! Once we’ve decided to accept this new truth and we’ve experienced its impact in our lives, there is no better way to fully cement it in our lives than by sharing that truth and our experience with others. Some people will agree with our new understanding and confirm what we’ve come to believe. When others disagree with us, we will be compelled to defend our new-found truth. This activity, though sometimes difficult, will imbed this truth in our minds even more deeply.  (See Romans 10:10)

Following the progression of this example, as I’ve chosen to believe God’s truth and apply it in my life, I begin to experience its power! I can’t help but share with others what God is doing in my life. I tell them, “I’m a beloved child of God! Can you believe it! In spite of who I was, and even though I still blow it, He lavishes His great love on me. He not only loves me, He likes me, because I’m His child!” (Sharing with others like this often provides the first action for them in this process.)

Live it! A natural by-product of sharing a truth with others is our desire to demonstrate that truth by our lives. We hate hypocrisy, so we are driven to ensure that our lifestyle is consistent with our words. As we live out this truth, new habits and patterns of behavior spring up in various areas of our lives. The truth of Romans 12:2 becomes reality in our lives: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Emphasis added.)

Staying with our example, my mind is being transformed and others are beginning to see the change in me. I express to God my gratitude and worship! As His child, I enjoy His presence! I love simply hanging out with Him! All around me, I witness God’s tender love, care and provision for me as His child. My thoughts and language are now filled with praise, thanksgiving and adoration for the Lord. I see my self-worth is wrapped up in Him. Because He is my loving heavenly Father, I seek to please Him in all I do.

What I’ve attempted to do above is demonstrate through a simple process how we can “be transformed by the renewing of our minds.” All through this process the Holy Spirit works in our hearts. We partner with Him and rely on Him to do His life-changing work in us.

In Romans 12:2, in the Message, Eugene Peterson paraphrases the results of renewing our minds, “Fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”

 

©2013 Rob Fischer

A Parable of Two Men

For 40 years God led Israel through the barren wilderness of the Middle East. In spite of their repeated grumblings and rebellion, God continued to love, lead and provide for his people. Even when they were unfaithful to him, he remained faithful to them. In all those years, God sustained this massive company of people by miraculously providing them with manna. Manna was a food substance that God caused to appear on the ground each morning. The people of Israel gathered manna as their staple food through all those 40 years.

In year 39 of Israel’s wandering in the wilderness two men woke up one morning. One man got up, put on his outer garment and lifted the flap over the door of his tent to step out into the desert morning. As he ducked under the tent flap it dumped a load of sand down his neck. He cursed under his breath and angrily shook out his clothes muttering, “I am sick and tired of this infernal sand! I’ve got sand in my bed, sand in my hair, sand in my food! Everywhere there’s sand! I hate this life of constant moving and upheaval. And guess what’s for breakfast? Manna—again!”

This man’s mood was no private matter, but spread unmercifully like cancer to his wife and children. With his incessant bitterness, anger and complaints he poisoned the minds and attitudes of his family and friends. His poison took its toll on his relationships replacing intimacy with isolation, trust with suspicion and love with self-centeredness. This man truly lived out the miserable life he envisioned for himself. By making much of himself and his circumstances, he lived as though God were puny and others insignificant.

Across the vast camp of the Israelites that same morning another man awoke. This man’s circumstances were in no wise different than the first man. But as this man stepped out of his tent that morning shaking the sand from his clothes, he stood up and filled his lungs with the fresh, cool desert air. He looked to the east watching the glory of the sun as it began to dispel the night. He thought to himself that the sunrise was but a tiny reflection of the magnificent glory of its Creator.

He expectantly looked out over the hillsides around their camp and saw the familiar blanket of manna in the receding shadows. Suddenly he was overwhelmed with a sense of God’s presence, faithfulness and love for him and his family. Without inhibition he raised his hands and looked up into the sky and worshipped out loud, “Thank you, my God, my King, my Shepherd! Thank you for another “manna-day”, a day in which you show yourself faithful and loving toward me and your people. Thank you for providing for us, O gracious Lord!”

This man’s mood was no private matter either, but spread to others like the warmth of the rising sun. His humble gratitude made him a delight to be around! His family and friends found his faith and joy contagious, so that they too gave God glory. By making much of God, he saw more of God and his greatness and love. And by experiencing God’s love, he could not help but love others around him on whom God had also poured out his love.

Which man are you?

©2009 Rob Fischer