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Seasons of Suffering

November 18, 2019

 

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God grows us up spiritually in a hundred different ways, but the most effective method may be allowing us to endure situations that demand the character we need to cultivate. Could He deliver us from those difficult situations? Of course He could, but He loves us too much to short-circuit our sanctification. God doesn’t always deliver us from our difficulties, but He does deliver us through them.

The best way to cultivate patience is to be put in a situation that demands it, lots of it. How about courage? Well, it’s not the absence of fear—that’s for sure! What about love? There is no greater opportunity to exercise the love of God than to be surrounded by enemies. Mercy? You can’t exercise forgiveness if you’ve never been wronged. And if you need more patience, courage, love, or mercy? Don’t be surprised if you find yourself in a situation that demands even more of it.

I’m not suggesting that God proactively puts us in those situations, but He often allows them because they’re part of our maturation process. Again, the umbrella blessing is not an immunity card. It’s not a get-out-of-jail-free card either. We’re still subject to the law of sowing and reaping. And we still live in a fallen world, which means we’ll experience our fair share of pain and suffering.

Plus, God is not a helicopter parent. Just like Joseph, Esther, David, and Daniel, we will experience personal setbacks and seasons of suffering. The good news? It will be for our good and God’s glory.

The last thing I want to do is make light of the difficulties you’ve endured. I actually want to validate them. It seems like every news cycle these days brings new allegations of sexual harassment or sexual abuse. If you’ve been the victim of that kind of abuse, it’s not just news. Those stories trigger memories that trigger emotions that are incredibly painful. If you’ve experienced the heartache of miscarriage, a baby’s cry can pull your heartstrings and produce profound sadness. If you’ve walked through a difficult divorce or gotten a grim diagnosis from a doctor, it feels like a thousand-pound weight sitting squarely on your shoulders.

I don’t know what challenge you’re facing, but I do know that God’s grace is sufficient. That grace can be experienced in a thousand different ways. Sometimes it’s manifested through thoughtful friends and wise counselors. Sometimes it’s a day at the beach or a mountain hike. And, of course, it’s a relationship with the God who will never leave us or forsake us*. He’s the God who gives beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness**. How do I know this? Because Scripture says it, and I’ve experienced it. I’ve walked through the valley of the shadow of death more than once, and I’ve seen God redeem unbearable pain and unimaginable suffering. I’ve also watched God turn some of the worst days of my life into some of the best.

* Deuteronomy 31:6
** Isaiah 61:3

Mark Batterson serves as lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, DC. NCC also owns and operates Ebenezers Coffeehouse, The Miracle Theatre, and the DC Dream Center. Mark holds a doctor of ministry degree from Regent University and is the New York Times bestselling author of 17 books, including The Circle Maker, Chase the Lion, and Whisper. Mark and his wife, Lora, have three children and live on Capitol Hill.

Mark’s latest book, Double Blessing: How to Get It. How to Give It, calls us to give and receive God ultimate blessings: God with us, God for us, and God in us. Mark Batterson believes the key to radically increasing your faith, joy, and abundance can be found in these three words: Flip the blessing.

In a day and age where the idea of blessing has been reduced to a hashtag (#blessed), Batterson challenges readers to pursue true, God-glorifying blessing and experience an exponential impact by participating in the double blessing.

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