We all experience trials in this life, at least to some extent. Some people seem to have more than their fair share of them, though, while others appear to be relatively trouble free. But, appearances can be deceiving. We don’t really know what goes on in other people’s lives unless we know them well, and we can see for ourselves what they are going through, or unless they tell us. So, we should never be quick to judge others.
A lot of us have been trained to keep those things to ourselves, and to not share them, which may be wise, in some cases, but then how can people pray for us? How will we be ministered to and encouraged in our suffering by others? How will they know that they are not alone in their suffering? How will they be encouraged in their own walks of faith when they go through hard times if they think no one else has walked where they are walking?
Yet, when we do share, we should do so prayerfully and as led by the Spirit of God. It should not be to gossip, to have a pity party, to put others down, to puff ourselves up, or just to vent. Our goal should always have eternal values and God’s kingdom work in mind, as well as love for God and others.
The Lord Jesus led me to read Philippians 1 (Select vv. ESV).
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Vv. 3-6
When Paul penned these words, he was in prison, but not for committing a crime, but for preaching the gospel of our salvation and Jesus Christ, our Savior. And, he had been in there a long while, too. But, instead of griping and complaining, blasting his persecutors, or venting of his unfair treatment, he wrote this letter to encourage his fellow believers in Christ in Philippi, who had encouraged him in his sufferings and had supported him in his ministry.
But, what if Paul had kept his suffering a secret, and he didn’t let anyone know? The church would have missed this opportunity to share with him in his suffering and to encourage and support him. And, he would have missed out on their encouragement and support, too. Through this sharing of mutual love and support, they bonded, they united in heart and mind, and they were all strengthened in their faith, and in their purpose, and in their commitments (resolve) to obey the Lord and to keep on in his service.
Making it Personal
I am thirteen days away from turning 68 years old. I was born in the last six hours of 1949, at 6:10 p.m. When I grew up, we were taught not to talk about our sufferings, although that didn’t stop some people from gossiping or griping and complaining. But, we were to keep certain things hidden.
Nonetheless, my aunt set up an appointment for me and one of my sisters to talk to the pastor about our father’s abuse of our mother, i.e. that he was beating her nearly to death. The pastor’s response, though, was that he could do nothing unless our mother pressed charges. Wow!
My aunt did not know about the abuse of us kids. She didn’t know about the physical, sexual and mental abuse that some of us went through, but I knew, because I was one of the ones suffering. But, I would never have had the courage to go to the pastor if it were not for my aunt.
So, here I was, and the pastor was going to do nothing, so I told him about the sexual abuse. I told him this began when we were toddlers or at least by kindergarten age. But, even then he said, “But did he force you?” He was clueless!
My dad went into a mental hospital for 1.5 years. My mom never talked with us about it. I doubt she talked to anyone else about it, either. She even took us girls to visit our dad in the mental hospital, and she did tell us we had to forgive him. No one else talked with us about it, either. It was just shoved under a rug. And, it had devastating effects on my life because I had no one to help me through it or to encourage me.
[But, God took me through a healing process in later years, and he took that pain from me, and he filled me with his love and grace. Praise his name!]
And, then my dad was sent back home, still with no one talking with us about it. And, that frightened me. And, he did try to resume the sexual abuse, but this time I had the courage to tell my mom, and it stopped, but the mental abuse only got worse.
To make a long story short, I learned to not tell people about what was going on in my life. And, even if I did get the courage to tell someone, most did not understand. They had no clue how to help me. So, when I went through other difficult times in my life, I learned to stuff that, too, and that is not healthy. Venting is not healthy, either, though it may give us some relief, because it has as its goal just to let off steam, but with no resolve to change anything, and it often does a lot of damage to others.
So, we need to have a healthy way and a biblical and godly way to share with other believers our sufferings so that they can help strengthen and encourage us, but also so that we can encourage them in their suffering with the encouragement we have received from God (2 Co. 1:1-11). Yet, we need to do this under the guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit, in love, in kindness, in gentleness, and with the ultimate goal of ministering God’s grace and mercy into the lives of others, and not just to please ourselves.
It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. Vv. 7-8
When we do share our sufferings with others, this is when we learn who our true friends are, i.e. those who will stand beside us, even if they don’t know what to do, and who will pray for us, and not reject us because what we just shared with them was uncomfortable for them to hear. Friends like that, though, seem few and far between. Most people will just walk away.
So many people just want to put on masks and pretend “I’m ok, you’re ok,” even if they are not ok. And, that isn’t healthy, either. I remember that Chuck Swindoll wrote a book about that many years ago titled, “Dropping your Guard.” If you have never read it, I would highly recommend it. It was an excellent read. Evidently, he has an updated version out now.
The point of this, though, is, that if we are to have genuine fellowship with one another, in the Spirit, and if we, the body of Christ, are to grow together in love, one for the other, we have to “drop our guards,” and not wear masks, though we must exercise wisdom and discernment with this, too. We can go from shoving it all inside us to the opposite extreme where all we do is complain and want people to commiserate with us, and that is not healthy, either. We have to find the right balance in this.
And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. Vv. 9-11
Always, before we open our mouths and blurt out our hurts, we should pray, asking the Lord for wisdom and direction, and we should examine our own hearts to see if our purpose in sharing is godly, with the goal in mind of our own spiritual maturity, or with the goal in mind of leading others to spiritual maturity in Christ, that they may walk in his holiness and righteousness. Our purpose in sharing should be to increase one another’s love for God and our love for one another, otherwise it can be destructive to the body of Christ.
I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. Vv. 12-14
I love this! Our purpose in sharing our sufferings with others, should, as well, be for the advancement of the gospel of Christ. This should be the intended outcome. And, what is the gospel? It is that Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. And, this should always be what we teach, that our Lord gave his life up for us so that we might be free of our chains. So many people are in chains, by their own choice, because of wrong choices, but also because they keep their sins a secret.
So, if we want hope and healing for ourselves or for others, we need to have the courage to tell someone, or to share with the body of Christ what we are going through. But, we also need to be prepared for rejection, because too many want to keep things on a surface level, i.e. happy, happy, and they will not want to share in the fellowship of our sufferings, as we share in the fellowship of the sufferings of Christ.
But, that should not keep us from giving testimony to God’s saving grace and mercy in our lives, because we never know how God is going to use what we share in the lives of others, if not now, maybe some time down the road when they are ready for it. So, be courageous, be bold, be humble, be sensitive, be discerning and wise, and be submissive to your Lord in doing what he wants you to do for your own healing, and for the healing of others.
Songs in the Night
An Original Work / December 18, 2013
“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.” Acts 16:25 NIV ‘84
Lord, I praise You forevermore.
You, my Savior, I now adore.
Hope in heaven awaiting me,
Because You died at Calvary.
I have been forgiven,
And I’m bound for heaven.
Jesus set me free from
All my sin, I say.
I will praise Him always!
Lord, I love You for all You’ve done:
Overcame death, my vict’ry won!
Jesus saved me, and now I’m free!
I rejoice in His love for me.
I will walk in vict’ry!
My sin is but hist’ry!
I am free to please Him
With my life today.
I will love Him always!
Lord, I thank You for giving me
A new life bought at Calvary.
Loving Jesus, I meet with Him.
Tender mercies now flow within.
Lord, I am so thankful;
Through my Lord, I’m able
To sit at His table;
Fellowship with Him.
I will thank Him always!
Monday, December 18, 2017, 5:55 a.m. – Thank you, Jesus, for these encouraging words you gave to my heart today. I love you and I praise you!