Anything Week 3: The Sweet Life — Embracing Suffering

Hello, everyone! I hope you had a great week studying Anything Week Two as we faced the issues of entitlement and the need for approval. Group leaders, thank you so much for creating a safe place for people to be vulnerable as we get rid of the junk that holds us back from being fully submitted to God for His Kingdom’s sake. And, those of you who are reading and digging in without a group, remember that you’re not doing this alone! We want to engage each and every one of you in our community as you leave your comments on each week’s Anything study page.

How did you do on last week’s projects? What happened this week that brought to light some of the things you need to let go, give control over to God, or put God first?

If you’re just joining us praying Anything, here’s where you go for Week One — start here. And here’s Week Two.

For Week Three, we’ll:

  • Watch the video
  • Read Chapters 6-7 of Anything
  • Study 2 Corinthians 4:1-18
  • Go through pages 218-223 in the Study Guide at the back of the book.

* * *

At Vacation Bible School “The Sweet Life” last week my kids sang this song “Oh So Sweet”:

Oh so sweet! (Sweet!) Oh so fine! (Fine!)

Jesus came to save me and He’s with me all the time!

Oh so sweet! (Sweet!) Oh so true!

Because You love me, Jesus, I have a sweet life in You!

If you’ve been around the church for a long time, you probably know this hymn by Louisa M. R. Stead:

’Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to take Him at His Word;
Just to rest upon His promise,
And to know, “Thus saith the Lord!”

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er;
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
Oh, for grace to trust Him more!

Oh, how sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to trust His cleansing blood;
And in simple faith to plunge me
’Neath the healing, cleansing flood!

Yes, ’tis sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just from sin and self to cease;
Just from Jesus simply taking
Life and rest, and joy and peace.

I’m so glad I learned to trust Thee,
Precious Jesus, Savior, Friend;
And I know that Thou art with me,
Wilt be with me to the end.

* * *

But, what about suffering? Is giving Christ our entire hearts and being willing to do anything for Him worth it if we have to face the death of a child, or a spouse having an affair, or a natural disaster that destroys our home, or whatever devastation knocks us to our knees?

In the middle of the really brutal stuff of life — cancer, rape, terrorism, death, divorce, joblessness, family explosions, miscarriage — trusting Jesus gets put into the refiner’s fire. When life turns inside-out and upside-down, where there’s a tragedy, a crisis, and deep suffering — that’s where the mettle of our faith is tested and proved.

let-life-be-hard

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. — Isaiah 43:2

We all go through suffering, especially Christians. The problem is, you won’t find that needlepointed on a pillow in your local Christian bookstore.

We don’t talk enough about the difficulties and traumas that come along with a life devoted to Jesus Christ. The Church generally doesn’t greet people who are wanting to pray the sinner’s prayer with this message: “OK, now buckle up! It’s gonna get crazy-painful, and you’re going to lose more than you can imagine, and your life is going to look completely different that you ever dreamed it would. But, don’t worry, and be strong and courageous because it’s worth it!”

I wish we did so that we wouldn’t begin our walks with Jesus being completely oblivious to what following Him is going to cost.

If you grew up in the church, you probably learned many of the Bible stories about the heroes of faith. You heard about their struggles. But, suffering looks terribly mild for flannelgraph characters in Sunday School. Because of that and because we don’t talk enough about the fact that we’re in a real-live war with the enemy, when we do endure trauma, it’s confusing and shocking. It’s as if we never understood at all that suffering is part of the package of living a life of faith.

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. — 1 Peter 4:12

Here’s one thing I’ve learned by studying Jesus’ followers, the stained-glass men and women: You’re not prepared to do what God has called you to do, and you’re not equipped to lead until you’ve suffered and yet clung to Him.

You’ve not yet learned to live the Anything, Lord! life, nor to trust in His goodness with your full weight, nor to let go of what’s temporal, nor to follow Him anywhere He sends even when you know it’s going to be painful until you’ve endured great suffering.

Trials, difficulties, persecution, abandonment, being crushed by loss are not for nothing. Suffering makes us desperate for Jesus. Impossible situations remind us of who we are and who HE is. Agony carves out room in our hearts for God and seasons us with compassion, humility, and flexibility. All the hurts, aches, and pains shape us into who we need to be in order to be of use to God.

It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes. — Psalm 119:71

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith — more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire — may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. — 1 Peter 1:6-7

The suffering is worth it because it has a purpose… In some situations we may never know the reason why, but we can trust that God does. Those stories of pain, loss, grief, shame, and how God can and will bring redeption, healing, hope, and especially salvation for others result in “praise and glory and honor” when Christ brings us into glory! When we share our stories with those around us and proclaim God’s goodness and faithfulness, we testify to the sweetness of walking with Jesus. We get to not only encourage other believers going through trauma, but we also get to reach out to the lost with hope and invite as many as possible into relationship with Jesus! Just like Jennie’s friend, Sarah, we may have people who, because of our suffering and the way we lived sold-out of Jesus anyway, come hug us in Heaven because we made them love Jesus more!

We hope in a bigger story. We don’t hope in a small chapter of it. ~ Jennie Allen

Jennie shared about talking with Jeremy Courtney in this week’s video.

There are worse things than death. Living a hopeless, purposeless life is worse than death. ~ Jeremy Courtney, Christian author living in Iraq, founder of Preemptive Love Coalition, an international development and peacemaking organization

A while back I had the privilege of interviewing Christine Caine who is an on-fire evangelist, author, and the founder of A21 an organization that’s making huge strides in abolishing human trafficking. Christine shared that she had been sick and had gone to the doctor with a sore throat only to discover that she had a suspicious growth, nodules on her vocal cords, an infection, and thyroid cancer. The devil was after her! He tried to take her voice but he couldn’t. She had surgery and the Lord healed her instead. Later on we were talking about her home and she asked me not to mention where she lives because human traffickers have a bounty out on her life. They have a bounty out for her head! Because of her boldness in the spiritual and physical war against human slavery and sex trafficking worldwide, because she’s a fearless warrior, Satan is out for her very life! Now, that is living the Anything life!

Suffering, threat, danger, and persecution shows that you are being effective for Christ! It proves that you’re a threat to the kingdom of darkness.

If you’re going to enter the battle, you’re going to take hits!

We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. — 2 Corinthians 4:8

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him. — Psalm 34:8

How do we taste and see that He is good, that life with Him is the Sweet Life when it’s filled with unspeakable pain? By enduring. By waiting and trusting. By soaking up the truth that nothing and no one in the world is more worth whatever we have to go through than Jesus.

I’m just change in His pocket. He can spend me however He chooses. ~ John Wimber

Your Turn

This week we invite you to share your responses to a question that Jennie poses in Chapter 6 (page 55) of this week’s reading. What are you most afraid of? What would be the very worst thing that God may allow you to suffer? Share your comments over on the Week 3 video page.

Laurie McClure

Laurie is a Jesus apprentice, a single mama of five (three homegrown, one Kentuckian, and one Ethiopian), a writer, beach lover, and is addicted to radical grace, Perrier, and yoga pants. Here at FaithGateway she is the editor, the leader of Faith.Full, our women's community, and curator of Devotionals Daily.

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