26 April 2017

How Can I Overcome THIS?

Sometimes hurt we experience is deep and traumatic and feels like a continual open wound.  Sometimes the hurt is sharp and temporarily difficult, soon healing up but never completely forgotten, leaving a scar.  Our collective struggles are many - abuse, relationship ruptures, failures, addictions, hopelessness, sickness, tragedy and losses of various kinds.

Sometimes we think to ourselves, "How can I overcome THIS?" We have a hard time envisioning a future that doesn't include this pain.  And when we let this pain begin to define us, then we tend to spiral down into deepening pain or even self-destructive behavior.  Of course, we don't want this for ourselves, but we just feel stuck.

The Christian faith is not an abstract system of theological propositions with moral expectations.  It is a faith that completely connects with our human experiences. Christianity is not a set of rules and regulations; it is about faith, love and hope that gives joyful motivation to follow God's standards and principles.  The Christian faith, when lived out, is practical for living. When we embrace it fully and faithfully, we discover that we encounter a power that can overcome life's greatest hurts.

A genuine Christian faith profoundly helps us handle life's great challenges and pain. God brings us into a faith relationship with Himself for His own glory and for our great spiritual benefit.  Here is what I believe God has revealed in His Word and proves over and over in the lives of believers. These are reasons you can know that you can overcome THIS!

I know that I can overcome THIS because God puts an unshakable faith within me.  Jesus told us that those who hear His words and acts on them will be like a man who built his house on a rock. And when the storm comes and beats against the house, it will stand (Matt. 7).

We have a firm footing when we are confident that Jesus is the Son of God, who has revealed Himself to be our Savior and Lord.  We may bend, but God will not allow us to break.  When our hurt is too intense and deep for words, the Holy Spirit makes intercession on our behalf. And because this is true, we can be assured that God is accomplishing his purposes and He will work good even in spite of the bad (Rom. 8).

This unshakable faith is not in our own strength.  This is a faith that comes from a genuine change that comes through, what Jesus called, the new birth.  Jesus explained that a true relationship with God is only possible by being born again of the Spirit (John 3).  Being born is something that happens to us.  We don't cause our spiritual birth any more than we caused our physical birth.  God calls us to believe and follow, but we rest assured that we didn't save ourselves by our own strength or goodness. He did that. And since He made us new people by His Spirit, then he will sustain us. Jesus said clearly that His sheep know Him, follow Him and that He will never lose any of them (John 10).

Our hurts are sometimes pretty awful, but if we are in Christ, we must remember that He holds us all the while. He causes us to persevere.

I know that I can overcome THIS because God gives me a family of faith that strengthens me. For us to willingly divorce ourselves from a meaningful relationship to Christ's church is to remove a God-given, burden-bearing, support system from our lives.   The church is the body of Christ and every believer should share in it and benefit from it (Rom. 12; 1 Cor. 12) .

The New Testament witness knows nothing of lone-ranger Christians.  Jesus established his church for those who would believe and follow.  In faithful service to God, every born-again believer should be participating in a local church that faithfully teaches the Word of God.

When God saves us we become part of His church to further the Gospel. Additionally, He provides us with people who can lighten burdens and minister to us in our times of hurt (Gal. 6). The church is certainly bigger than me, but it includes me.  Not only do I get give and serve, I also get to receive help in my time of need.

If we are in a compassionate church (which most are), we need to remember that those people are God-appointed medicine for our hurting soul.  They cannot take away pain, but they can help make it more bearable.  They can embrace us and "weep when we weep" (Rom. 12).  There is tremendous strength to be found in community.  If we are connected, serving, giving, worshiping, and growing side-by-side with other believers in the church, then when the hurt comes these friends of the faith will be there for us.

I know that I can overcome THIS because God gives me a future that sustains me.  Our faith in Jesus continually gives us a bigger picture that encapsulates our present hurt. We shouldn't deny the hurt, but we have the ability to put it in a bigger perspective that is infused with hope that comes from our faith.  This ability comes from the presence of real hope.  This is not merely wishing for a brighter future; it is knowing it.

The big-picture, larger-than-any-hurt hope is the resurrection of Jesus.  Jesus said that the one who hears Him and believes has eternal life and has passed from death to life (John 5).  This is a present reality.  We have life in Him now and will continue to have it for eternity! This truth does not change with our circumstances; it remains the constant even in our painful experiences.  Jesus also told us that in this world we would have trouble, but to never forget that He has already overcome it (John 16).  And because He has already secured the victory over death, so have we.  We can't forget this truth of our identity in Christ!  It will sustain us through the most difficult pain and loss.

So, if you find yourself wondering how you can possibly get through your current pain, remind yourself of who you are and what you have in Christ.  Lean on your church family; don't withdraw.  Allow the grace of God to continue to do its work.  Keep believing and trusting with boldness.  We all are going to accumulate a portion of suffering in this life, but as believers we know who loves us, holds us, and never lets us go.  Hold tight to the hand that's holding you.      

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