James 1:2-4

Don’t run from tests and hardships, brothers and sisters. As difficult as they are, you will ultimately find joy in them; if you embrace them, your faith will blossom under pressure and teach you true patience as you endure. And true patience brought on by endurance will equip you to complete the long journeyand cross the finish line—mature, complete, and wanting nothing. James 1:2-4D

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Pain is Inevitable Suffering is Optional



No matter who you are, where you live, how much money you possess, a profound truth of our human condition, is that we cannot and will not ever escape pain.  It may be emotional pain; it could be physical or even spiritual pain.  Pain is something we cannot avoid in this fallen world.  Jesus tells us this in John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”


Please don’t get me wrong the purpose of this blog post is not to negate your pain, I know that many Christians are experiencing a lot of opposition in their lives right now that is undoubtedly causing much suffering, myself included.  That is why I felt led to write this blog post.


This past year has been a year of significant change for my family and I.  I have dealt with many stressful life events that have caused me to feel weary some days. This past year, I experienced the death of a loved one, another family member’s health crisis, a move, the loss of a special friendship, new school for my kids, a career change, a return to college, and the everyday challenges of raising special needs twins as a single Mom.  On top of all of that, I’ve had to deal with my own emotional pain, a mid-life crisis of sorts I guess you’d say. So I understand fully what many of my fellow Narrow Gate soul journers are experiencing.


So if pain is inevitable how is it that suffering is optional.  We suffer when we choose not to deal with our pain, instead of taking that journey and trusting in God and not leaning on our understanding, thinking we know better.  Just like Adam and Eve we want to be god in our lives.  There is a lot of pain in the world, and as humans we can’t stand to be in pain, and Christians are no different.  We suffer when we use idols to numb our pain and choose not to accept it and deal with it.  We suffer when we don’t take care of our physical needs, don’t rest enough, are too busy, don’t take our prescribed medication, don’t eat healthy, don’t get enough exercise.


Sometimes It’s hard to face our pain and see it as a gift to us; it’s a sign that something in our lives needs fixing.  Just like a toothache, if we ignore the pain it will eventually become abcessed and affect our lives to the point that we can’t function well, or at least not in the way God created us to, in our fullness.   So we choose to numb from it, whether it’s through drugs, alcohol, sex, busyness, and even our stubborn pride.  Jesus didn’t tell us we would have a pain free life, but He did tell us we wouldn’t have to suffer through the pain.  Why? Because he took our pain, nailed it to the cross, and bore our pain.


Isaiah 53:4-6 says: Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering,yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions,he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.  We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid upon him the iniquity of us all.


There it is in black and white, experiencing suffering is a choice.  Just like sinning or going against what God is telling us to do.  We have free will, and it’s our choices that determine our suffering.


Some in the Kingdom of God embrace a theology of suffering.  They say that unless we embrace suffering, we cannot embrace the cross and what Jesus did for us.  Perhaps this is somewhat true, and there are times maybe when God allows our suffering to draw us closer to Him and to knowing and understanding our identity in Him, but I do not believe I need to suffer in order know God.  This theology goes against everything the Bible tells us.  Jesus said he came to give us life and life more abundant (John 10:10b) and in John 14:27 he says, “I am leaving you with a gift-peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.


We need to be aware of our pain, face it, and with God’s help heal from it, but never suffer to the point that it becomes our identity.  That is not God’s will for His children.  This mindset will open a door in which the enemy can use to bring upon us a very destructive evil plan, to kill, steal and destroy God’s plan for our lives (John 10:10a).


I’ve heard many preachers in the Church say that the body of Christ has an orphaned spirit.  I agree with this, but I also think that many in the body of Christ today have also taken on a victim spirit and a spirit of self-pity.


Self-pity can cause us to suffer in our pain.  Joyce Meyer says, “Self-pity is actually idolatry because it is self-focus carried to the extreme. When we allow ourselves to fall into self-pity, we are essentially rejecting God’s love and His ability to change things.”


We are not victims; the Bible says we are overcomers by the Blood of the lamb and the Word of our testimonies (Revelation 12:11).  Many in the Church have fallen asleep to this Truth.  They have unknowingly opened a door through their unacknowledged pain, which has led to bitterness, resentment and unforgiveness, towards themselves, the ones who have hurt them and even God.


The devil wants to make you forget who you are, to make you feel hopeless.  He wants to steal your identity, cloud your mind, so you lose sight of who you are.  You are His beloved, and because of Jesus, you have already overcome everything the devil and his adversaries can throw your way.  We are more than conquerors in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:37).


Life is a series of choices, and this applies even when it comes to how we deal with the pain this world dishes out.  For instance, if someone hurts you and you choose not to forgive them then you choose to suffer.  The effects of your unforgiveness will eat at you not them.  Unforgiveness is essentially the same as poking yourself in the eye and expecting the other person to go blind.


Psychotherapist Ira Israel says this about unforgiveness, “If we are not willing to forgive someone, it simply means that we are not finished with suffering yet. Unacceptance of reality causes suffering. Pain does not cause suffering. Pain is immediate, and it usually diminishes with time.”


I’m not sure where you are right now as you read this, maybe you are battling health issues, you have many choices to make that will determine your level of suffering, for example, you can decide that your diagnosis or disease does not define you.  This doesn’t mean you don’t do everything that is available in this world to “deal with” the diagnosis, but you consciously choose that regardless of what the doctors say, you know that Jesus has already healed you on the cross, and you are healed by his stripes.  You just keep on declaring that no matter what the symptoms say.


Ask others to pray for you, and make a choice to tell the devil that you will live and not die, after all, only God knows when it’s our time to go anyway, and heaven is just a glorious beginning for us.  So don’t let the devil scare you, he’s a liar and needs to back off.  Remember, the devil comes to steal, kill and destroy you, and will if you let him.


Perhaps you are really struggling emotionally right now.  Depression is overwhelming your soul.  Perhaps a loved one has betrayed you.  I know it’s hard when you are in the thick of things, emotionally I’ve been very sick myself, and the worse thing I did was isolate, and my depression got worse.  So, when possible try to not spend too much time alone, tell someone how you are feeling and everyday pray even if all you can say is one word – Jesus, and don’t forget to remind the devil that he’s defeated and you are already healed emotionally.


Beloved, God says it’s time to pick up and dust off your spiritual armour and don it.  In my prayer time, God showed me a vision of the body of Christ.  In the spirit, I saw many believers have put away their spiritual armour or don’t even know they have it.  I could see it sticking out under the bed of saints, or hidden in their closets. God says, “You have forgotten who you are. Wake up my children, put that armour back on and return to the battle, return to life.”


As Christians we must remember will always experience pain in this lifetime, but suffering is optional.  Reclaim the JOY of your salvation and walk it out.  You are an overcomer in Christ Jesus! You are a soldier in God’s army, and right now more than ever we need to put on our armour and stand in the calling we have received.


Paul in Ephesians 6:10-18 instructs the saints, Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.


Pick up your armour and allow Christ to put it back on.  Close your eyes and imagine that He is dressing you for battle.  The devil has pushed you into a corner, and some of you have even taken on an antichrist spirit, you allowed doubt and fear to rob you of your inheritance and the knowledge of who you are in Christ.  You are earthen vessels in which the Lord Jesus himself through the Holy Spirit has poured out His sacrifice (2 Corinthians 4:7).  Rebuke those hindering spirits, cast down those idols, and press onward Christian soldiers! (Philippians 3:13-14)


May 2018 be a year of overcoming for you.  No matter what you face, no matter who or what condemns you, stand boldly in your salvation, shine your light for all to see.  Come out of the corner, fully equipped in your armour and do what God created you to do, love, heal, bless, praying at all times for those who are stuck in the trappings of this world.


May the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ rest on you so abundantly so you can begin to experience complete liberty in Christ.


Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you that even though we go through the valley of the shadow of death we have nothing to fear because you are always with us.  Lord help us to face our pain and heal from it, help us choose to heal and may we never choose a path of suffering in this lifetime.


Laura Sterling - Narrow Gate Traveller Ministries - www.narrowgatetraveller.com

If you don’t know Jesus as your Lord and Savior, all you need to do is pray a simple prayer and ask Him to be your Lord then surrender your life to Him.  If you prayed that prayer and would like to chat, please email me at laurasterling@narrowgatetraveller.com