“My Comfort In My Suffering Is This…”
“…Your promise preserves my life” (Psalm 119:50).
Let’s notice what that verse does NOT say:
-my accomplishments preserve my life;
-my bank account preserves my life;
-my obedience to God preserves my life;
-getting what I want/pray for preserves my life;
-easier circumstances preserve my life;
-friends/family/loved ones preserve my life;
-good physical health preserves my life;
-being in love preserves my life;
-having children preserves my life;
-getting married preserves my life;
-stuff/material possessions preserve my life;
-being popular preserves my life;
-getting a new job/promotion preserves my life;
-my diplomas preserve my life;
-my external beauty/good looks preserve my life.
None of the items in the list above are inherently bad–it’s a blessing from God to have friends/loved ones! It is a blessing from God to have good physical health! It is a blessing from God to have easier life circumstances! It is a blessing from God to get a great new job! It is a blessing from God to be married and to have children! Etc. etc. etc.
Yet while all those things can be blessings from God, NONE OF THEM can preserve our lives in the midst of our suffering…none of them can keep us afloat when we feel ready to sink and drown in the undertoe of life’s painful currents. They can be channels through which God reminds us of His life-preserving promises, but they are not the promises themselves. Just as when you are thirsty you don’t drink the actual water bottle but instead the water inside the bottle, so too can God use many parts of life to point us to and remind us of His life-preserving promises…
…but only God’s unfailing promises to us can keep us afloat when we are shipwrecked in the middle of the ocean of life’s storms.
So what are some of these sturdy, buoyant, waterproof promises of God that we are to cling to in life’s hurricanes? The Bible is FILLED with them! Here are just a few…
Let’s dive in!
1. “I [Jesus] am with you always” (Matthew 28:20).
2. “If you believe in Me [Jesus] you will live forever!” (John 11:25-26)
3. “I [Jesus] am going to prepare your eternal home in heaven” (John 14:1-3)
4. “I [Jesus] will return to earth to bring you to heaven to be with me forever!” (John 14:1-3)
5. “You cannot be snatched out of My [Jesus’] hand” (John 10:27-30).
6. “I [God] will eventually end your suffering, heal you, and wipe away your tears forever!” (Revelation 21:3-5)
7. “Though everything else might change/fail you, Me [Jesus] and My promises will come true & never fail you!” (Luke 21:33)
8. “If you have received Jesus as your Savior/Forgiveness you can never be condemned/sent to hell!” (Romans 8:1)
9. “Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 8:35-39)
10. “If you have received Jesus as your Savior, all your sins are forgiven, God’s Word lives in you and you are victorious over the devil!” (1 John 2:12-14)
Now THOSE are some serious life-preservers!
But how do we cling to those promises? How do we practically hang on to them in our storms?
1. Read them! Remind yourself of them! Recite them! Remember them! Financially, you can only make withdrawals on money that you have previously deposited. This is true spiritually as well! How can God bless us through His Word if we never read His Word? An encouraging note from a friend, if left unread in its envelope, cannot encourage you! So let’s start small and begin investing a few minutes each day to read the Bible, to read the promises listed above, and to remind ourselves of them throughout the day by posting them throughout the house and talking about them with loved ones. Keeping our minds filled with God’s promises is a great way to keep our minds empty of fear’s threats. This is why Paul says to fill our minds with what is good, noble, pure, etc. (Philippians 4:8)–a stomach filled with healthy veggies doesn’t have much room for junk food!
2. Live each day as if the promises above are true! Some people who have physically limped for so long continue to limp even after their leg has been declared medically sound! Even after their leg is physically healed they need to be mentally healed to use their leg and put weight on their leg as if it can handle it because it CAN handle it! This is true spiritually as well. When we are going through hard times, it is easy to forget who we are in Christ Jesus, it is easy to forget our inner identity as one of God’s beloved children because of our outer circumstances. Though we might not FEEL like royalty, we can choose to ACT like royalty. Though we may not FEEL like God is with us, we can choose to ACT like God is with us (because He is!). Though we may not FEEL like Jesus has already won the victory over sin and death in our lives, we can choose to ACT like He has (because He HAS!). If you lose your wedding ring, you don’t all of a sudden stop acting as if you are married! The same is true in our marriage to Jesus. If you were asked to walk across a tightrope, seeing the sturdy safety net beneath you would help you to walk across the tightrope. But if a fog rolled in and suddenly blocked your view of the safety net, true faith in the net would express itself by choosing to walk across the tightrope as if the safety net were there. Jesus invites us to do the same each day, to live not by what our physical eyes see in the world but by what the spiritual eyes of our faith see in the Word! (John 20:29; 2 Corinthians 5:7)
3. Continue to do the foundational things that God has asked us to do (even if we don’t feel like it!). One of the biggest dangers when we suffer is that we STOP doing the primary things that God has called us to do:
-worship Him for Who He is and what He has done;
-talk with and listen to Him;
-love others in tangible/practical/sacrificial ways, especially our spouse, children, neighbors, friends, co-workers, etc.;
-do our daily tasks like investing in our marriage, raising our children, work, chores, etc.
And yet one of the best ways to get through the pain of slamming your toe into a coffee table isn’t to sit down; it’s to WALK IT OFF! Keep using that toe in the midst of the pain! After cross country races in high school, when I crossed the finish line after a three mile race my first desire was to fall down on the ground. But my coaches would tell us to “keep walking, keep moving, don’t hunch over, keep your torso straight so that more air can get in your fully-expanded lungs!” They knew that doing so would help us recover faster and more completely. The same is true spiritually. In the midst of suffering, we put God’s promises into practice (i.e. we get into the life-boat that He has given us) when we continue to love Him and love others even though we simply want to withdraw and hide until the storm passes, until the pain goes away, until the suffering ends. But God knows that we too need to “walk it off” and continue to put one foot in front of the other even when we don’t want to. One of the truest examples of faith in Jesus is treating Him with the same worship, praise, thanksgiving and obedience when times are hard as we do when times are easy.
Now, there are times when we experience traumatic pain that does require us to slow down, scale back, rest in God, allow the Holy Spirit to spiritually rehabilitate us, and allow others to serve US! A track star, after breaking his/her leg, should not and cannot race the following week! But they can help the team in other ways by staying OFF the broken leg, resting, and allowing it to heal over time. Sometimes we simply need to soak in God’s love and promises like a bruised athlete soaks in a hot tub, doing nothing other than staying still! Seasons like this can be extremely healing and can allow us to “get back in the game” in the future with more of God’s love, faith, grace, and power flowing through us to others.
One More Thing
May this passage from God’s Word encourage you in your storm:
“That is why we never give up.
Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day.
For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long.
Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!
So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen.
For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever”
(2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NLT).
God has graciously and expertly and lovingly provide a life-raft for us when we are shipwrecked and capsized and adrift at sea: His unfailing promises!
May we choose each day to get in His boat…all aboard!