I want to revive my flesh so that I can be “normal” like other people.
I want to be well because I seek pleasure and popularity in this life, almost forgetting the great joy which awaits me in the life to come.
The pursuit of comfort for my flesh does not stem from spiritual wisdom, but from my flesh’s myopic vision, desires, and demands.
Often, the agents of transformation which orient us more toward an eternal perspective are pain and loss.
Suffering – if we will let it – pulls us from our attachment to the carnal world and awakens us further to the hope of the spiritual and eternal world. It seam-rips our stitches to this temporal existence, and sews in the place of worldly pleasures an eternal and imperishable joy.
Suffering is the refining blade which sheds our deathly flesh – the perishable – so that we can become stronger in the Spirit – the imperishable.
Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
1 Corinthians 15:50-55
Indeed, suffering is very much like a portal to the heavenlies.
But in this portal, as we approach this new world, we must gradually die to the old one.
We must learn to consider ourselves as dead to it, even now.
Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him.
If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!”
But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.
Much (though perhaps not all) of our suffering springs from a setting of our minds on the things of this earth.
We want, and we cannot have.
We idolize, and our idols are then shattered before our eyes.
We trust in temporal things – or people – and that trust is broken.
We build our joy on the foundations of our health, wealth, and relationships, and those foundations crumble.
The fire of suffering breaks down these foundations and prepares us for heaven.
Suffering gives us the opportunity to turn our gaze to an imperishable foundation, Christ.
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock.
He is our sure salvation. He is the source of our identity. And all the riches of wisdom are found in Him.
In Him, we also have the promise of eternal life, and restoration and healing in the age to come.
And yet, in our shortsighted love for our temporal soul suits (flesh), we are often blind to the light and beauty of the world to come, and the eternity that awaits us.
Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; but just as it is written,
“Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard,
And which have not entered the heart of man,
All that God has prepared for those who love Him.”
1 Corinthians 2:6-9
Our earthly vision – the reasoning of our natural mind – is rather like the reasoning of a soulless animal whose vision extends only to the next piece of grass. We want our comforts and we want them NOW.
Our natural selves perceive no merit or profit in trials, because the merit and profit is spiritual, the meaning and depth of which will be revealed in the age to come.
I want to clarify that I’m not saying that suffering saves us. Rather, suffering is the necessary shedding of our temporal selves so that we may be ready to put on the imperishable one day.
Often, we see the fire and the suffering only as punishment and pain, rather than a gift from God for healing and transformation.
With our fleshly eyes, all we perceive is a raging fire which threatens to consume all our familiar physical existence.
A fire that we fear will burn our temporary, paltry pleasures.
We are blind to the offering of a greater beauty and joy – the living water which quenches all thirst – because we are so deeply attached to the things that are corruptible – the water which only temporarily quenches.
We are so familiar and connected with that which perishes, that we don’t want to let go of it, just like an addict who struggles to set aside their habits because of the withdrawal pain they might endure.
And yet Love pleads with us – that we would sever our attachment to the corruptible so that we might place our hope in the incorruptible.
And suffering in the flesh is that plea.
Love says – through suffering – “Stop seeking in futility that which can never satisfy. Seek Me. Find Me. Rest in Me.”
Love pleads with the unbeliever to become imperishable through Christ. It pleads with the believer to remember their hope in Christ.
God is a consuming, purifying fire and light. We must walk in Him – His consuming fire – to become one with that fire, that light, and not perish by it.
If we choose to remain in the darkness, we will be destroyed by the light which is to be revealed.
Love begs us to die to the things which will burn – lest we burn with them.
The unsaved man or woman who suffers great loss in this world is, in many ways, most blessed. They must learn to count all these things as loss. And this is for the best. These things will burn anyway.
The elements will one day melt with intense heat. That includes the elements of which our bodies are made. We are dust.
We must not put our hope in the flesh, because it is not forever.
Love tries to get our attention – to warn us to escape the fire that will consume all elemental things – and be joined to the spiritual, that we might consist of a substance – an essence – which will not burn. The Light of God, which cannot be destroyed with fire.
The only way not to be burned by the Holy Flame of God is to exist within Him – to become a part of His all-consuming flame. To be united with God through His Son, Jesus Christ.
When we are joined with Christ (that is, when we are justified before God), we begin the process of sanctification. We walk through God’s holy, purifying flame, and begin to shed all temporal and corruptible things – the “flesh”.
The only way to shed the corruptible is to suffer in the corruptible. To suffer the loss of the corruptible. The loss and damage of things which will be lost and destroyed anyway.
Come down, O love divine, seek thou this soul of mine,
and visit it with thine own ardor glowing;
O Comforter, draw near, within my heart appear,
and kindle it, Thy holy flame bestowing.
O let it freely burn, til earthly passions turn
to dust and ashes in its heat consuming;
And let thy glorious light shine ever on my sight,
and clothe me round, the while my path illuming.
– Come Down, O Love Divine
The bridge between this world and the other – the material and the eternal – is made of a cross.
Christ bore this cross for us, but those who are joined to Him and desire to live according to His will share in His sufferings.
We are crucified to sin for our salvation, but also to this world and this life so that we can be fit for a different, more lasting existence.
Suffering is an invitation to the eternal world – to the joy that cannot be taken. It burns away the joys that perish.
Suffering is the outstretched hand of Love, calling us to be a part of something more eternal, beautiful, and powerful than that which our natural, “animal” vision could ever perceive (the “flesh” is our “animal” nature).
Suffering is the invitation for an eternity of joy and rest. We learn to find our rest in a reliable, enduring place – Christ. A sure foundation.
How wonderful to know that when Jesus Christ speaks to you and to me, he enables you to understand yourself, to die to that self because of the cross, and brings the real you to birth.
We pray for blessings, we pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep.
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering.
All the while You hear each spoken need
Yet love is way too much to give us lesser things.
‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears?
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near?
What if trials of this life
Are Your mercies in disguise?
When friends betray us, when darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not, this is not our home.
What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst
This world can’t satisfy?
And what if trials of this life –
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights –
Are Your mercies in disguise?
– Laura Story
Sacrifices and Salvation
The value of a thing is not determined by the level of immediate comfort it secures.
In fact, often the most valuable things are only obtained through significant levels of sacrifice or loss.
The more we value something, the more we are generally willing to sacrifice for it.
For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?
Friendships are precious gifts, but they are not our source of significance.
Material wealth is a blessing and a great responsibility, but it does not amount to, measure, or define our worth.
God identifies, protects, and heals, and sustains us spiritually. Even if we lose our identities, safety, health, and sustenance in this life, we have hope of all these things in the life to come. We count everything in this life as loss.
Apart from Him, we have nothing and are nothing – no matter how much we think we have and are – and in Him, we have everything and are complete. We are children of the King.
Whoever has, to him more shall be given; and whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has shall be taken away from him.
Anything we think we have right now (riches, friendships…) comes from God. It is not really ours, and it could be taken away in an instant.
If we do not have and know God, even what we think we have (riches, etc.) will eventually be taken away. If we know God through Christ, we have a promise of rewards in heaven.
“Now no one after lighting a lamp covers it over with a container, or puts it under a bed; but he puts it on a lampstand, so that those who come in may see the light. For nothing is hidden that will not become evident, nor anything secret that will not be known and come to light. So take care how you listen; for whoever has, to him more shall be given; and whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has shall be taken away from him.”
There is one thing that we know will not be taken away from us, should we choose it. Whoever has this thing, to him more will be given.
Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations [note: temporal things]; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”
Fellowship with Christ – and learning from Him – will never be taken away from us.
Even if our Bibles should be taken from us, Jesus still lives inside us, and would still speak His truth to us. He said He would never leave or forsake us.
Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,” so that we confidently say,
“The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid.
What will man do to me?”
How many faiths promise suffering? Not very good advertising for a “religion“, if you ask me.
“If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.”
“In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. – 2 Timothy 3:12
that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. – Philippians 3:10-11
Just as life came through Christ’s suffering on the cross, life comes to us and often to others through our suffering.
Does this mean that I don’t enjoy or appreciate good things when they come my way? Or that I don’t pursue anything good in this life which happens to be of a temporal nature? No. I enjoy and savor the blessings of this life when I can, but I also seek to hold them loosely. They will not last for eternity, and they cannot be my source of fulfillment.