Finding Strength

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? [shall] tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
–Romans 8:35-39

Last week, I wrote a post where I talked about the economic situation in America.  I talked about how things are getting worse.  I offered a way through the mess, through our faith in God.  Today I want to talk more about adversity and hard times.  I hope that through this post, I can reach someone who may be going through tough times, and encourage them to keep their faith in our Savior.

Pastor Greg Laurie recently told a stadium full of worshipers in New Zealand that he simply does not know why God allows suffering.  I don’t know either.  I mean I have my opinions, and I am sure many Christians do as well.  But I truly believe there are questions we simply won’t be able to answer on earth. We will have the answers one day, when we get to Heaven.  Until then, we have to look at the Bible, and do the best we can in this fallen world.

I have had my hardships in life.  No, I have not been at war.  No, I have not been in real poverty.  But the word hardship is such a relative term.  What is a hardship for one man is nothing for someone else.  With that said, I can tell you that I have had times in my life where I simply did not know how I could go on.  I spent many nights awake, pondering how to move on with life.  Yet I have never walked in the shoes of a homeless person.  I have never lived the life of a political prisoner, or a child of war.  So I consider myself truly blessed, knowing that my life has been relatively good.

My wife and I recently started sponsoring a child in Brazil through Compassion International.  The program offers help to children in need around the world.  For $38, we provide food, shelter, and help with education for a girl named Livia.  I don’t mention this to boast, although we are very happy to be able to help her.  I mention it because this experience is serving to humble us, and help us recognize the hardships others endure in this world.

Livia lives near a city named Recife.  If you follow my blog, you may remember that I posted a story about Recife, and the garbage dump people there.  This is the story of the people who live off the scraps of food and items they pick up at the garbage dump in the city.  Livia lives in a small town near this city.  Compassion International is helping to keep Livia from this situation.  They not only provide food and shelter, they educate her and her family, and teach her about Jesus, encouraging her in her faith.  Thousands of children just like Livia have been helped by Compassion International and have been able to get out the slums and ghettos of these countries as a result.

The reason I mention Livia, is because there are so many children just like Livia around the world.  Yet here I sit, in an air conditioned room, sipping on a hot coffee, typing on my computer.  Yes I have suffered hard times, but Livia has nothing.  She lives in a shack with a dirt floor.  I live in a two bedroom villa, with a fully stocked refrigerator.  So I have been thinking about Livia lately.  How is she expected to survive her situation?  How can she persevere, so that she can grow up and get out of that situation?  How can we survive our situation, and get out of our hardships as well?

“Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
–Philipians 4:11-13

Paul writes in Romans that nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Jesus Christ our Lord.  Poverty will not do it.  Sickness can’t.  God loves us no matter what our situation is.  It does not matter if we make mistakes.  God knows we are fallen creatures.  He knows that no matter what hardships we suffer, that He has provided a way out, a way of escape. In the verses from Philipians above, we are told that through Christ, all things are possible.  No matter who we are, where we live, or what we have done, there is a God who loves us unconditionally.  We are special to Him, and through our faith in Him, there is nothing we cannot accomplish.

“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.”
1 Peter 4:12-13

In this passage, we learn how we are to deal with adversity.  We are to rejoice.  Why?  Because by suffering, we come closer to our Savior.  Remember how our Messiah suffered on the cross? Remember how he was beaten and tortured?  He did that for us, to save us from our sins.  In suffering, we can remember our Lord, and what He endured on Earth, and we can know that our suffering, no matter how bad it may seem, is only temporary.

In my last post, and in many that I write, I make reference to us being spoiled in America.  I always try to make comparisons to others around the world, how much other people suffer compared to our relative prosperity in America.  I believe for most of us, it is a good comparison.  It helps us to realize that we have it pretty good in America compared to others around the world.

But the fact is, for the homeless, for those that have lost their jobs, for those who are suffering from illness, my comparisons do not make their situations any better.  I understand that.  No matter how much more someone else suffers, we are still burdened with our own suffering.  I have been there my friend, and I do understand.  But know that no matter what we suffer in our earthly lives, God is with us.  He is right there next to us.  As the passage from Romans says, nothing can separate us from His love, and our faith will be rewarded.

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast..”
–1 Peter 5:10

Again, we will never truly understand in this life why God allows suffering.  But we do know – through His word – that He will stand with us while we do.  Our suffering will strength us, it will make us wiser, and it will draw us closer to our Savior, who suffered on the cross for our sins.  We can know that our trials and tribulations are temporary.

For Livia, and  for us, our faith will carry us through.

“I can’t stop the rain, From falling down on you again
I can’t stop the rain, But I will hold you ’til it goes away”
–When the Rain Comes, Third Day

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