I love the spectacular blaze of color that comes with fall. Everywhere I look there is the warm glow of the season. However, close on its heels is the winter season when the trees will be stripped bare and stand exposed to the elements.
The seasons outside remind me of the internal rhythms of my soul. I do not enjoy the winter season of my soul and yet, in those times of bleakness and barrenness I find myself strengthened internally in a way I would never have been equipped had I not faced the cold, barren winter of my soul. Like most people I do not enjoy the season when I feel stripped naked, vulnerable and exposed, but it is in those seasons that I am strengthened and equipped to face the next season that comes my way.
Many of us wonder about suffering. Why is there so much suffering in the world? Why do we have to go through pain? These questions trouble us, but sometimes the replies people give trouble us even more. It seems to trite to say, “There is a reason for everything.” When someone has lost a loved one, or is facing terminal illness they do not want to hear shallow and unhelpful statements like that. I believe more than there being a reason for everything that happens, we have to find the strength and the reason for why we are here on this earth and for how we can live in the midst of suffering and pain. The apostle Paul said in Romans 8: 35 “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or sword?” He went on to say that we are more than conquerors in Christ. So how do we approach the problem of suffering? What are some of the elements we need to consider?
1. Bad things happen to good people: Because you are a good person does not mean that you will not suffer. We live in the world and because we live in the world we will encounter challenges, problems and suffering. When the stock market crashes, good people are affected as much as greedy and bad people. So remind yourself that things do go wrong for good people.
2. God will never forsake us: As the apostle Paul said, there is nothing that can separate you from the love of Christ. So take comfort in that truth. He is with you in the good seasons and the bad ones. Perhaps you are facing a broken relationship or some other personal trauma – be assured that God will uphold you through this time.
3. Throw yourself on God and your friends: In times of crisis I throw myself on God in a way I cannot really explain. I call on Him all through the day and night, I go to His Word for comfort and I seek Him with all my heart. I also draw strength from my church family. I am not an island and I need people, and in times of crisis I need my friends and family to uphold me through the trying experiences of life. Don’t be ashamed to ask for help. When the wind is blowing and you feel bare and exposed ask God to comfort you and seek shelter from your church family. We all need each other.
4. All seasons come to an end: It may feel as if your suffering will never end. However, just as each external season passes and makes way for the next, so too will your suffering pass. The Bible does say in Psalms that weeping endures for the night, but joy will come with the morning. Be assured that this barren season will come to an end and you will laugh again.
5. Use your experience to help others: It is only when you have been through hardship and come through a season of suffering and pain that you can understand other people’s pain. Let your suffering serve a purpose – help others who are suffering and comfort them through their pain. Most importantly, never give up! Be resilient in and through your suffering because as this season passes you will find you have been strengthened internally to face the next season of your soul.
6. Never give up: Be a person of resilience. Stand strong in the midst of your pain and don't allow your suffering to destroy you. Learn from it and grow through it.
And so my friend, my prayer is that whatever you are experiencing you will feel and know God’s strength and help in your time of need. He is with you whether you feel it or not. My prayer is that you will be a strengthened through the barren season of your soul.
I am and always will be,
Recklessly abandoned, ruthlessly committed and in relentless pursuit of Jesus,