Friday, August 29, 2008

Encouragement in Suffering

Someone once told me that Fridays are not very good days for blogging; that statistically, readership goes down on Friday and the weekend.
Well, today I don't care about statistics. God spoke to my heart this morning and I simply cannot wait until Monday to write about it. Besides, I know God is bigger than statistics and I trust He will bring the reader(s?) to this post who needs the encouragement.

If you have been with me for a while you are likely aware that I am doing a read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year program. And, as I do every time I mention this journey, I want to strongly encourage you to begin your own excursion through the Word if you have never done so before. I have found a great resource for finding a reading plan here. Check it out!

So anyway, I am currently in Jeremiah. Right in the midst of Israel and Judah's exiles. There have been several days when Brian walked into the room as I was reading and I made a comment like, "This is not a good day for Israel." (or Judah)
I spent a lot of time reading about their disobedience and wicked ways in Kings and Chronicles; how they turned from the LORD and worshipped false gods. And more recently I have been reading about the destruction God brought upon them because of their sin. They lost their land, were taken captive, and experienced terrible destruction. (You really have to read it!) To say they suffered would be a gross understatement.

But today I read Jeremiah 30 and 31, The Restoration of Israel. There is a stark contrast in the words of these chapters from the words I have been reading recently. It is so clear that, while God was justly punishing Israel for her sin, He still loved His people and the goal of His actions - His discipline - was restoration. Yes, Israel suffered because of her sin, but God always had in mind to bring her back to Himself, to heal her wounds, and to cover her with His love.
I thought that goal was summarized clearly in verse 24 of chapter 30:

The fierce anger of the LORD will not turn back until he fully accomplishes the purposes of his heart. In days to come you will understand this.

I read that verse and thought, Yes. Israel suffered, but God was accomplishing the purposes of His heart. And the purposes of God's heart are always good, because HE is good.
Then it was as if the last sentence in that verse jumped off the page at me.
In days to come you will understand this.

In days to come you will understand this.

What a wonderful word of encouragement! Can you hear it?
Israel, My beloved people, you have suffered greatly. I have taken you from the land I promised your forefathers and have turned you over to the hands of your enemy. It is because of your sin and detestable practices that I have done this thing. And it was right for Me to do it.
But I will restore you now. I will heal your wounds and bring you close to Myself. I will once again show My love to you. You will turn to Me and leave behind all your detestable ways. You will be My people and I will be your God.
And then you will understand the reason for your suffering. I put you through it, I let you experience the pain so you would remember Me and return to your first love.
It was all for you good, beloved. It was the purpose of My heart. Do you understand now?

As I considered the purposes of God's heart further, my thoughts went to many of you who are suffering. Some of you are struggling with depression, pro-longed waiting, sickness and disease. It is hard and as we have corresponded via email I know you are trying to trust God. You are wanting to believe He is working for your good and His glory. Every time I pray for you and for the end of your suffering, I always also pray that God would work out His good purposes in your situation.
I'm not saying it's a sin issue, as it was with Israel. I realize there are many reasons we suffer. It may be God is growing your faith. He may be strengthening your family relationships. Perhaps He is preparing you for some form of ministry in the future.
I don't know the reason, but as I read my Bible and prayed for you today I asked God to encourage you with the knowledge that "In days to come you will understand this."

Please keep holding on to Him, friend.

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Mrs. Sidney said...

Wow, this was just amazing and spoke to my heart. Just this morning as I was praying I could hear God telling me he has my life in his hands. I just need to surrendor to the process and allow him to grow and teach me the tings I need to know. This week has been an amazing experience in my house. God has really taught me to spend time with him and allow him to minister to me through anything inlcuding my sons throwing a fit. I have been trying my hand at grace with my husband and the results have been amazing. Thank you so much for your prayers, encouragement, friendship and blog. You are a true blessing in my life.

Waiting in peace,

luvmy4sons said...

Reading your post was like a balm to my aching heart. I knew it. I have been shown it again and again by God hismelf in my own time with Him in His Word, but it so helps to see Him giving the same message to someone else. Thank you for being faithful to what He showed you . I so needed to hear that message again. His purposes are SO MUCH greater than my experiences. I can trust Him NO MATTER WHAT. He is the same no matter where I am! Amen? AMEN! No circumstances can ever change who I forever am in Jesus Christ!

annie said...

Great post Karen. God's timing is perfect.

heartreflections said...

Thanks for this passage. I love the insight and will hold on to this Scripture.

I too have been reading through the Bible. I have to say... Genesis is outstanding! Right now, I'm in 1 Samuel and I'm excited to be getting close to David's life.

I have been amazed at the pattern of betrayal that Israel struggles with. As a reader, you get so disappointed. But as a Christian, who is by nature sinful, I am awe-struck by God's grace. His mercies are new every morning. And I thank Him.

realworldmartha said...

JUST TERRIFIC!! God is using you for sure to speak to many!!

Thanks for being a blessing!

Valarie said...

SPEAK a Word sista!! Land sakes, thank you for not caring about the stats and posting this. It truly spoke right to my heart!! Thanks so much and I'm praying for you!

Stonefox (otherwise known as Heidi) said...

Karen, there have been so many times when I have been in those times of trial. But my hope and joy in the midst of it is that I WILL have hindsite one day, and it will reveal the goodness of God.

Thanks for the great post.

kreed said...


momteacherfriend said...

Thanks for the link to the reading plan I have been wanting to start one. I have it set and ready to begin tomorrow Sept 1st.

Amanda said...

Powerful, powerful words dear Karen. I had not read that passage before...and the meaning behind it is so overwhelming for me!!! Thankyou God, for putting this on Karens heart and letter her share so that we all may Learn more about You!!!!

Many blessings-

Shane, Greta, Seth and Gage Owens said...

Amen, and thank you!

Kristi O said...

Amen and Amen.
yes this post is so timely

Leah said...

Such awesome thoughts!! Despite our sin, God still loves us and is doing a new work in us!!


Jackie @ Our Moments Our Memories said...

Well, I am a week late, but I am so glad I stopped by to read this. I know God must be doing something big right now in our lives, even though I can't see it and am pretty much at the end of my rope.

Amazing thoughts, that He has nothing but His good purpose planned for our lives.

A Dusty Frame said...

Thank you for sharing this.
This is a lesson I've been working on learning for many years now.

It's not easy to go through trials, but if we allow them to draw us closer to the Lord, the benefits are surely worth it.