There are lots of ways the Lord speaks to us—through His Word, through His Spirit, through creation, through songs and hymns, through sermons and books, through circumstances, and often through a combination of these.
One of the ways He can really get my attention is when He says the same thing in a bunch of different ways through a bunch of different sources. You probably know what I mean—you hear something on Christian radio, and it resonates. Your pastor preaches about it on Sunday. Your friend emails you an article he “thought you might be interested in,” and you open your Bible, and there it is again.
Well, that’s happening to me. I think God has to use the sideways approach with me on this one because it’s a topic I am not really begging Him to talk to me about—suffering and brokenness. But He wants me to hear, and He has His ways of getting my ear. Rather than try to describe it to you, I’ll just quote some of the things He’s been saying to me through others.
Through Sinclair Ferguson in his book, A Heart for God:
“[God] is for us and therefore, ultimately, none of our difficult circumstances can be against us. . . . We may think that severity is inconsistent with what we know of God’s gentleness and compassion. But that is because we do not understand how seriously God loves us, and how determined He is that we should have His best, even if it means pain. . . . Beginning with the fact that God works everything together for our good in accordance with His purpose, we could reflect on what His purpose is, and on the different way He seems to be bringing it to pass in our lives” (pages 134, 135, 141).
Through Pastor Matt Heard of Woodmen Valley Chapel (message given in Colorado Springs on January 31, 2013):
“Courage finds its context in the presence of fear—otherwise there is no need for courage. . . . The beauty of the gospel is its resilience in the face of [a broken and fallen world].”
Through a study in Ephesians by Community Bible Study:
“The Greek word for bear with means to endure or to put up with, which seems like a very unglamorous virtue, but a virtue it is. Like a muscle that must be exercised to make it strong, ‘bearing with one another in love’ thrives on a good workout. . . . It might be said that difficult relationships or situations are the essential ingredient—the very building material—that God uses to build the character of His children” (page 90).
Through Henri Nouwen in his book, Life of the Beloved:
“The deep truth is that our human suffering need not be an obstacle to the joy and peace we so desire, but can become, instead, the means to it. . . .
Physical, mental, or emotional pain lived under the blessing [of being God’s beloved] is experienced in ways radically different from physical, mental, or emotional pain lived under the curse. Even a small burden, perceived as a sign of our worthlessness, can lead us to deep depression. However, great and heavy burdens become light and easy when they are lived in the light of blessing.
What seemed intolerable becomes a challenge. What seemed a reason for depression becomes a source of purification. What seemed punishment because a gentle pruning. What seemed rejection becomes a way to deeper communion. And so the great task become that of allowing the blessing to touch is in our brokenness. Then our brokenness will gradually come to be seen as an opening toward the full acceptance of ourselves to the beloved. This explains why true joy can be experienced in the midst of great suffering . . . the beloved can experience suffering as a way to the deeper community for which they yearn” (pages 96, 97, 98, 99).
“‘I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world’” (John 16:33).
Do you see what I mean? I suppose there might be at least two possible take aways from this post. First, if you are struggling in some painful circumstance, maybe God will use something I’ve quoted here to encourage you to find blessing even in the brokenness. Second, if you’re not experiencing anything hard right, now, maybe this will just be a reminder to keep your ears open. If you keep hearing the same message over and over again, that just might be God trying to get your attention.