In this world we will have trouble. But take heart! Jesus Christ has overcome the world. Amen! (Ref: John 16:33 NIV).
The Lord Jesus led me to read 2 Thessalonians 1 (Select vv. ESV).
We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring.
Although some people seem to have it so much worse than others, we all experience some element of troubles, heartaches, and difficulties in this world. When sin entered into the world, so did hardships, sickness, death, affliction, persecution, abuse, and disease. Suffering is part of what our bodies go through. And, it is one of the results of sin, not necessarily of the one suffering, but often due to other people sinning against that one.
I shared with you previously that my father abused me physically, verbally, emotionally and sexually. The physical and sexual abuse ceased after I told our pastor, and my dad was hospitalized for 1 ½ years. But, the verbal and the emotional abuse only got much worse once he was released from the hospital, and when he was sent back home.
I lived with my parents for 22 ½ years, and then I married my husband. I thought he was not like my dad at all, but in time, I realized just how much he truly was like him, although their personalities were so different. So, I went from being abused by my dad to being abused, used, taken advantage of, lied to, and betrayed by my husband, although my husband never abused me physically. And, we have been married 45 ½ years.
I was not really aware of what all my husband was doing behind my back until many years later, although there were hints of it early on in the marriage. He was really good at hiding it, and he was really good at lying and deceiving, and he was a great actor, too, who could play whatever role would get him accepted by others, while he led a double life behind the scenes. He professed to be a Christian, but his lifestyle spoke just the opposite, often doing what he did without conscience or guilt at all.
Many times he has made some effort, or he has appeared to make some effort toward being reconciled with God, and with me, and toward leaving his path of sin behind him to follow the Lord in obedience, only to keep repeating the same sinful, abusive, and adulterous patterns of behavior as he had always practiced, over and over again. So, it became very difficult for me, over time, to trust that he had ever been sincere or that he is even sincere now, although he says he is, in turning his life around.
By God’s grace, I have been able to forgive my husband each time, but I still can’t trust that he is now telling me the truth. And, we are still recycling the same conversations, and he is still responding to me in the same old sinful ways. But, once again he is assuring me that this time is different, and that he truly is working on his relationship with God and with me. So, I wait, and I pray, and I keep loving, and persevering, and trusting God to work in this situation and in both of our hearts to make us who he wants us to be.
Growing in faith
I believed in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior at the age of 7 (+/-). So, I have been a believer in Jesus Christ now 61 years. I have had my mountain top experiences and my valleys, and as I have shared previously, I also had my time of moral failure at the encouragement of my husband, for a period of time. But, thanks be to God, he lifted me out of that and he put my feet back on a solid path. Glory to God! All the credit belongs to him.
Throughout my life, and through all that I have been through, and so much more abuse that I experienced from pastors, elders, and church people, etc., I have learned to trust the Lord in these difficult times, though I didn’t always, as I have also confessed. I have grown strong in my faith and in my convictions, which is part of what gets me still rejected and even persecuted.
Having gone through all that I have gone through in my life, though, has brought me closer to God, it has strengthened and increased my faith, and it has given me a love and compassion, not just for those who are hurting, like me, but for those trapped in sin’s deceitfulness, wanting to see them set free from their chains. For, I know all about sin’s deceitfulness, from my own failures, but also from what I went through at the hand of other sinners.
So, no matter what we have gone through, whether great or small in the way of suffering affliction and persecution and even abuse, God can turn it around for good in our lives. He can take what Satan meant for evil, and he can purify our hearts and make us into yielded vessels which he can use for his purposes and for his glory to bless the lives of others in this world who are suffering affliction or who are trapped by the grip of sinful practices.
So, what we go through does not have to undo us. It does not have to take us out. We don’t have to give up in defeat or run away from the pain, for God can work miracles in and through our lives in spite of and even because of what we have gone through. He is still a miracle working God! Amen! So, the real issue here is not so much what we are going through, though I certainly feel every ounce of the suffering – my own and that of others – and I empathize, but it is how we respond to our difficulties that really matters.
Will we let Satan defeat us? Or, will we gain the victory over the enemy of our souls by walking victoriously in our faith in Christ Jesus? Will we wallow in misery forever, or will we rise from our beds of suffering and trust God with our lives, and let him do his work of healing in our hearts and lives? Will we choose to trust him with our circumstances, and seek his counsel in what he would have us do next, or will we react with vindictiveness towards those who have hurt us? In other words, will we let this defeat us, or will we allow it to grow us in our walks of faith and obedience to our Lord?
This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering— since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.
Vengeance is God’s. He will repay, if necessary, those who have injured, abused, mistreated, and afflicted us. But, I believe we should pray for our persecutors and for those who have mistreated us that God will change their hearts and that they will turn from their sin to God to follow him in all his ways, so that they will not face the wrath of God, but so they will be welcomed into his eternal kingdom, too.
To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is my prayer for everyone here who has suffered abuse, mistreatment of any kind, rejection, betrayal, abandonment, and persecution, that God will comfort your hearts with his love and grace, and that you will know how very much God loves you and cares about your life. I pray that you will be able to rest in the Lord, trust in his promises, lean on his grace, and believe that he can not only carry you through this, but that through it all, he can make you into the person of God he wants you to be, for his purposes and for his glory. He can bring good out of what is bad, and he will…
“Comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.” Is. 61:2b-3 NIV
Handel’s Messiah Pt. 3 (excerpt)
The trumpet shall sound,
and the dead shall be raised incorruptible,
and we shall be changed.
For this corruptible must put on incorruption
and this mortal must put on immortality.
Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written:
Death is swallowed up in victory.
O death, where is thy sting?
O grave, where is thy victory?
The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory
through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Tuesday, January 2, 2018, 7:58 p.m. – Thank you, Jesus!