Stacks Image 252

Four
Enduring Faith


Affliction is a natural though painful part of our lives. We’re broken people in a broken world. Grievous trials are common to all adults and children around the world, millions of whom live and die in the despair of poverty and starvation.

Suffering is guaranteed because of our human condition. We were born in sin. Yet when we suffer, we may question why God let tragedy happen to us. Where is He? Or we may blame those who have wounded us. Or we ask, “What have I done so terribly wrong that I’m suffering such unbearable pain?”

So how do we have faith that will endure in tough times? As painful as our trials may be, they can “turn out to be the most important opportunity we are ever going to have to honestly love God and truly trust Him in a way which will bring Him joy and defeat Satan.”1 We defeat Satan by resisting him, standing firm in our faith and growing spiritually stronger in suffering (1 Peter 5:8-9).

For example, Satan accused God of making Job happy and wealthy and protecting his home and property. But Job maintained his spiritual integrity, continued to fear God, and had nothing to do with evil even though his ten children and servants were killed, and he lost everything. Job “did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing” (Job 1:22b).

When God pointed out to Satan that Job still feared Him even though Satan had harmed Job without cause, “Satan replied to the Lord, ‘Skin for skin—he blesses you only because you bless him. A man will give up everything he has to save his life. But take away his health, and he will surely curse you to your face!’” (Job 2:4-5 nlt). Even after Job lost his health and his wife’s respect, he proved that Satan’s accusations against him were wrong. Job still held onto his faith in the Lord.

We are faced with the same challenge today. Will we trust the Lord and maintain spiritual integrity in suffering? Or will we accuse the Lord of wrongdoing, turn away from Him, and try to run away from our trials?

We cannot escape losses and hardships, no matter how hard we try. “Loss is like a terminal illness. There is nothing we can do to spare ourselves from such sickness, except perhaps put it off for a while.”2 But in our affliction the Lord can heal us from another sickness, which is a diseased faith and “the sickness of our souls. . . . If we face loss squarely and respond to it wisely, we will actually become healthier people, even as we draw closer to physical death. We will find our souls healed, as they can only be healed through suffering.”3

Though we may be emotionally and physically weakened by heartaches, our spiritual lives can be strengthened. When we suffer a loss, the only thing we may have control over is our attitude and how we respond spiritually.

“It is not, therefore, the experience of loss that becomes the defining moment of our lives, for that is as inevitable as death, which is the last loss awaiting us all. It is how we respond to loss that matters. That response will largely determine the quality, the direction, and the impact of our lives.”4

This is our hope in sorrow. Our souls can be healed and our faith transformed as we experience the power of the Lord’s redeeming grace in the midst of affliction.

Spiritual Reaction, Rebuilding, and Renewal Phases

The purpose of this study is to help us learn how to keep trusting the Lord during affliction. The goal is to discover spiritual meaning in trials and strengthen our commitment to Christ. The reaction, rebuilding, and renewal phases that we may experience during suffering will be identified in order to help us understand the faith-testing process.

When we encounter suffering, initially we experience a range of emotions that is termed the spiritual reaction phase. We may be stunned by disbelief, shocked, and stricken with grief at the painful loss God has allowed us to experience. We may have a crisis of faith or question our beliefs about a caring heavenly Father.

At this critical turning point, we make certain decisions. We may determine to grow spiritually stronger in our afflictions. We may become stuck in spiritual bitterness, or we are unable to accept our suffering, and we blame the Lord for it. Or we turn away from the Lord because we’re so hurt and disappointed with Him.

If we determine to grow spiritually through the affliction, we move into the spiritual rebuilding phase. We relinquish control of our life to the Lord. We let go of our expectations about what the Lord and others should do and release our burdens and heartaches into His care. We realize that our lives have been permanently changed by our loss, and we cannot return to life the way it was before.

We begin the spiritual rebuilding process as we search for and discover spiritual meaning. Thus we find hope as the Lord enables us to release hurtful situations into His care. We grow spiritually through our grief.

Third, during the spiritual renewal phase, our faith is perfected, and we experience deeper levels of spiritual maturity. We realize that our commitment to the Lord in tough times has eternal significance, and we see how He can use our trials for His glory.

The Lord becomes our unlimited source of strength in weakness as we are comforted by His ever- caring presence and constant support. Out of our own suffering, we accept Christ’s call to become compassionate servants and comfort others so they, too, may find healing and spiritual renewal.

As we work through the spiritual reaction, rebuilding, and renewal phases, may we come to possess enduring faith, abiding hope, and everlasting love for our Lord. May God-given peace be our anchor. May the grace and mercy of our Savior be our surety. May our faith be turned into a precious gemstone of unsurpassed value.

Scripture Reading: Hebrews 12:2-3

Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!


Practicing the Spiritual Life

  • For what did Jesus endure the cross and a shameful death?

  • When we undergo suffering, what do we need to consider?

Prayer

Jesus, You emptied Yourself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, You humbled Yourself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross. Therefore I will not lose heart. Though outwardly I am wasting away, yet inwardly I am being renewed day by day. For my light and momentary troubles are achieving for me an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So I fix my eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (Phil. 2:7-8 nrsv; 2 Cor. 4:16-18, all paraphrased)

NEXT: Five, Shock & Disbelief

UA-5399966