by Dr. Chuck F. Betters
How to Short-Circuit the Holy Spirit – Part 5
Obstacle #4 – Failure to See Suffering as Your Friend
So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 5:1-11 E.S.V)
I began this devotional series, “How to Short-Circuit the Holy Spirit” by referencing my own bucket list. I wonder how many of us include in our bucket lists to live fully in the power of the Holy Spirit. Can that ever really happen in this life? Can I ever wake up one morning and expect that I can live a full 24-hour period in complete obedience to Christ in sinless perfection? Can I ever hope to live in such communion with Jesus that I can say to the lame man, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” What is it that hinders me from experiencing God is such a way that I can walk in step with the Spirit in perfect submission?
When we lost our 16 year-old son Mark in a car accident I remember only a few of my support mourners who made life-altering statements in their efforts to bring comfort to us. Of course, there were those who said some pretty foolish things such as “I understand your pain. We had to put our dog to sleep last week.” Or, “Since your son is a Christian, then why are you grieving.” Or, “It has been so many years since Mark died. Do you still have no closure?” That word “closure” is a word that is a dead giveaway that the person using it has never lost a child.
Yes, people said some pretty stupid things. But I vividly recall two very special people who spoke truth to my soul as they came through the visitation line to pay their respects. An elderly pastor grabbed my hand and spoke four words. He said, “With Jesus…Like Jesus.” Those are the words we put on Mark’s grave marker. The other comment came from a woman who spent a large chunk of her life caring for a man who became a paraplegic after a fall, a man who was s total stranger to her prior to that accident. She said, “I know there are some wounds that only heaven can heal.”
We spend most of our lives strenuously trying to avoid pain. We do not like to suffer. Who does? But pain and suffering is what drives us to greater dependence upon the power of the Holy Spirit to live lives that are pleasing to Him. It is when all is going well that we are tempted to forget about our great need for God. We pray less, we worship less, we give less and we study less. But when all of that proverbial hell breaks loose in our lives then we are forced to turn to the only One Who alone can heal our broken hearts. Peter knew this all too well. He stood at the top of the Mount of Transfiguration where he witnessed a taste of the glory of God and wanted to pitch tents to stay there. But when the transfiguration ended and Moses and Elijah receded back into heaven Jesus led them down the mountain where they were immediately engaged by a demon possessed man (Matthew 17).
It was as though Jesus gave them an object lesson in the “already” and the “not-yet.” That is, the disciples were already glorified in the heart and mind of God. Thus, they witnessed what one can only witness in glory. But they were not yet glorified as evidenced by the encounter with the demon-possessed man. But do not miss a critical point from Luke’s account of the Transfiguration.
And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah,  who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. (Luke 9:30-31 E.S.V)
There, in a moment of absolute glory as the apostles saw and heard Jesus talking to Moses and Elijah, two giants of the Old Testament, what was it that they talked about? They spoke of death and suffering, the impending sacrifice of Jesus on the cross when the lights in the Apostles’ lives would be suddenly turned off and excruciating darkness would lurk over them in relentless sorrow. But that sorrow became the pathway to the resurrection. I am sure during those frightening days that the Transfiguration offered little hope as they watched Jesus brutalized. Did they remember the conversation He had with Moses and Elijah? I doubt it. Their moment of glory dissipated in the shock wave of the crucifixion.
Note how Peter puts this kind of suffering into context some years later when he wrote his Epistle:
Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 5:9-11 E.S.V)
There it is! A truth few of ever understand. Suffering is our friend because it is the pathway to glory. Every trial, heartache and test in this life is designed by God to drive us to the foot of the cross and to the empty tomb. There is where we discover that all sorrow is a means to an end. Four verbs, (restore, confirm, strengthen, establish) remind believers that God will eventually restore whatever they have lost for the sake of Christ. Though suffering will come first, it will be followed by eternal glory. The God who effectually called believers by his grace will fortify them with his strength, so that they are able to endure to the end. Do you believe that? Are you trusting that your pain is actually your friend?
What’s on your bucket list? After Mark’s death, I added, “To embrace pain as my friend.” How about you?
In His grip,
Dr. Chuck F. Betters
Click here to check out videos from In His Grip’s YouTube channel, Ask Dr. Betters.
MARKINC Ministries is committed to leaning into the pain of life experiences that often go unnoticed by the church. The Learning to See When the Lights Go Out audio library addresses life’s darkest circumstances that are difficult to discuss yet we are called on to help one another walk by faith, even when darkness falls. These are the real-life testimonies of people who have walked through these experiences and have learned to see when the lights went out. Browse the library for free downloads on such topics as Drug Addiction, Suicide, Loss of a Loved One, Chronic Illness, Chronic Illness in Young Adults, Widowhood, Divorce, Sexual Abuse and much more. Click here to learn more.
For more information please visit MARKINC Ministries.