This post is Part 2 of a few left over thoughts I ran out of time for in our latest teaching series on the problem of evil.
The question we’re asking is: how do we suffer well?
We just covered five things to watch out for in times of hardship.
On the flip side, here are five things to lean into…
Again: don’t go it alone.
Let other people into your pain: family, friends, your community, church, etc.
Job is a great model of that in the Scriptures. In a time of excruciating pain and suffering, he doesn’t retreat into a dark corner to be alone. He takes all his emotional chaos straight to God in prayer, and to his friends. The entire book is a dialogue between three parties: Job, his friends, and God.
Now, hopefully you have better friends than Job! For the most part they were well meaning, but gave a lot of bad advice.
Still, the model stands. We need to lean on our community in times of hardship more than ever.
We need to recapture the art of lament. There is a place for protest, questions, and even anger in prayer.
Prayer isn’t a place to be good; it’s a place to be honest. After all, God already knows every single thing you think and feel! It’s futile to pretend with God.
He wants us to express the full bandwidth of our emotions – good, bad, ugly – to him. No filter.
He invites us to meet him in our suffering.
So go to the place of pain in your life. You’ll find that God is there waiting.
Focus on the rhythms and rituals that make for a well-lived life: 8 hours of sleep a night, daily exercise, whole, natural foods, plenty of water, an afternoon walk for fresh air.
When your soul is a mess, take extra good care of your body. You are a whole person. Everything is interconnected.
But also, take care of your soul: the spiritual disciplines, especially prayer, Bible reading, silence and solitude, Sabbath, church, the Lord’s Supper . . . these habits of the kingdom are essential when things are going well, and even more important in times of crisis.
Hardship can push you away from God or pull you closer into his heart. The latter is where healing and renewal come from. So lean in.
4. Live in the moment
It takes time to get through hardship, often months or years. So don’t rush. One day at a time.
As Jesus said, “Today has enough trouble of it’s own.”
You’ll find that the more you live in the moment, the more you live in joy.
Because even in seasons of overall hardship, there are thousands of moments of beauty.
Savor the simple pleasures of life. Turn every cup of coffee, every gulp of oxygen, every sunny day, every experience of pleasure, into gratitude and praise.
Never, ever give up hope for your future. Victor Frankle made the point that in the Nazi death camps, the second a prison gave up hope, he died in days. The marker was a cigarette. Every inmate saved a cigarette for the end; when Frankle saw a man pull out that last smoke, he knew they were as good as dead.
Without hope, we die.
And by hope, I don’t mean a flimsy optimism. “The best is yet to come!” Well, not always.
By hope, I mean the grounded expectation of coming good based on the character of God.
Our hope is threefold.
One: that the bad things will somehow work out for good. That Jesus can take the rubble of our life and reassemble it into something beautiful.
Two: that the good things can’t be taken away – our relationship with Jesus, the Holy Spirit, salvation, etc.
And three: that the best things are yet to come – resurrection, the coming world set free from evil forever, eternity with God, etc.
So my friends, never give up hope.