There is a rather unsightly crack in my kitchen ceiling. I’ll admit, it has been there for a couple of years—a sign of a foundation issue caused by leaking water. The foundation work has been done, but we probably will have to look at that crack until we get around to remodeling our kitchen—someday when the finances are right. There are times when I am weary of seeing this ugly reminder of imperfection, something I can’t control. This crack, however, is a lot like other unsightly reminders in life, reminders of foundational cracks in a fallen world.
The Cracks of Life
While I am looking forward to having a blemish-free ceiling one day, I am ecstatic about one day having a crack-free life. This dream, however, will only be realized when Christ returns. For now, we are living under the curse of sin set in motion by Adam and Eve’s rebellion in the garden. They wanted to be “like God,” and because of their rebellion, we not only deal with the sins of others on a daily basis, but the consequences of our own sin. We now fear not only the cruelty and selfishness of others, but the sin in our own hearts. The fall of Adam and Eve leaves us with the certainty mentioned by Christ in John 16 when he says, “In this life you will have tribulation . . . “(John 16:33)…
We don’t have to look far to see suffering in this world, do we? From texts to social media to news outlets, we witness firsthand the trials and tribulations of living in this broken world. We probably know a neighbor, friend, or family member going through a difficult challenge. We are acutely aware of natural disasters and political conflicts happening around the globe.
Believers are not exempt from afflictions. Every follower of Christ will experience some kind of trial or suffering. From the moment we wake up, to the moment our head hits the pillow, we may also feel the chronic struggle of doing life this side of Heaven. What should be our response when we feel the weight of suffering?
The Trials of Suffering
First, we should consider what suffering is. Suffering looks different from culture to culture and person to person. Quite simply, suffering is the state of undergoing pain, distress, or hardship. This certainly is a broad definition under which many things can fall. Physical pain, chronic illness, mental or emotional distress, relational tensions, financial loss, familial conflicts, social injustice, and the list could go on and on.
Whatever the suffering, it comes to us as a direct result of the fall of man…
And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. (Deuteronomy 8:3)
“I cried myself to sleep every night with the Psalms.”
Mrs. Sarah, who shared these words with our Bible study group, knows what it looks like to spend an unexpected season in the wilderness of suffering. Not long after World War II, when she was a young mother with two young children, Mrs. Sarah needed to return to school to finish her teaching certificate so that she could help support her family. She packed her bag and moved eighty miles away from home and family to complete her final year of college. In this lonely and difficult season, Mrs. Sarah turned to the nourishment she knew she needed, God’s Word.
Anyone who has spent much time in the wilderness of suffering knows the humbling that comes during crisis. Stripped of the familiarities on which we often depend for comfort, we learn that we do not, in fact, live by bread alone. Deuteronomy 8 reminds us that in the wilderness, God did not merely humble his people, he also fed them. He fed them physically with something called manna, a word that in the original Hebrew literally means, “What’s this?” It was a food unlike anything the Israelites had ever heard of, seen, or tasted. It fell from the sky, and it looked something like flaky frosty cereal but was a lot more nutritious!
God fed his people physically with this strange food, and he fed them spiritually with his Word. In our own wilderness of suffering, we are humbled, and our hunger and thirst for good news intensifies. More powerfully than any IV fluid, God’s Word drips into our hearts and minds to energize us with the faith, hope, and love we desperately need.
Faith is strengthened by Scripture’s true redemption stories…
The time I got hit by a car while jogging.The time I was not awarded the scholarship to college that everyone thought was a shoe-in.The time I transferred colleges and met my husband in a biology lab I should not have had to take.These are the one-line titles of just a few of my redemption stories. If you read my blog or hang out around me long enough, you might just hear the whole story. How about you? When is the last time you told a story of how God rescued and redeemed you in a particular moment or season of your life?Asaph, the author of Psalm 78, convincingly argues that God’s people must know and share their stories of redemption. In the seventy-two verses of the Psalm, he demonstrates how far astray God’s people can go when they forget his mighty miracles and wonderful deeds. Right in the middle of the Psalm, Asaph reminds us of the surest hope of a forgetful people—our God never forgets to be merciful. Let’s look at how it breaks down:Part 1. A Call to Remember and Tell (Psalm 78:1-8)Asaph implores the Israelites to remember and tell of God’s redemptive work. When they recite his “glorious deeds” and “the wonders that he has done” (Psalm 78:4b, ESV), the next generation will “set their hope in God…[and] keep his commandments” (Psalm 78:7, ESV). When the Israelites remember their stories of redemption, they won’t follow in the fleeing footsteps of their “stubborn, rebellious,” ancestors (Psalm 78:8, ESV).
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