You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘suffering’ category.

I purchase a red geranium every spring in memory of my Granny, Frances David. She would buy several pots of red geraniums every spring, set them out on the back and front porch and water them faithfully. She was so proud of her geraniums; I can still hear her beckon for my approval of their beauty. She tended to the geraniums so meticulously – wish mine would be as pretty as hers. Recently God actually spoke to my heart through my red geranium on my back porch. It was a day of soaking in some needed back porch rest from what had been a very busy season for me physically, emotionally, financially, and spiritually. The geranium was fairly new; I was hoping my “not so much” green thumb would give me success with this geranium. That day as I basked in the spring rain, I saw the tiniest bloom, literally just a speck of red! I marveled at the whole planting process – the seed in the dirt to the expectation of a full bloom. It hit me that even the tiny speck of red at that moment didn’t even know its own potential. The patience, the process of maturing, the sun, the water, the soil, the nutrients – all work together so that at just the right moment – the glorious beauty is revealed to be marveled at and given praise to the One and Only God who is King of kings. What mystery, what surprise! I felt in my spirit God was wanting me to know that patience and pouring myself into prayer and allowing Him to work was my job especially during this season of my life. Sometimes my job was to “Be still” as God instructs in Psalm 46:10. He desired for me to be still in my soul, to not be anxious, to not be fearful, to not be the scared to death uneasiness that I cannot even sleep.

At this time, my heart goes out to those suffering from hurricane Harvey as well as those in Florida experiencing the turbulent hurricane Irma at this exact moment. What is there to say to console those going through such mess and loss and hurt and anxiety and fear?

Those moments when we at anticipating hope fulfilled, when we are supposed to let something run its course naturally, but we want to interfere. Those moments when things are working out in its own time, but we think we can’t wait anymore. Those moments when we honestly don’t want to be still, we want the whole world to know our mind, our situation, or circumstance. I think that is what God says and means when He tells us to “Be still and know that He is God…”. Trust that He is working, He is creating, He is orchestrating, He is intervening even when we can’t see it. The glimpses we do see of the red blossom slowly showing itself from the bud, know that there is more to come in God’s perfect timing. He is an on-time God. He knows your need before you even speak it (Ps. 139:1-6). He leads us to quiet waters (Ps. 23:2). He is patient with us (2 Peter 3:9). He never sleeps nor slumbers (Ps. 121:4).

The familiar verse “Be still, and know that I am God..” (Ps. 46:10), is not to read in a gentle, monotone voice as if it were being whispered. No, actually it is a giant, loud, authoritative command! Listen for the words in its context of Psalm 46: “refuge”, “trouble”, “help”, “fear”, “earth give way”, “mountain fall into the heart of the sea”, “waters roar and foam”,”mountains quake with their surging”, “nations are in an uproar”, “kingdoms fall”, “fortress”, “desolations”, “wars”, “bow”, “spear”, “burns”, “shields”, “fire”. When life if turbulent and scary and lonely and out of control, God ushers in the holiest “Be quiet!”

The famous prophet Samuel uses the exact same Hebrew word “raphah” when he tells King Saul to “Stop!” (1 Samuel 15:16). Saul is caught in disobedience to God by not annihilating all of the enemy’s people, possessions, cattle, and plunder. Saul took some of the best for himself. Samuel approaches him after a very unrestful night and asks in a sarcastic but can’t believe it, like he can’t believe what his ears are actually hearing, authoritative, parental tone: “What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?” (1 Samuel 15:14). Saul then tries to justify himself by saying that the soldiers brought these animals to sacrifice to the “LORD your God”…and “we totally destroyed the rest” (vs. 16). Samuel, amidst all of Saul’s rationalizations and lies, raises his voice (there is an exclamation point after his word) and commands “Stop!” In other words, stop talking! Stop lying to me and to yourself! Stop justifying yourself! Stop being self-righteous! Stop all this nonsense talk! Too much noise going on – the sheep are bleating, the cattle are lowing, your mouth disgusts me – just stop would you??
This same word “Stop!” is the same Hebrew word the psalmist states God says: “Be still”, “raphah”.

We can make this same kind of noise whether aloud or in our own thoughts. Maybe the doctor has given us a severe diagnosis and all we can replay in our minds is the bad news we heard from him and the nurse, and then the “what if” scenarios start rolling through our mind and heart. Maybe you or your spouse loses a job and the voices in your head tell you that you will lose everything, children will go without shoes, bills won’t get paid, house will be taken, reputation will be lost, and so on. Maybe it could even be a good thing like getting pregnant and yet all the voices in your head tell you that you will be terrible parent, that you won’t be able to love the baby, and that you aren’t worthy to have a child. “Fear usually comes and goes, leaving us in flight, ready to fight, or just temporarily frightened. But anxiety hangs in there. It grips the mind, paralyzing it for all but its own purposes – an endless rehearsing of the same useless thoughts. It is the fuel that propels us into controlling behaviors of all sorts. We can think of nothing but keeping a lid on things controlling the problem, and making it go away; it is the stuff codependency is made of” (Codependent No More, Beattie, 58). Stop! Stop it already! Enough! Be still!

During a life-threatening, turbulent time for the Israelites, God gives words through Moses to His people who have escaped the Egyptians only to find them on their heels with murder weapons: “The LORD shall fight for you, and you shall hold your peace” (Exodus 14:14 KJV, italics mine). Another time, when the Israelites who had come home from the 70 years of captivity had found themselves in a very emotional time, was commanded by the Levites: “Hold your peace, for the day is holy; neither be ye grieved” (Nehemiah 8:11, KJV, italics mine). This awesome phrase “hold your peace” in Hebrew means “to be quiet, rest, keep silent, be still, hold tongue, speak not a word, worker”. Love the last definition “worker”! You are doing something when you are holding your peace by holding your tongue!
A New Testament moment when “hold your peace” is seen is in Mark 4:39 when Jesus “got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ then the wind died down and it was completely calm.” The word “Quiet” is the word for “hold your peace”.

When anxious thoughts disturbingly rise up within your heart and mind, don’t give in to the lies. Don’t let you mind wander to the “what if” scenarios. Max Lucado in his book Fearless writes, “Destructive anxiety subtracts God from the future, faces uncertainties with no faith, tallies up the challenges of the day without entering God into the equation” (Lucado 46).

For those of you in the midst of a real live hurricane, or those who are in the midst of a personal turbulent time:

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Come and see what the LORD has done, the desolations he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire. He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress
Psalm 46

Daniel praised “the God of the heaven” and spoke “He reveals deep and hidden things” (Daniel 2:22 NIV). I wanna know “deep and hidden things” too! I may not want to be in the same predicament as Daniel and his friends were – execution – if the deep and hidden things were not revealed, but I do surely desire to understand and have supernatural insight into the things of God and His Word. I am convinced that the best way to have a revelation is to read God’s Word and simply talk to Him about it. There is a passage of Scripture that has captivated me and prompted a desire for a deeper understanding. The passage is found in 2 Timothy 2. This is a letter to Timothy from his mentor, the apostle Paul, who is writing while being imprisoned for the sake of proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ. In verse 6 Paul reminds Timothy to “fan into flame the gift of God”. Meaning – DO WHAT GOD HAS EQUIPED YOU TO DO. Then, Paul issues a call not just for Timothy but for the whole province of Asia (2 Timothy 1:15). Before he issues the call, he exposes a possible excuse to not answer the call. “So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner” (2 Timothy 1:8a). Paul is saying that before you decide to say “No”, please don’t let your own insecurities keep you from fulfilling God’s call on your life. The call – “join with me in suffering for the gospel…”(verse 8). At this point, Paul was in unbearable conditions; he was in prison. His environment was not one to be envied. He was hungry, dirty, stinky, cold, hurt, and in need of basic human dignity. How dare he issue such a call! What was he thinking? He wants someone to join him and he even uses the name of Jesus as a lure? Wouldn’t this just scare people away from wanting anything to do with Jesus who put him in such conditions?? Shouldn’t this be the appropriate time for him to keep his mouth shut for fear of giving the name of Jesus a bad rep? Paul’s response: “Yet I am not ashamed because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day” (2 Tim. 1:12).

Oh, we American’s sign-up for things! In fact, just this morning, via email, I signed up to win several prizes for home improvement. I also had an opportunity, again via email, to sign up to win a $1000 gift card if I just answer a few questions. We are the first to sign up for whatever requires the least amount of work. We sign up for giveaways whether we want the products or not. We sign up to be the first to go on vacation on the assumption we are most deserving. We sign up whenever we get something bigger and better in return. We sign up to be a part of a program that offers “get rich quick” even at the expense of family. We don’t want to sign up for something that is obscure. If we can’t post it on social media, then it is a waste. I am totally not pointing fingers by any means! I am the first to admit, I tend to not sign up for things that requires me to sacrifice my time. I have so much on my own “to do” list, that I know I have missed out on serving Christ because of my own selfish reasoning.

What do we do with the call to “join with me in suffering for the gospel”? What specifically does God call me to? What specifically does God call you to?

Paul issued the call to the province of Asia. Do you know how many responded? One. One brave, one devoted, one unselfish, one servant-hearted man. His name was Onesiphorus whose name means “profit-bearer”. Paul described him as “he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains” (2 Tim. 1:16). Paul goes on to say that Onesiphorus “searched hard for me until he found me” (verse 17). Sometimes the very thing that God calls us to does not get thrown into our lap. We may have to do some research, get counsel, make phone calls, visit several people and places, and search our hearts. Onesiphorus was not ashamed of Paul’s chains. He was not overly embarrassed to be near Paul in his filthy confinement.

My question I have for you and myself is: What symbolizes “chains” for you and for me? What are we afraid of? What do we not go near for the sake of being grossed out, uncomfortable, or feeling inadequate? Or maybe it is because of our pride. What if someone saw us with someone in chains? What if we get dirty and stinky too? Or maybe we lie to ourselves and say that we are not called to that type of suffering; someone else is more qualified.

Paul mentioned two men who I am assuming he thought would be there for him in his time of need but were not. The two men were Phygelus and Hermogenes. Phygelus’ name just happens to mean “fugitive”. This tells me that when approached with a similar sign up list, we have 2 choices: 1. Embrace 2. Run away. We are either going to open our arms to the “chains” or we will simply ignore the “chains”.

Paul used the word “refreshed” when referring to what Onesiphorus did for him. The word literally means “comforting, reviving, bracing me like fresh air!” Can you imagine anyone needing real fresh air more than Paul? Who knows how long he had gone without being outside or near an open window! Someone needs us to be like a breath of fresh air to him/her. Someone needs a hug. Someone needs to know he/she is thought of and cared for. Someone needs to be heard. Someone needs to be validated. Someone needs love. Someone needs you. “…by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life – not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:8b-10).
We may feel inadequate, embarrassed, unworthy, uncalled, ashamed, afraid, and insecure. No doubt – the chains are intimidating. No more excuses! No more lies! No more fear! Search for what God has called for you to do and know that “God’s word is not chained” (2 Timothy 2:9b)! Hallelujah!

Jennifer Johnson

jenn pic

Books I’ve Written

Ministry Verse

"To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen." -Revelations 1:5b-6

Follow me on Twitter