Suffering

“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sufferings…” “…For when I am weak then I am strong.”

No cross, no crown.

It’s kind of ironic on a blog like this to have a designated page on suffering. If you have read any other parts of the blog, the concept of christian suffering undergirds every other topic related to a believers’ life. A testimony involves suffering. A testimony of Christ Jesus is about God being strong in a human’s weaknesses and failings. Thus a personal testimony of Christ necessarily requires suffering to show off the power of God.

2 Corinthians 12 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak then I am strong.

Acts 9 3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ 5 Who are you, Lord?’ Saul asked. ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. 8 Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing…

Saul was struck blind in his earthly eyes after he met Jesus but he was seeing so clearly the spiritual reality of things. For a few moments Paul saw EXCLUSIVELY THE MOST IMPORTANT THING HE NEEDED TO SEE: JESUS IS GOD.

John 9 39 Jesus said, ‘For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.’ 40 Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, ‘What? Are we blind too?’ 41 Jesus said, ‘If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.’

What is your testimony? If it is “I could see Jesus a little and now I can really see”-as in you were never blind or outright rebellious according to your understanding of things-Jesus says that you are not saved.

Doing gender according to the Bible requires suffering. It requires doing something that is exactly the opposite of what the carnal nature wants, also known as dying to yourself, for the sake of Christ Jesus that He may get glorified in how you express and live out gender. As a woman, you will desire to be in charge instead of the numerous other jobs God has given you that are objectively cool like popping out mini-humans for one. Additionally, you will want to hide yourself away from your husband, covering your physical body or maybe your feelings, as Eve did after she and Adam introduced sin into the world.

Genesis 3 6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also agave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. 15 …Your desire shall be for your husband, and he will rule over you.

Whether you take this verse to mean you will desire to rule over your husband or you will literally have all your focus be men and what is going on with them, both are bad news for a woman living on sinful earth.

Staying married or doing marriage how Christ says requires suffering because you do not do things during dating that worldly people may do without second thought. It also requires acting in ways that may make a person want to throw up. Iff you are at all like me, that is,you may be repulsed at the idea of not defending your “right” to be right all the time, submitting to an imperfect man, not in a way that blesses abuse but in a way that shows off the glory of the Lord, and even obeying that same man who you are clearly more qualified and smarter than (sigh).

Ephesians 5 22 Wives submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church- 30 for we are members of his body.

Christ also asks us to stay with our spouse, or remain loyal to our spouse during separation for the sake of showing the worthiness of Christ and His idea of marriage.

1 Corinthians 7 10 To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. 11 But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.

Matthew 5 1 Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them, saying: 2 ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 ‘Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Notice how these scriptures on suffering also describe those who have eternal life in Christ Jesus. Suffering for the love of Jesus is at the core of salvation.

Philippians 3 7 But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. In consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. 10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so somehow to attain the resurrection of the dead.

Can you relate to any of the things Christ Jesus went through on earth? If you think you cannot relate because you are just so blessed let me remind you that JESUS WAS THE SON OF GOD AND HE WAS BLESSED

Romans 8 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs-heirs of god and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed, we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

Have you ever heard the sayings pain is beauty or no pain no gain? Those sayings are about material gain-outer beauty that is fleeting and muscle strength from a hard workout that also will not last. These scriptures are about pain that leads to everlasting life and that serves as a foundation for the most IMPORTANT relationship of your entire existence: a relationship with Jesus. NO CROSS, NO CROWN.

Suffering is necessary to have a relationship with God because we sinned against God. In Genesis 3:6 humans turned from God while they lived in the most ideal earthly environment under God. The reversal of Genesis 3:6 is when we turn to God to be in the least ideal earthly environment under Him.

Romans 5 1 ‘Therefore, since we have been justified through faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope, 12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned – 15 But the gift is not like trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to many! 16 Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. 17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who received God’s abundant provision of His grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.’ 

John 12 27 ‘Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your Name!’

1 Peter 4 12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ , you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or a thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. 16 However, if you suffers as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.

Acts 5 40 …They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus and let them go. 41 The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. 42 Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.

What is the hope that we have have when we suffer as a christian? Our suffering now that is gladly embraced in the Spirit of Jesus is our seal that we will escape the second death. The intense and overwhelming feeling of loss when we suffer because we lose things or people in this life is a glimpse of the eternal suffering we will endure in hell without kissing the Son and glorying in loss now. Gladly embracing intense suffering now is like a goodbye kiss. Our lives lightly brush against suffering during momentary affliction like a goodbye kiss is momentary. We kiss it goodbye for eternity! We say goodbye to suffering in the hereafter when we catch a glimpse of it here.

How can a loving God allow suffering in the world? We CHOSE eternal suffering and torment. We CHOSE life without God when we sinned because GOD IS THE OPPOSITE OF SIN. James 1:13.When we sin we desire something that is not God. James 1:14-15. God commanded Adam that they would die when they sinned, Genesis 2:16-17, but we know from Genesis 3:6-7 that when Adam and Eve ate they did not die physically at that point. Their sin brought about the death of their relationship with God – for themselves and for humans unless the humans are reconciled to God, personally, Genesis 3 & Romans 5.

To be separated from God who is the author of life is death. God gave them curses to symbolize for them the chaos and nightmare they chose in leaving God. THEY CHOSE DEATH- or eternal separation from God which is basically an eternity of everything you do not like about living now. GOD CHOOSES TEMPORARY SUFFERING THAT WE MAY AVOID THE ETERNAL SUFFERING WE ASKED HIM FOR AND WE CONTINUE TO ASK HIM FOR EVERY TIME WE SIN.

Temporary suffering introduces us to a glimpse of the eternal scale suffering we choose every time we sin. Kind of like when we shop online. We click purchase but then a pop up may ask if we are sure we are ready to complete the purchase. Suffering now (including the death of our bodies where we are separated from loved ones in the flesh) is a pop up from God saying “are you sure you want to go through with your purchase of eternal suffering, death, and torment with that sin you just did against me?”

The “cancel” option in the case of our purchase of eternal suffering and torment with our sin against God is selecting that Jesus suffer the wrath of God for you and that you give up a claim to anything in this life to which you feel entitled to in order to gain Jesus and avoid God’s wrath. BY ALLOWING US TO SUFFER MOMENTARY AFFLICTION GOD LOVINGLY GIVES US A SECOND CHANCE TO AVOID ETERNAL SUFFERING. The first chance to avoid death was not sinning at all in the first place which we all failed at some point.

Persecution by those who you have confessed your faith in Jesus in front of becomes, not like a “badge of honor” elevating some thought to be “super” believers over other, but rather serve as a general name tag that reads “christian,”

1 Thessalonians 3 2 We sent Timothy, who is our brother and god’s fellow worker in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encouragement you in your faith, 3 so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them. 4 In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know.

Let us recall Jesus’s resume to determine what we think the life of a solid believer is. Jesus is the MOST solid believer as He truly believed all that was said in the law and the prophets and He DID have faith. Jesus said, (this must happen because of the scriptures) and because He BELIEVED He went to His own death on a cross. Jesus taught that, (tells disciples they could not ) and His faith led MANY to be healed of demons. Now for examining the lowly life that Jesus lived as an example for us;

  1. Jesus was conceived outside of marriage or out of wedlock. Luke 1:34-35; Matthew 1:18
  2. Jesus was born to a nothing-special-about-her kind of woman. Luke 1: 26-33
  3. Jesus had an outrageous earthly family history filled with liars, adulterers, prostitutes, and murderers. Matthew 1:1-16; See Old Testament for the history of the folks in Jesus’s blood line
  4. Jesus was homeless. Matthew 8:18-20
  5. Jesus was pursued and hunted down like a criminal or troublemaker though he was not one. John 7:28-30; John 7:44; Mark 3:1-6
  6. Jesus was NOT commended by His earthly pastor for the life HE LIVED. John 7:48-52
  7. Jesus was considered to be OUT OF LINE by His family for what He was doing for the LORD. Mark 3:31-34; John 7:1-8
  8. Jesus was betrayed by ALL of  His friends. Mark 14:27; Mark 14:52 
  9. Jesus did NOT have His prayer to God the Father that He would not have to suffer answered. Mark 14:32-42
  10. Jesus was charged with doing something deserving punishment by death.
  11. Jesus was forsaken by the Father, while He was on the cross, as in He did NOT get rescued from trouble. Mark 15:33-34; Matthew 27:46

Can you relate to any of the things Christ Jesus went through on earth? If you think you cannot relate because you are just so blessed let me remind you that JESUS WAS THE SON OF GOD AND HE WAS BLESSED IN THE HIGHEST WAY AND IS FOREVER PRAISED, AMEN! YOU ARE NOT BLESSED BY GOD BY BY YOUR OWN SELF-DECEPTION! Now I am an unworthy woman of unclean lips and from a people of unclean lips, Isaiah & Romans, BUT CHRIST IS INFINITELY WORTHY SO DO RESPECT HIS LIFE AND HIS WORDS. 

Do you still want to be a christian or should you still consider yourself to be one? Do you want this life or do you really have this life already?

On Good Friday, Jesus took an “L” because there was a greater win at stake-that is, a victory for the righteousness of God pardoning disgraceful sinner and for our ultimate salvation. He had His eye on the bigger win when He laid down His life at the cross.

Let’s look at Paul’s resume as a christian as well.

2 Corinthians 11 23 Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn? 30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. 31 The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, who is be praised forever, knows that I am not lying. 32 In Damascus the governor under King Aretas had the city of the Damascenes guarded in order to arrest me. 33 But I was lowered in a basket from a window in the wall and slipped through his hand.

“In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted…Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him…if we endure, we will also reign with him”

Lastly, I submit before you my own resume so you can judge me by the standard of the New Testament. I have NO MERIT. I am UNWORTHY on my own. God JUSTIFIES me and GIVES me worth. More importantly, I want to share this to encourage you that Christ Jesus IS WORTHY because HE IS. This is Christ Jesus, who I love: Colossians 1 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by him all things were created; things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

  1. Directly discouraged by pastors from homemaking, including a specific instance where I quoted scripture back to the pastor on the necessity, according to the mind of Christ and not my own thinking, of prioritizing building my home from Proverbs 14:1
  2. Treated as an outcast by family, peers, schoolmates, church folks, authority figures since like forever
  3. Considered to be “stupid” by my parents for getting married at all and not rather enjoying sexual intimacy with no commitment outside of marriage
  4. Betrayed by my husband in a time of need (I drove myself to the ER one time with one arm because my husband couldn’t be able to woken up during the middle of the night to do it without first fighting with me and I was in so much pain-I had already taken the max dose of muscle relaxer, a prescription anti-inflammatory, and extra strength Tylenol When I arrived home and finally fell asleep at like 7:45 AM because the pain was gone I heard a voice in my left ear praying over me and exalting the Name of God while I sleep the most peacefully I had in a while PRAISE GOD WHO LIVES FOREVER)
  5. ‘Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?’ 2 Corinthians 11 29 struggled in sexual purity, suicide, cutting, fits of anger, jealous envy, and ill will towards those who have persecuted me
  6. ‘Exposed to death again and again’ 2 Corinthians 11:23, had my blood pressure drop to 0/30 which is lower than my grandfather’s at the point when he was declared to be dead (it felt like an out of body experience but in my spirit I felt completely bound to earth-In fact I was bound to life on earth because I did not die), was in the ER 6 times in a year and for asthma episodes-for several of them when the respiratory therapist would measure my breathing strength after one breathing treatment and a high dose of prednisone and I was still barely breathing and another time I had to do three treatments back to back before the ER would let me leave, suffered through about 4 weeks total in my life of the most intensive pain and weakness breathing I have ever experienced where it felt like I may never breath normal again
  7. ‘I have known hunger and thirst and often gone without food’ 2 Corinthians 11:27, suffered through several weeks of only being able to eat about 500-1000 calories or less a day as a result of intensive stomach pain and digestion issues though I was taking medication and numerous natural supplements for it-by God’s grace I was able to get out of bed most of the days and though I normally feel weak when I haven’t had enough calories I was able to carry on normal functions uninhibited
  8. ‘in danger from false brothers’ 2 Corinthians 11:26 Accused of being a murderer because of the reverence I showed to Christ in a worship service bowing my head to the ground in shame for my shortcomings and for tithing sacrificially
  9. ‘I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep’ 2 Corinthians 11:27 spent several months being awake almost 24 hours a day as a result of chest and head congestion until I broke down and started worshiping the Lord and listening to the Bible on audio-some days I would get through almost the New Testament in one 24 hour period or I would listen to the same gospel account like 4 times
  10. ‘in danger in the country’ 2 Corinthians 11:27 stranded on the highway late at night with my husband as a result of a flat tire directly in front of a sign that read “Beware. Do not stop for hitchhikers from the prison nearby.”-we did not have money for a tow truck and the only person who returned my husband’s call was drunk that night but by God’s grace he led my husband to change the flat, which was his first time EVER doing that
  11. ‘I have been constantly on the move’ 2 Corinthians 3 11:26 forced to do two major moves in a years’s time as a result of circumstances beyond my control (my allergic asthma and my husband’s job situation) and for about a month and half during that 12 month period moved from state to state on a weekly basis trying to find a suitable climate for my allergic asthma while I was having asthma episodes that were foreign to me at the time and my husband was working full-time via the internet while physically away from his job and was also our only driver (during that time travel we covered 8 states in about 6 weeks)

Crazy suffering for those who confess Jesus in word and deed when you are not doing anything wrong and really have gotten newly committed to the things of God in some areas of your life is persecution for your christian testimony. God sees it, gets glory from your faithfulness in it, and uses it to save you from everlasting suffering.

2 Timothy 3 12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.

2 Timothy 2 11 Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; 12 if we endure, we will also reign with him.

If you need a pick me up I have a few stories I want to share. I love sport analogies so here goes: The father who coached my 8th grade basketball team kind of looked like Donald Trump, which amused me at the time, and he was wealthy to go with it. I’m not sure if he did a lot of activities with his teenage daughter and her friends but he was certainly passionate about coaching our team of giggly, energetic 8th grade girls. We had been undefeated the entire season and so at our last game we walked into the gym gloating and ready to get this game under our belt and move on to celebrating our greatness. Well, God had other plans. As we warmed up it quickly became apparent that only five girls from our entire team had actually showed up for the game. We called as many of the other teammates as we could and found that NO one else could make it for one reason or another. Now the other team started to gloat as they assumed we would forfeit. Out of pride we kept our complaints to ourselves. Our coach-also a dad of one of the girls-told us that if we wanted to play he would do everything in his power to see us through this game as it would likely be the hardest one we had ever played. No subs or long breaks. A tear streams down my face as I write this, knowing that the INFINITE GOD made this same promise to me when I committed myself to following Him despite the cost. There will be trials and unspeakable consequences, God warned, but I will see you through it all. God did. During that game, that faithful father did, only not how we would have expected. We started the game with five players. The other team had shut up their boasting as we took our positions around center court. They couldn’t believe we were going to play. We could not hear what their coach was saying to get them pumped up but likely it was something along the lines of, “You girls totally have this, Just wear them out and finish them off. For goodness sake there are only five of them and there are ten of you!” The whistle blew and we went for it. Everything was on the line for our team that season. Little did I know that faith was as well. We played hard the first quarter, not really feeling the effect of no substitutions yet. Then the second quarter came and we started to doubt whether we had made the right choice to fight the good fight and see what God would do with our situation rather than walking away. We started to complain and in-fight. We weren’t fighting the other team or the score board. We were fighting the clock. Fighting to make it until the race was complete. Fighting to remain faithful to good sportsmanship-meaning no dirty moves or cheating. Fighting to be found to be alive when that game was all said and done because a full game of basketball with limited breaks is no joke as a test of physical endurance.

2 Timothy 6 For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day-and not to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

Hebrews 12 1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

Many of your know what it feels like to be in tough spot like this from life experience, like when you want to leave your husband because you can’t get along and you feel his family will never really accept you as part of the family anyways or like when your mom or dad says another terrible thing that it will take at least three years of your adult life to get over. I will say I know in life what those things feels like. Finally, in the game, we started to complain and give up. The dad of the team stepped up his encouragement. He told us that he believed we could do it, but it wouldn’t reflect on what we had built as a team and as individuals up to this point to give up now. He told us he would use every time-out he has to get us rest when our bodies need it if we just played through until the end. He said he was proud of us, we were his team, and that what is at stake before us was more than just basketball. I remember him yelling at us during the critical break between the third and the fourth quarter: “We didn’t come this far to give up now! You girls have one quarter left so stop complaining! Let’s play with heart and let’s finish what we started here! You are who you are in the fourth quarter, so show what kind of team you are and give it all you have left! Six minutes are between you and victory.” “Six minutes,” he said emphatically. “You can play for six minutes. Let’s get it done!” So we played- a little peeved that our pep talk wasn’t as cushioned as we would have liked. But it worked. We played with heart until the buzzard rang. My face was burning. I knew that through my brown skin I was just as red as the other girls. I could hardly breath. None of us could. We exploded with excitement, though, after the buzzard when off. We had started from so far behind. We had come through insane discouragement and a grueling physical trial with everything on the line, and by the grace of God we had won. I have scarcely had an experience since-except some times of prayer to God recently in the aftermath of brutal satanic sabotage in my life-where I remember the joy of standing through no normal challenge but a trial that pushes you until you feel like you are going to explode or just give up. God was with us and had granted earthly victory to the ones who refused to give up. I pray He does the same for you spiritually in whatever trial you may find yourself in even as you read this.

something more special than winning happened that night. Relentless hope.

Sometimes you win by not winning. During another game, years later, my team played a fierce opponent on their home turf. The school was situated in a small town so the basketball team was the center of attention for a Friday night. It was no ordinary Friday show down though. My team played some of the worse basketball ever for the entire first half of the game, culminating with our super tall center accidentally tipping in a basket for the other side. It was humiliating-like being dragged through the dirt with your mouth open. Fans of the opposing team started congratulating each other at the end of the 2nd quarter. Some were laughing hard as they exited the gym saying “what a game!” and thinking it was over. It was an embarrassing Friday slaughter. It reminded me in a way of Good Friday. On Good Friday, Jesus took an “L” because there was a greater win at stake-that is, a victory for the righteousness of God pardoning disgraceful sinner and for our ultimate salvation. He had His eye on the bigger win when He laid down His life at the cross.

John 10 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life – only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.’

The third quarter started and we walked on the court like a new team. Honestly, the first half of the game was so bad we hardly had anything to lose. Without nerves or hyped up expectations we started to play. This time we played our game. A few fast breaks, and we put some points on the board. Using our height we blocked shots and had a few excellent possessions. The once noisy and boisterous crowd quieted down. We weren’t a laughing stock any more. We were quickly closing the huge lead the other team had gotten so victoriously just a little while before. At about a minute left I got fouled under the basket. I missed my original shot but I was going to the free throw line. My team, including the girls on the bench, exploded after the call. I was 2 for 2 for free throws up to that point in the game. The other coach (who was no fool I may add) immediately called a time out. My team huddled together to get instructions for winning a play after my free throws. I sat by myself on the bench getting ready and focused. I thought to myself, “I got this.” Free throws were my thing. I would practice them outside of team practice with my eyes closed. Eyes closed I could shoot six for ten. No problem. The time-out was over. We were down by two points. I stepped up to the line. I shot the first free throw. It hit the rim but I missed. I shot the second and I missed again. We set up quickly for the in-bounds and I got a steal. I threw the ball down to our center who was already close to half court. She took it down for a lay up. She missed with no one around. The buzzard when off during their possession. They won.

I remember picking up my shooting shirt and just crying into it as the tears flowed. The audience who had remained after the first half stood and clapped. No laughing this time. Rather they seemed filled which respect. The other team shook our hands emphatically after they game, letting us know we had been fierce opposition for them. I think my entire team cried that night. We were so close, then victory just slipped through our hands. We prayed before almost every game that year and we had been through a lot. In our team meeting right after the coaches didn’t yell at us or offer any criticisms. Instead, they congratulated us for a good loss. They said that something more special than winning happened that night. Relentless hope. Selfless love, as we encouraged each other and played to each others’ strengths without criticism or bringing up the past. In a strange way, starting so low and then rising up had allowed for us to overcome crippling self-doubt. Later, I would learn that that was what Christ wanted for believers and what He gave us on Good Friday. The end is not really the end. Just like my team had other games after this defeat, so Christ has more planned for the true believer than getting everything good in this life only.

“If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.”

2 Corinthians 12 7 To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

1 Corinthians 15 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 18 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.

Villains do come in the night. Sometimes they hurt you. Touch you. Take from you. But God is with you through it all. We may ask why God allows it. I do not have an answer other than what I have written so far. I will say that for the one who trusts in the Lord He is with you. Every single thing the enemy wanted to do to harm you in your life and that he got permission from the Lord to do has been scrutinized and allowed by Holy God. Jesus went ahead of you, that is before you, into every evil ploy that has befallen you in your life. He knew where you would stand and where your human enemies would be positioned and what they would do or say. He knew how long your suffering would last and what it’s effects on you would be. He combed through EVERY SINGLE DETAIL with the wisdom of an all knowing eye. God is God over your pain too. Instead of giving you a life with no hurting, He does better and gives your Himself. The devil was not in control, rather the Lord was. Before you were even made, Christ knew with God the Father what He would do to heal your hurt and as we speak He knows the glory that He has prepared for you in the hereafter which will consume your ill memories and hurt in the best possible way and lead to glorious joy and love with Him forever.

Take encouragement in this story someone told me. The story goes that a tribe used to have a night of initiation for young men. During this night, the adolescents would prove their manhood by staying one night in the woods, in solitude. The young men’s own father was to lead them into the woods, blindfold them, and leave them to fend for themselves. If they made it through the night (without running out screaming for help because they were scared), they earned the title of a man in the tribe. One young man’s night to prove himself arrived. He was terrified but held it in. He walked silently with his father to a place of his father’s choosing in the woods. His father then blindfolded him and told him he could take off the blindfold in the morning and at that time come back to the tribe. The father told his son that he loved him and to have courage, then the father and son parted ways. The young man heard terrifying sounds during the night. He felt so alone and vulnerable. He wanted to give up but didn’t want to face his disappointed father. Instead of running away from the challenge, like every instinct in him was urging him to do, in courage he stuck it out through the night. Finally, in the morning, the son removed his blindfold. There in front of him was his father, armed and alert. His father had been there the whole time-watching diligently to make sure that no hurt befell him. The son was moved and in awe of the love of his dad. His dad told him well done son. You trusted me, had courage, and now you have passed your test and have become a man. None of the fathers ever left their sons. The sons felt like they were alone but the father would stay through the night watching the entire time to protect their precious sons.

How much more than an earthly father does the Lord God love his own?

Luke 11 13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father, in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’

God was with you in the craziness and will be with you in the storm. Do. Not. Fear. He is the Lord.

Isaiah 43 1 But now, this is what the LORD says- he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. 2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. 3 For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, you Savior…