Moving Through

A couple of my friends are going through challenging health situations. Both suffer from chronic pain and are not finding relief. They have prayed many times that their suffering would be eased or stop, but it seems God keeps answering, “No.” Now they are battling discouragement on top of the pain and other physical difficulties they face daily. In talking with one of them this week, we dug a bit deeper into this verse:

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. (I Peter 5:10, ESV)

On first reading, it seems this verse promises that God will rescue us from ongoing suffering. But could the verse be saying something different? Could it be telling us what to expect as we continue to suffer? Let’s look at what God promises to do: restore, confirm, strengthen and establish.

After you have suffered a little while, God will restore you. We want this to mean He will restore us to our pre-suffering state. We want anything we have lost to be returned to us. We want it to be as if our suffering had never happened. But let’s consider another interpretation. Pretend the suffering is a hurricane-strength wind. When it first hit, you may have stumbled, staggered, been knocked around, or even fallen. You were caught off-guard and became overwhelmed by the force pushing against you. But after a while, you adjust to the pressure. Rather than being pushed further away, you are able to maintain your position. Perhaps that is the restoration God describes here. Situations that bring suffering may catch us by surprise and cause our faith to stumble. At first, we may forget about God, question Him, or doubt Him. But after a little while, we remember Him, we stop asking “why”, and we believe He is present and aware. We are restored to a place where we can connect with Him, where our faith is engaged and active. This is where we experience far more life.

Early in Jesus’ ministry His disciples were caught off-guard when many followers left Jesus after hearing a hard teaching. I believe an example of restoration is recorded in Simon Peter’s response when Jesus asked the Twelve if they would leave, too:

Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. (John 6:68, NIV)

After you have suffered a little while, God will confirm you. The Greek word translated “confirm” means to make firm, to render constant. After you are restored — able to maintain your position — you realize how much force you must exert against the wind — or the struggle you face — to maintain your balance and footing. In a spiritual sense, standing firm comes from remembering God’s truth about yourself, Him and your relationship. Truth gives us power to go through our struggles hand-in-hand with Jesus. Far more life is not the absence of struggle, but standing firm with Jesus in our struggles.

The rest of Simon Peter’s response to Jesus in the encounter described above shows he is confirmed, grounded in truth:

We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God. (John 6:69, NIV)

After you have suffered a little while, God will strengthen you. This is the only place the Greek word translated “strengthen” appears in the New Testament. It means that something is made strong but mobile, able to move to achieve something in the most effective way. Hanging onto something strong allows us to stay upright against the gale-force winds of suffering. But Jesus offers us more than an immobile pillar; He offers a strength that allows us to move through our suffering effectively to achieve His purpose. Far more life is not stagnant, it is continuing with Christ through our struggles.

This plea and encouragement Paul wrote to the saints in Corinth describes the result of being strengthened during adversity:

…Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (I Corinthians 15:58, NIV)

After you have suffered a little while, God will establish you. The word establish means to make the soul stable, to lay a solid foundation. Suffering serves an important role in our spiritual growth and prepares us for future service and growth. This is one aspect of good that God works through our suffering; our faith becomes more solid and stable, resting more firmly on Christ. We believe God’s promises more fully because we have experienced them in action. Far more life is unshakeable because it is stable and solid.

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. (Matthew 7:24-25, NIV)

Our foundation of faith allows us to move with Christ through our suffering. And that experience prepares us for the next challenge we will face. Throughout our lives, we have the opportunity to keep establishing our connection to Christ with every hardship. If we turn to God in our suffering, he will continue to restore, confirm, strengthen and establish us. We will keep finding far more life in our suffering.

Sisters,
Are you currently suffering? If so, how has not being rescued impacted your faith?
How has God restored you during this or previous suffering?
How have you experienced God confirming you?
How has He strengthened you to continue doing His will?
How have you been established through suffering?
Thank God for giving you far more life in the midst of suffering. (And thank Him that one day all suffering will end for His children — what a glorious day that will be!)
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso

Words of Life

Words. Most of us find them necessary in daily life. We use them to understand what is happening around us. We also use them to express what is happening within us. They enable us to communicate ideas, feelings, dreams, facts, desires, and needs. They can cause connection or division among people. They can hurt or help. They can be powerful or empty.

God’s spoken words brought much of what we know into being. According to Genesis 1, each day “God said…” and something new was formed. Light. Space. Sea and land. Sun, moon, and stars. Birds and sea creatures. Land animals. God’s words are powerful!

The Bible is God’s Word. Although we cannot talk with him face-to-face or audibly hear His voice, His words are recorded there for us to study, understand, and heed. Psalm 119 is filled with references to the value of His Word and its impact on our lives. I remember being inspired by this verse as a child:

I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. (Psalm 119:11, NIV)

The Bible offers us a precious gift: the opportunity to know God’s heart, purpose, and ways. It offers words of life that enable us to join His family and His work. We are wise to pay attention to it. Jesus affirms the value of His words as well:

“Everyone who hears these words of mine and does them is like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the flood came, and the winds beat against that house, but it did not collapse because its foundation had been laid on rock. (Matthew 7:24-25, NET)

God gives us freedom to choose what we will do with His words. Taking them seriously and acting on them leads to far more life. It brings us safety and security when problems enter our lives. Following His words provides us with a spiritual foundation that will not collapse when the storms of life come against us. As our Creator, He knows what is best for us and what will devastate us. He knows our deepest needs as well as our strengths. Although some view them as restrictive, His words are intended to provide a boundary within which we can thrive, finding far more life as we pursue a relationship with Him.

It should not be surprising that the LORD’s words have power and authority since He is all-powerful and the ultimate authority. He does not make empty promises or idle threats. His words are backed by His character and provide trustworthy instruction. He even communicates how we should use our words:

Do not let unwholesome [foul, profane, worthless, vulgar] words ever come out of your mouth, but only such speech as is good for building up others, according to the need and the occasion, so that it will be a blessing to those who hear [you speak].(Ephesians 4:29, AMP)

You must mean “Yes” when you say “Yes”. You must mean “No” when you say “No”. (Matthew 5:37, WE)

With our tongues we praise our Lord and Father. Yet, with the same tongues we curse people, who were created in God’s likeness. Praise and curses come from the same mouth. My brothers and sisters, this should not happen! (James 3:9-10, GW)

Our words are powerful, too. They have the power to build others up or tear them down. They have the power to praise God or curse Him. They can bring hurt or healing. They reveal our character and the hidden contents of our heart. Our words can be life-giving or life-destroying. Far more life speaks words of life.

We will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. (Ephesians 4:15, NLT)

Words of life speak the truth in love. God wants our words to speak life to the listener. He wants us to speak truth rather than flattery, boasting, or outright lies. God also wants us to speak in love, with the motive of building up the listener and revealing His character. Sometimes speaking in love is firm and direct, but it is never hateful, defensive, or vengeful. Love for God compels us to speak words of life to the people around us, whether or not they acknowledge His lordship.

The life-giving words are not just for others; far more life speaks the truth in love to ourselves as well. Our internal dialogue can build us up or tear us down. God wants to lovingly mold us into His character through words of life. He offers His children grace, help, and hope rather than condemnation, criticism, and defeat. God sees beyond our actions to understand the motives of our hearts (I Samuel 16:7). We are clothed with Christ (Galatians 3:27) and justified before God (Romans 5:9). God — who is perfect and aware of every secret sin we commit — does not condemn us (Romans 8:1), so surely we have no reason to condemn ourselves! God wants us to confess our sins (James 5:16) and pursue righteousness (Romans 6:13), but out of gratitude and love, not guilt and shame (Romans 10:11). Embracing these life-giving words brings far more life!

But the words that come out of your mouth come from your heart. (Matthew 15:18, CEV)

If you want to think and speak life-giving words, you must first have them in your heart. Study God’s words of life. Wrestle with them until you understand them so you can wholeheartedly believe them. (It is okay to ask for help; we will spend the rest of our lives growing in our understanding of His Word.) Then share far more life with others by sharing words of life with them!

Sisters,
In general, do think of words as good, bad, or neutral?
What about God’s Word makes it valuable to you?
Are more of your words to others life-giving or life-destroying? To yourself?
What helps you speak the truth in love?
Thank God for giving us His Word to help us find far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso