Farquhar's Midweek Message 8 July 2020
I think recently I’ve been dealing with suffering from a worldly mindset. I’ve been seeing it as a drain on my resources, an obstacle to my plans, a frustration to hopefully get free from so I can get on with ‘real’ life. Maybe that’s how you’ve been viewing your struggles and sufferings too? But my loving God has spoken to me through his Word, lovingly showing me that I’m missing the point. Before I get into such a heavy subject I want to ask you a light and easy question. Do you like honeysuckle?
I love honeysuckle. I love the aroma – it brings back wonderful childhood memories playing outside. Stop. Breathe it in. Mmmm…that’s good! This year our honeysuckle plants have bloomed especially well and their beautiful scent is drifting across the garden. When I went up close to take a nose-full of the aroma I was surprised to discover that the red tubular flowers had no scent.
It was only the ones that had burst open into golden-coloured flowers that were actually exuding the sweet fragrance. And then I saw that these burst-open blossoms were absolutely covered in tiny insects. They were camped out on the sticky flowers surface with no intention of leaving. The honeysuckle needs to open itself out to release it’s glorious scent, but in doing so it has to put up with all sorts of bugs and insects crawling all over it!
This made me think of how when we open our lives up as a pleasing fragrance to God, we make ourselves vulnerable to all sorts of challenges, enemies and struggles along life’s way – we face suffering. But the suffering we face is not meant to force us to close ourselves off to the world in a desire to protect ourselves. We’re not meant to make it our life’s aim to avoid suffering. Instead our life’s aim is to have every part of ourselves open to God in whole-hearted devotion. And when suffering comes our way God will use it in his purposes, if we allow him to.
It was as I listened to Romans being read to me that I saw this truth afresh. Paul says we are to ‘boast’ or ‘rejoice’ in the hope of the glory of God (5:2), and then he immediately goes on to say, ‘Not only so, but we also boast (rejoice) in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.’ (5:3-5).
Isn’t that remarkable? Just as we’re to boast and rejoice in the hope we have in our glorious God we’re also meant to boast and rejoice in our sufferings! How is that possible?!
God does understand how difficult our sufferings are. He knows that we will ‘groan inwardly as we wait eagerly’ (8:23) for the Day when all suffering ceases. But by His power and love he wants to use every single second of our suffering to deepen our relationship to Him and to make us more like his Son. We have to remember that in Jesus we have a Saviour who went through sorrow upon sorrow and yet his suffering and death brought about the greatest good – our eternal salvation. We need to trust that ‘In all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose’ (8:28). And as Paul says in another of his letters, we can be sure that ‘Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all’ (2 Cor 4:17)
So when we’re tempted to close in on ourselves and allow our sufferings to lead us down a road of discouragement, frustration, hopelessness and despair, our Gracious God wants to show us a much better way. A way he’s planned out – that will grow in us a sturdy faith and a deeper sense of his Love and Life in us.
May we encourage one another to stay open to God’s will and way even through our suffering. Pass this message on to someone who needs that encouragement. Whatever you are going through right now may God enable you to be the sweet fragrance of Life to those around you, that they too may come and find Life in Him.
Yours in Christ, the One who bears the scars through which we are forever healed.