I earned my intimate relationship with Jesus Christ at a price most people would not or could not pay.
I struggled to survive, even before my mother gave birth to me. My biological father beat her and left her for dead in the middle of nowhere in a cabin with a dirt floor, no running water or electricity.
Her sister found her after three days where she lay in agony of dry birth contractions. My mother, immediately rushed to the hospital, unconscious, never saw how I fought my way into the world, breeched. It turned into a blessing in disguise for her to not endure any further pain. When she regained consciousness, I was there to greet her!
I fought then, and I still fight against adversity every day. Being a Christian doesn’t mean life is all cupcakes and parties every day, piles of money, no sickness or disease, and not a care in the world.
Believing in Jesus Christ, being a Christian, is so much harder. Not only do we fight for and defend our Christianity and beliefs against the world of non-believers, but also we fight Satan who no longer controls us.
I grew up in the church. I went to Sunday Services, attended church camp every summer, and was a member of the choir. Baptized at thirteen, still with a heart and mind full of questions.
Simple and easy are not the answers to my questions. If they were, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Where am I? Why am I here? And the biggest question – how did I get here?
It took me a long time to understand that God knew the journey I needed to travel before I did. So, I am living my journey and enjoying it instead of anticipating the destination.
Coincidence upon coincidence. One after another. Some obvious, some not so, all strung together like beads on a string – a string of life – beads being the events that brought me to where I am today. And, to understand, it took suffering.
Paul, one of the great sufferers for Christ, wrote in Philippians 1:29-30 “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.”
The lesson that I needed to learn was that God created human beings with a free will. And, because of that free will, God wasn't going to raise His mighty hand and smote every single person down who did wrong. Not even if I was right there to point every single one of them out to Him.
Pain is one of those emotions that help us focus our attention on God. How many of us have ever cried out, "Oh, God, just make it stop hurting!" I can't remember the number of times I have cried those exact words.
Pain makes us look inside ourselves. Most of the time, whether we want to or not. We've been brought up in a world that uses pain as a punishment. As children, we constantly heard, "Don't do that or I'll spank you." As parents, we used the same techniques to invoke obedience in our children. How many times have we said, "I love you so much it hurts.” Or, how about this, "It pains me to tell you this, but . . ." We use pain all the time to emphasize our actions.
Learning our lesson the "hard way" is, in my humble opinion, the best way to be taught. I always thought I was a really good student.
So much for what I thought I knew.
Paul tells us in Philippians 1:12-14 “Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.”
Imprisoned, Paul didn’t become bitter or give up. He used it as an opportunity to spread Christ’s message. Paul realized that his current circumstances weren’t as important as what he did with them. He turned a bad situation into a good one. In prison, he found opportunities to reach out to the Roman soldiers guarding him and encouraged them to believe in Christ. There are so many times when we could be discouraged: indecision, financial burdens, family conflict, church conflict, job loss and more. It’s how we react in those situations that reflect what we believe. You too, can be like Paul: look for ways to demonstrate your faith even in bad situations. Whether or not the situation improves, your faith will grow stronger.
I don't believe that God is "letting" us suffer. I believe that He is acting like a parent, our Heavenly Father, by guiding us and showing us the way, but in the end, letting us make our own decisions. It's called Free Will. And God gave it to all of us.
See Part 2