We all know that life has some amazingly beautiful moments but we also know that life has some extremely difficult and heartbreaking moments as well. Sometimes these heartbreaking moments last longer than a moment and turn into a season of life. Often in these seasons it can be challenging to see that there are more beautiful moments coming. We can allow our emotions and the lies that we tell ourselves to reign these seasons of our lives and become downtrodden and depressed. We allow the once tangible hope of Christ that we were experiencing begin to fade away.
So the question is, is it possible to remain hopeful though the midst of hard times? Have you ever been able to see your suffering as a blessing?
Let us take a moment and think back to the greatest suffering the world has ever seen. The innocent death of Jesus Christ on the cross where He becomes the ultimate sacrifice for every human being and experiences separation from God is the greatest suffering this world has ever seen. You can recount the story by reading it in Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, or John 19.
“And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 47 And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, “This man is calling Elijah.” 48 And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. 49 But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” 50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.” Matthew 27:46-49
Now think of the amazing blessing that came from this unimaginable suffering. When we think of blessings, the first things that come to mind are things like sweet moments with family, a house, making ends meet, a good day… would your first intuition be to call a time of suffering a blessing?
Let us look at 1 Peter 4:13 “But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed…”
1 Peter 4:1 “Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh,[a] arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God”
Romans 5: 3-5 “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
2 Corinthians 1:7 “Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.”
2 Corinthians 4:16- 17 “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self[d] is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
I could continue to show you scripture that furthers my point but I think you have been presented with enough scriptural evidence to understand where I am coming from.
When we experience suffering we can still have hope. There is a purpose even though sometimes we do not ever understand what that purpose may be.
Many of you are probably familiar with the hymn titled “It is well with my soul.” This hymn was penned by Horatio G. Spafford in the midst of immense affliction. Some have even ventured to say that his saga is reminiscent of the story of Job. The wealthy businessman lost all of his wealth in the Chicago Fire of 1871 and also experienced the death of 5 children. Yet, in the midst of it all, he clung to Christ as his hope. Here are the lyrics to the famous hymn:
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
It is well with my soul,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!
And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.
If one did not know the history behind the affliction the author endured, they may venture to say that someone who experienced true suffering could never write such a song. How could one possibly endure suffering and write words such as, “peace like a river” and whatever my lot I will say, it is well. It is simply not in our human nature to associate these things with suffering.
Insert God and the picture of Christ that we have been examining into the picture and it all changes. Although we may not say that things are going well, we can still say that it is well with our soul even in the midst of the toughest of trials because of the hope we have in Christ.
Please do not misunderstand me in that suffering is still hard and it is a fight every hour to trust in the hope of Christ. There will be times that we fail. There will be times that we do not want to see God’s hand in our suffering. But it is of the utmost importance to submerge ourselves in the truths that God has laid before us in scripture and pray them to ourselves in the midst of suffering and in the midst of joy.
There have been many a days that I have sang this song over and over again to myself because it was all I could do to cling to the promises of God. I felt like everything else around me was giving way and that I could not possibly hold on. I have felt the sorrows like sea billows roll but I have also felt peace like a river in the midst of a stormy sea because Christ has regarded my helpless estate and has shed His own blood for my soul.
My question for you today is can you say, “it is well with my soul?” Whatever it is that you are going through today or in this season of life, can you see the hope of Christ in the midst of the sea billows?