A Spectacle of Grace

Some Christians are called to endure. These believers are a spectacle of grace to the church, like flaming bushes unconsumed, and cause us to ask, like Moses:

‘Why is this bush not burned up?’

Exodus 3:2-3

The strength and stability of these believers can be explained only by the miracle of God’s sustaining grace. The God who sustains Christians in unceasing pain is the same God — with the same grace — who sustains me in my smaller sufferings. We marvel at God’s persevering grace and grow in our confidence in Him as He governs our lives.

— John Newton, author of “Amazing Grace”

All of us know a brother or sister who seems to be a target of an undue amount of suffering. It seems like they’re always in the furnace. Perhaps we should give them double honor for their faith in God’s grace and providence. Their hurt is typically inside, and most carry this pain apart from others’ knowledge. They cry when they think no one is looking.

What can we say to those who seem to be in a white-hot furnace? How can we bless those who are in so much pain? They hurt deeply, and honestly, at times we have no idea what they’re having to endure. They’re being challenged in ways we never imagined. We should realize that their burden would probably destroy us.

Ministering to these sufferers can be a real challenge. Even if God is directing you!

Sometimes just a word of simple encouragement is all that is needed. A phone call or an email is good, and it’s the work of a believer to actively lift each other up like this. This is how the Church is meant to be. We watch out for each other, we care for each brother and sister, and it’s a joy to serve each other like this.

But sometimes it might be necessary to speak directly into their awful storm.

In the midst of some awful difficulties in my early walk, I had a dear brother who was so kind. He gently (and carefully) quoted Philippians 1:6 to me over and over. It was wonderful and so encouraging–he blessed me with that promise and it’s now my “life verse” fifty years later!

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

Philippians 1:6, ESV

A good reminder for us is that the pain we feel right now is not the end. Our trials have a finite duration (although it seems far away). There’s coming a day when the difficulty will suddenly cease and we’ll come out on the other side. “We’ll shine like the stars,” scripture promises us. (Daniel 12:3). I really believe we’ll see that.

Much wisdom is needed in our ministry to disproportionate sufferers. We should have a fear of intruding on the work the Lord is doing in their spiritual heart. We must be patient and humble in this matter. There is no rushing God, after all, it’s His work. Most importantly we must be very much ‘present’ for our friend.

“But not only that! We even take pride in our problems, because we know that trouble produces endurance.”

Romans 5:3

But please understand. A “word” spoken out of place can cause even more ‘heartache’ for the sufferer. Let’s be careful. At times it’s better not to say anything, and to be honest, that’s okay. Job’s friends were best sitting in the ash heap saying not a word.  Please dear one, be aware, alert, and very wise about these things.

Just wait on God—-be sensitive, discerning, and pray a whole lot. It’s no small thing to speak to those who are hurting so deeply.

“The Lord God gives me the right words to encourage the weary. Each morning he awakens me eager to learn his teaching.”

Isaiah 50:4, CEB


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