There's a Storm Coming

Dear Christian,

There is a storm coming your way. 

It cannot be avoided, and the surest way out is to sail straight through, in full assurance that the Lord is your Captain.  This is an attempt to prepare you for the suffering that will come.

Amidst the storm, we must cling to these seven truths; they are an anchor for the soul.

1. The gospel is our surest hope. 

No matter the storm, its severity, or its raging power, we must find our identity in this message of salvation.  We are loved beyond measure.  Christ died for our sins and rose for our justification.  We are God's adopted children.  We have every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.  This is true before, during, and after suffering. 

2. The sovereignty of God is our only anchor.

God is in complete control over every facet and detail of our lives, even suffering — especially suffering.  Thus, we must understand that suffering is brought into our lives and kept in our lives by none other than God Himself. 

Romans 8:28 — "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God…".
Psalm 119:75 — I know, O LORD, that Your judgments are righteous, / And that in faithfulness You have afflicted me.

3. The goodness of God is our highest assurance.

Yet even as we know suffering is ordained by God, we also know that He is motivated by pure goodness.  "You are good and do good" (Psalm 119:68a).  We have no ground to doubt His purposes, even if His purposes hurt; God always uses our suffering for good ends, many of which we may not seen or understand, but which are good nonetheless.

Romans 8:28 — "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God…".
Genesis 50:20 — “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…" 

4. The presence of God is our greatest comfort.

"God is our refuge and strength, / A very present help in trouble." (Psalm 46:1).  With the suffering, God gives Himself.  It's said that we ought only to fear letting the suffering come between us and God, for that will drive us away from Him.  We ought to labor to ensure that all suffering will drive us to Him, for He comforts us in our affliction.  And His comfort exceeds all other comfort.

Matthew 28:20 — "…lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age"
Psalm 23:4 — Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,  / I fear no evil, for You are with me; / Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
Psalm 63:7 — For You have been my help, / And in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy.

5. The Word of God stands unchanging, unalterable, unfading, unstoppable.  All counsel must be tested by this.

In suffering we often receive a lot of counsel and advice, some asked for and some not.  Much of it is not good counsel — just ask Job.  Usually the counselor has good intentions but does not give good advice, sometimes because they do not fully understand the situation, but more often because they are not speaking from the Word of God. 

Whereas Scripture is "perfect, restoring the soul… sure, making wise the simple, …pure, enlightening the eyes" (Psalm 19:7-8), the opinions of men are not.  When asking for counsel, kindly ask if your counselor can show you God's Word, and seek to not be swayed by their experiences and opinions.

6. The wisdom of God is our only compass.

Most of our suffering is emotional.  And that's why suffering is so hard: our mind succumbs to the lies we feel, we doubt the truth of God, and then seek to resolve the suffering by fleshly wisdom and human means.  Such a pursuit will always fail, for just as God brings suffering for our good, He also removes it only when it has accomplished His purpose.  We must endure and exit suffering by godly wisdom and divine means.

It's no mystery, then, why James speaks of wisdom right after exhorting his congregation to endure suffering well:

James 1:2,5 — Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials… But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

God will give wisdom to those who ask, especially wisdom — practical, godly knowledge put in action — to respond to suffering.

7. As we suffer, we must look to our unseen God, and our unseen, heavenly Home.

The Father is our Father, the Son our Lover, the Spirit our Power, and Heaven our home.

The Father, our Father, loves us, and will not send temptation and trial our way without giving us a godly way of escape and preservation from harm, for His glory and our sanctification.  The Son, Lover of our soul, knows our weaknesses, sorrow, lament, and grief, and is able to sympathize with us (Hebrews 4:15-16).  The Spirit, our Power, reigns in our heart and gives us resurrection power (Ephesians 1:9-21, especially v. 19) to do what we know is impossible for us: joyful obedience.

When this short life is done, and our bodies are put to rest, we will not regret the trials. We will thank God for them.  "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us" (Romans 8:18).  We will count it gain.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 — Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.  For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.