Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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6 Things I Have Learned from Those Who Suffer

I was first introduced to the concept of suffering as a vocation in R.C. Sproul’s 1988 book Surprised by Suffering. See my review of and 15 helpful quotes from the book here. Suffering can come in many ways – physical suffering, loss of a loved one or job, loneliness, etc. l have previously written about “Encouragement in the Midst of Loss” here).
Sproul’s purpose in writing the book was that Christians would not be surprised when primarily physical suffering comes into their life. He wanted us to see that suffering is not uncommon nor random. No, it is sent by our Heavenly Father, who is both sovereign and loving for our ultimate good. He also wants us to understand that suffering is a vocation, a calling from God, a concept that will be new to many.
In a fallen world, suffering is going to come to all of us. You may be suffering now, or you may be caring for someone who is. Sproul tells us that suffering is one of the most significant challenges to a believer’s faith. I often wonder how nonbelievers deal with suffering without the strength found in Christ, who Himself was called by God to greater suffering than anyone who has ever lived.
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“We Sure Could Use a Little Good News”


Last week I talked to a long-time friend at work.  She mentioned the anxiety and worry many were feeling about significant organizational changes in our workplace, two major hurricanes (Harvey and Irma), the recent death of the daughter of a teammate, but most of all the terrible murder/suicide that involved two people who I knew and worked with.  This tragic news stunned and saddened our workplace and community.  Feeling weighed down, she said, “we sure could use a little good news”.

Life is hard and there are times when it seems like there are more bad things happening than at other times. I felt that way earlier this year as I thought about a number of recent losses in my life. Read my article “Encouragement in the Midst of Loss”.  We worry about many things, such as our vocations (jobs), health (ours and others we care for), relationships, finances, the spiritual lives of those we care about, etc. In addition, many families, including ours, have been shattered by the suicide of a loved one.

Last year, as I looked back in the rearview mirror at certain key events in my life and my wife Tammy’s life, I saw how the Holy Spirit has used terrible, difficult and painful experiences for good toward our journey in being conformed to His image. Read my article “Looking Back at Life Through the Lens of Romans 8:28”.   I believe that we may not know all of the reasons why some things happen to us in this lifetime, but we can rest in knowing God is using them for our good and His glory.

I’m writing on a Sunday afternoon after hearing a wonderful sermon from my pastor entitled “God is Glorified in Afflictions”.  It was the beginning of a new series on 2 Corinthians. Chapter one of the book addresses how affliction among Christians is redemptive when we don’t waste it. That’s an interesting concept that you may not have thought of. The entire sermon is worth listening to. You can check it out here:   http://christchurchpca.org/sermons

So in the midst of your worries and suffering, listen to the words of Jesus from John 16:33 ~ “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace. In the world you have tribulation and distress and frustration and suffering, but take courage [be confident and certain, be undaunted, be filled with joy]; I have overcome the world.” [My conquest is accomplished, My victory abiding.]

The ultimate good news we all need is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  About the Gospel, R.C. Sproul writes:

“The gospel is called the ‘good news’ because it addresses the most serious problem that you and I have as human beings, and that problem is simply this: God is holy and He is just, and I’m not. And at the end of my life, I’m going to stand before a just and holy God, and I’ll be judged. And I’ll be judged either on the basis of my own righteousness–or lack of it–or the righteousness of another. The good news of the gospel is that Jesus lived a life of perfect righteousness, of perfect obedience to God, not for His own well-being but for His people. He has done for me what I couldn’t possibly do for myself. But not only has He lived that life of perfect obedience, He offered Himself as a perfect sacrifice to satisfy the justice and the righteousness of God.”

I’ll let R.C. Sproul have the final words of good news:
“The only way you can receive the benefit of Christ’s life and death is by putting your trust in Him–and in Him alone. You do that, you’re declared just by God, you’re adopted into His family, you’re forgiven of all of your sins, and you have begun your pilgrimage for eternity.”

When you put your full trust in Jesus Christ, will you experience less suffering?  No.  But He has promised that your suffering will not be in vain, and He will give you eternal Hope!  He is faithful to give you His courage, strength, comfort and peace as He walks difficult roads alongside you.  I would appreciate any thoughts you have. Blessings to you, and thanks for reading.


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Encouragement in the Midst of Loss

Lately, I’ve become aware of a number of losses in my life. Perhaps this describes you in this season as well. This is not to be unexpected in a post-Genesis 3 fallen world. Still, there are many losses that I am aware of in recent days, including:

  • The news that a dear friend, who has bravely battled cancer for years, has gone into hospice care.
  • Saying good bye to dear friends from church as they move to Tennessee.
  • Saying good bye to two team members that, even though I had only worked with them for about four months, I very much enjoyed getting to know them and they will be missed.
  • Hearing that a dear woman from church has had a recurrence of cancer after more than twenty years.
  • Walking with dear friends from church as one of them walks the path of Alzheimer’s disease.
  • The upcoming one year anniversary of my father-in-law’s home-going.
  • Meeting a new team member who is walking with a brother battling cancer.
  • Hearing of a close relative’s loss of their dog that was dear to them.
  • Good friends who experienced three deaths in ten days, including two parents.

I hate cancer. I hate death. I hate good-byes.

And yet for the believer, we know that this life is as bad as it will get. We have much to look forward to. We have hope. Hope of no more cancer. Hope of no more tears. Hope of reuniting, with not only friends who have moved away, but of loved ones who have died. No more waiting on medical tests to find out if the cancer has spread. No more suffering.

John in Revelation 21:4 tells us:
He will wipe away every tear from their (yes our!) eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.      

But until Heaven, how are we to persevere in this fallen and broken world, when life is so hard and there is so much loss all around us? Consider some of this encouragement from Scripture:

  • For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.  Romans 8:18
  • Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope. Romans 5:3-4
  • Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. John 14:1
  • Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.  Isaiah 41:10
  • Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.  Psalm 23:4
  • But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.  1 Thessalonians 4:13-14
  • Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.  John 14:27
  • Casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.  1 Peter 5:7
  • “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”  2 Corinthians 4:16-18.

And of course there are so many more passages from Scripture that provide us comfort and encouragement in the midst of loss. What other verses or passages from the Bible have provided you comfort in the midst of loss?

There are signs of new life as the Midwest embraces spring. As I write this, farmers are in their fields preparing their land for planting. Soon, there will be small little corn and bean plants in perfectly shaped rows emerging in our rich black soil. The redbuds and crabapple trees today are just stunning. There are new buds on our maple tree and fresh green growth on our evergreens around our patio. God is faithful. He will be with you, in the good times and bad.