Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“This is my comfort in my affliction; for Thy word hath quickened me.”
Psalm 119: 50
“Be obedient in the painful times, and trust that God is up to something more grand and wonderful than you can imagine.”
Today’s Study Text:
“Moreover let us also be full of joy now! Let us exult and triumph in our troubles and rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that pressure and affliction and hardship produce patient and unswerving endurance. And endurance, fortitude, develops maturity of character, approved faith and tried integrity. And character of this sort produces the habit of joyful and confident hope of eternal salvation. Such hope never disappoints or deludes or shames us, for God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us.”
Romans 5: 3-5
“The Solitude of Suffering”
“For those of us who know God, pain is a process with a certain purpose. We don’t make it through tough times. We are made through tough times -- made into the beauty of Christ Jesus. And in that perspective, the pain is worth the gain.”
Through the Fire
Is there some event or situation in my life right now that is causing me to suffer? Maybe even “suffer in solitude?”
How do I feel about my Father’s love and relationship with me during this time of suffering?
Have I ever found myself becoming angry when I see the good suffering with the bad?
What do I think the Apostle Paul meant when he wrote these words: “Let us rejoice in our tribulation?”
“Get your arms around a really, really important truth. God is never more present in your life than when you are suffering.”
“In sick-rooms, in prisons, in dreary, unsympathetic homes, in stores where failure brooded like the first haze of a coming eastern storm, everywhere men (and women) have suffered, to some among the sufferers this truth has come. They lifted their heads up and were strong. Life was a new thing to them. They were no longer the victims of a mistaking chance or of a malignant devil, but the subjects of an educating God.”
Over the last several weeks, as we have walked with Elijah into the court of Ahab where he announced that no rain would fall from heaven and no morning dew would collect on the foliage; and then we went to the Brook Cherith where God directed unlikely ravens to bring Elijah his daily food requirement; and from Cherith as we took a 100-mile trek to the town of Zarephath in Sidon where a poor widow woman became Elijah’s landlady, I’ve found myself repeatedly plagued by this one thought. “Suffering is such a lonely business. It seems most of God’s children have, suffered in solitude, as I refer to the type of adversity that makes us feel all alone -- trying to cope all by ourselves. To be honest, I don’t believe I am the only person who has felt lonely when I was in pain. What’s more I would never attempt, with my feeble mind, to take on the complex issue of suffering and claim to have it solved, especially the “Why?” of suffering in solitude which has at times been a topic I’ve tackled in my own life more frequently than I could ever have imagined.
Obviously, having lived through a capricious act, that left Jim and me with lifelong injuries, it is understandable that on more than one occasion, I’ve had the thought pass through my head, “Why? What is the reason for this? Is there a lesson to learn? Why do I feel so lonely because of the challenges I confront each day?”
Frankly, after walking this far with Elijah, to a foreign village and the home of a poor widow, I don’t doubt for a minute that in some moment of solitude, Elijah didn’t find himself looking up into a clear, dark night sky and calling out, “What’s going on God? What is your plan? Especially here in Zarephath?”
As we continue to take a closer look this next week at Elijah’s home-life in Zarephath, we will learn we aren’t off-base when we recognize that Elijah questioned God, especially in the midst of unexplainable heartache and times when he, too, felt abandoned and alone.
Like you and me, Elijah didn’t find life to be a smooth road. It often seemed that whenever he became “settled in,” God yanked him up, and often it was to face another challenge, of some mammoth proportion! It just may be that like Elijah, you feel as though you have been treading a pathway cluttered with one roadblock after another.
I ask you, “What has been your response to the affliction you have suddenly faced in your life and is there something good which can sprout up from the devastating desert plains of suffering?
The great author George Eliot, in addressing the topic of suffering observed that we should “be thankful that our sorrow lives in us as an indestructible force, only changing in form, as forces do, and passing from pain to sympathy. To have suffered much is like knowing many languages. Thou hast learned to understand all.” It is this thought which led me to title today’s “Inspiration,” the “Solitude of Suffering.”
If there is one great lesson to be learned in each of our lives during times of adversity and hardship, it is the fact that these are alone times when as individuals we search for something to hang onto. Something which gives us a solid footing in our life. And it is from this place of aloneness that many “sufferers,” myself included, find that only by clinging to God, am I able to walk through the fire and flood. One of my favorite poets, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, in reflecting on the challenging events he confronted in his own life, wrote, “It has done me good to be somewhat parched by the heat and drenched by the rain.”
As I thought about individuals who down through history have been forced to have a showdown with suffering, my thoughts went back to a day, many years ago when I visited an organization whose legacy was built around the life of Helen Keller, who was both blind and deaf and unable to speak. But what would, in my own mind come under the heading of the solitude of suffering, did not limit Helen Keller’s ability to communicate. Here’s what she said about the challenges she encountered in her life:
“They took away what should have been my eyes,
(But I remembered Milton’s Paradise).
They took away what should have been my ears,
(Beethoven came and wiped away my tears).
They took away what should have been my tongue.
(But I had talked with God when I was young).
He would not let them take away my soul –
Possessing that, I still possess the whole.”
As I read these words, I thought about Paul’s inspirational message regarding suffering, when he wrote to the Christian believers in Corinth: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of sympathy, and the God, who is the Source, of every comfort, consolation and encouragement. Who comforts, consoles and encourages, us in every trouble (calamity and affliction), so that we may also be able to comfort those who are in any kind of trouble or distress, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (II Corinthians 1: 3,4, Amplified Bible).
From the solitude of suffering and the aloneness of adversity -- we can come forth, just as Elijah did when he brought consolation and encouragement into the home of the widow in Zarephath. What a gift to be learned from those times when as G. K. Chesteron penned, we are able to see the “great things from the valley.” At those times when we are encompassed by the solitude of suffering.
“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains; it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
C. S. Lewis
“I thank You for Pain, the sister of Joy,
I thank You for Sorrow, the twin of Happiness,
Pain, Joy, Sorrow, Happiness,
Four angels at work on the Well of Love.
Pain and Sorrow dig it deep with aches,
Joy and Happiness fill it up with tears
that come with smiles.
For the seasons of emotion in my heart,
I thank You, Lord.”
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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