Make the Plunge

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake… Philippians 1:29 NASB

The water was COLD. Driven into the ocean after becoming overheated in the hot sun, I stood in it up to my knees, wincing as the periodic waves drenched me a little higher with each step forward. I knew a quick dip would put an end to the painful, slow progression. But I just couldn’t do it. Avoiding the shock, I continued to inch my way in. I couldn’t bring myself to make the plunge.

We all hate pain. We’ll do anything to avoid it.

Paul told the Philippians that God had granted them suffering. Granted? Could providing an opportunity to suffer be some kind of benevolent gesture, a giving of something desirable?

Wait…what?

No one likes to suffer. Neither did Paul! Yet he regarded his suffering as a favor from God. He looked past the temporary to the eternal. Paul saw suffering as a means to invaluable and eternal benefits.

1. Suffering is a path to knowing Jesus better.

“I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death…” (Philippians 3:8 NASB).

We follow a suffering Savior. It only makes sense that walking in his footsteps will involve suffering in our journey as well. Sharing that common experience will develop an intimacy in our relationship with Him that would not have possible without it.

Paul saw sharing the sufferings of Christ as a means to intimacy with Christ.

2. Suffering produces glory.

“For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison…” 2 Corinthians 4:17 NASB

God has purposed to conform all believers to the image of Jesus Christ. Transformation requires change, but change does not come easily. Suffering can force us to abandon old habits or ways of thinking and move us forward into the new.

The end result of sharing Jesus’ suffering will be sharing in his glory as well! Romans 8:17 (NASB) tells us “if we are children, then we are heirs-heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”  

3. Suffering teaches us how to access the power of Christ.

“He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 NASB

God makes His amazing power available to us. Sometimes accessing that power can only come after finding our own resources insufficient. Paul saw his “thorn in his flesh” as a means to that end and so embraced his weakness. Suffering reveals the reality of our insufficiency and drives us deeper in our sense of dependency on God. When we are weak, then we are strong in the Lord.

4. Suffering makes us more effective for God’s Kingdom.

“[God] comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted…” 2 Corinthians 1:4 (NASB).

My daughter was blind-sided four years ago with a debilitating illness. For three years, her life was completely interrupted. As our family crawled through that torturous time, we clung to two facts: the pain would enable us to know Jesus far better, and our experience would give us insight (and a resulting empathy) into other people’s pain. She is now able to minister to people I can’t touch, because she has been in their shoes.

When suffering comes along, and it does more often than we wish, it can be overwhelming. But instead of thinking “Why me?”, we must choose to keep our eyes focused on the Savior, who, through suffering, made a relationship with God possible for us. Now God is using pain once again, this time to bring us further along in that relationship.

We must look past the temporary to the eternal. We must choose to trust in His good intentions. Taking that plunge will not only give relief but peace throughout the process.

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Make the Plunge – encouragement on #FollowingGod from @JulieZColeman on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

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About the authorJulie Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or walking her neurotic dog. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.

Does the Bible depict women as second-class citizens of the Kingdom? Jesus didn’t think so. Unexpected Love takes a revealing look at the encounters that Jesus had with women in the gospels. You will fall in love with the dynamic, beautiful, and unexpectedly personal Jesus.

Join the conversation: How has suffering or hard times changed you for the good?

Getting Out of God’s Way

by Kathy Howard

Our great God never wastes anything. No struggle is fruitless. No pain futile. No challenge in vain. God can work in and through every situation He allows into our lives – even the worst of circumstances – to bring about our good and His glory.

My caregiving journey was still fairly new when I realized God wanted to use the experience to do something in me. If I would cooperate, my relationship with my father-in-law would be a tool in His hand to shape my character and refine my faith.

When Wayne’s dad first moved in with us, he was fairly independent. But as time passed, he needed us more and more. With Wayne commuting a long distance to work, much of the responsibility logically fell to me. But Pappaw’s growing dependence exposed the rough places in my character and areas of spiritual immaturity.

So many things bubbled to the surface – like selfishness, impatience, and shallowness. Every day seemed to reveal another layer of my sinful flesh. Irritation quickly rose up when a last-minute doctor’s appointment meant I had to cancel a lunch date. And instead of responding to his occasional harsh words with gentleness and grace, I sometimes uttered sharp words of frustration.

The demands and pressures of parenting my father-in-law did not cause these sinful attitudes and actions. The relationship merely jostled my heart, causing what was already there to spill out (Matthew 12:34).

In our human weakness, we ache for our struggles to end. We long for the hardness of life to ease. Yet God wants much more for us than an easy life in this world. He wants to make us like His Son (Romans 8:28-30). He wants our lives to bring Him glory and point others to Jesus.

God will use every possible means to rid our lives of sin and shape us into the likeness of Christ. One of His primary shaping tools is trials (1 Peter 1:6-7). In God’s skillful hands, life’s difficulties and challenges perform like a chisel on our hearts and souls, shaving off sinful rough spots, cutting notches, creating gentle curves, and forming smooth bevels.

Yet, sometimes I’m my own worst enemy. Rather than submitting myself to the Master Craftsman and trusting His refining process, I fight God’s purposeful work. I doubt God’s goodness and faithfulness. I complain that He isn’t working. That He doesn’t care. That surely, He doesn’t see our plight.

Do you ever feel the same way? Too often, God’s children walk through our days near-sighted. We only see the struggles, challenges, and trials at hand, forgetting that the eternal glory awaiting us far outshines these light and momentary troubles (2 Corinthians 4:17).

Be assured, God knows your every physical need and struggle. He sees your sleepless nights, your tired muscles, and your frayed emotions. He hears your groans, your sighs, and your prayers. He is keenly aware that you are often overworked, overstressed, and overlooked. He not only knows it all, He cares. He cares that you hurt and grieve for yourself and your parents.

This temporary struggle – no matter how difficult – cannot compare to God’s eternal purposes for you and your loved ones. Keep your eyes on the prize of God’s glorious salvation (1 Peter 1:9). Rest in the assurance that God will not waste a single tear. And embrace the joy of Christ. It’s yours today.

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6

 Kathy HowardAbout the author: Kathy Howard‘s new book, 30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents releases TODAY!! Struggling to navigate the parent/child role reversal? This new devotional book explores God’s Word to find hope and encouragement for the wide range of physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual challenges the adult child caregiver may experience. Each of the 30 devotions – which can also serve as a guide for a daily quiet time – includes a Scripture passage, a real-life illustration, biblical commentary/application, and questions30DaysHope_AgingParentsCover 300RGB for reflection.

You can find a sample of 30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents here.

 Join the conversation: Can you see God working in the midst of your trials? In what ways have you fought God’s refining process?

Photo by Richard Jaimes on Unsplash

Trusting the Master

by Debbie Wilson

I felt like a traitor luring my standard poodle into my vet’s lab room. I did it to save his life. But Max didn’t know that. Did he think I was heartless to let the vet draw blood from his thin leg—again?

For months after we learned Max has Addison’s disease, the vet had to draw his blood to check his electrolyte and hormone levels. One week Max refused to go with the technician. So instead of handing her the leash, I followed her, and he followed me.

Max’s trust in me made me consider the conditions I’ve put on fully trusting my Master in painful situations. I’ve thought if only I knew the purpose of my pain then I’d be able to trust God better. But was that true?

Imagine me trying to explain Max’s condition to him. I could read him the symptoms off the Internet. I could show him his lab reports. I could remind him how he almost died. But would he have understood any of it? Of course not. I know the pain of the treatment is brief and the benefits are lasting. All he knows is I keep bringing him back for more needles.

How much greater is God’s knowledge than mine as He takes me through a trial! Sometimes God allows me to see the benefit of my pain. But more often the “whys” remain unanswered.

Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts’” (NIV).

The difference between my thoughts and my dog’s is relatively small when compared to the vast disparity between God’s thoughts and mine. If Max can’t understand why I have his blood drawn, why would I think I could ever understand God’s ways with me?

But God has not left me without assurance. He has promised:

  • “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:17 NIV).
  • “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18 NIV).

Life on this planet is a vapor. But how we live here affects our eternity. Pain, loss, and confusion are opportunities to trust our Master. The pain is real, but if He allows it then we know He will use it to conform us to the image of Christ (Romans 8:28-29). And I can trust that my pain and the tears will never go unnoticed by my very personal God.

When I see Max romp across the yard without a symptom of Addison’s, I thank God for blood tests and shots. I remember how sick he was without them. He doesn’t understand the connection. He doesn’t need to. Max only needs to know that I take care of him.

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?” Romans 8:31 NASB

debbie wilsonAbout the author: Debbie W. Wilson is an ordinary woman who has experienced an extraordinary God. Drawing from her personal walk with Christ, twenty-four years as a Christian counselor, and decades as a Bible teacher, Debbie speaks and writes to help women discover relevant faith. She is the author of Little Women, Big God and Give Yourself a Break. She and her husband, Larry, founded Lighthouse Ministries in 1991. Share her journey to refreshing faith at her blog.

Free Book Contest!  Arise Daily will use a random number generator to pick a winner from today’s comments. To enter our contest for Debbie’s book, Little Women Big God,  please comment below.  By posting in our comments, you are giving us permission to share your name if you win!  If you have an outside the US mailing address, your prize could be substituted with an e-book of our choice.

Join the conversation: What things in your life have caused you to question God?