COLLINS COLUMN: Embracing the Journey: Finding Purpose in Seasons of Suffering and Seasons of Relief

Published 8:30 am Wednesday, May 15, 2024

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In life, there will be seasons of suffering and seasons of relief, and through them we will be provided for and called to provide for others. For the servant of Christ, I don’t think there is an alternative path while we live for Christ in this world.

Appropriately, we point to Jesus who told us that in this world there would be many problems. Ahead of his ascension, Jesus indicated to his disciples that they would also face difficulty, even though they would receive power from on high through the Holy Spirit. And if these two teachings of Jesus aren’t enough evidence, looking back to the patriarchs, to Moses, Joshua, and the prophets, also confirms that God’s chosen leaders all went through great difficulty, even as they were called and used by God in significant ways.

After the apostles had been filled with the Holy Spirit and were used by God on Pentecost and to heal the crippled man, they were arrested by the chief priests and questioned about with what authority they performed their miracles. When they were released, the believers and the apostles came together in prayer. Their prayer is recorded beginning in Acts 4:23. In the middle of this prayer they asked God, “Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”

This pattern would continue and intensify. Peter and the other apostles would be arrested again in chapter five, and an angel would rescue them. Then the chief priests and Pharisees went and got them a third time, insisting that they stop preaching about Jesus. After Gamaliel’s advice to wait and see if their teaching and miracles continued, the council had the apostles flogged and released.

When the apostles were released, Luke tells us:

“Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.”

No amount of suffering could stop the apostles from being obedient to their calling. As chapter five ends, we learn, “And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.”

Our journey will probably not include the physical abuses of flogging and being arrested for serving Jesus. But our journey of obedience does often come with hardship, suffering, and great challenges. Sometimes when you think you cannot possibly deal with another difficulty or loss, another layer of difficulty or complexity emerges which may make you wonder why this is happening. And the answer is often not seen.

But in these moments of challenge, sickness, grief, or hardship, we have the opportunity to be grateful that we have been chosen as worthy to go through whatever suffering comes our way, so that we can give God glory through our obedience. He does not require us to be successful. He only asks that we will do everything in word or deed for his glory. Our obedience matters.

On this side of eternity, we may not see the beautiful tapestry God is weaving through our suffering, but one day when we wake up on the other side of the thin line between heaven and earth, we will experience the joy of realizing what God did because of our faithfulness.

Father, thank you for allowing us to bring you glory even in times of hardship, sickness, and suffering. We surrender our lives to you. We surrender our challenges, laying them down at your feet. We pray that you would give us courage and strength by your Holy Spirit in us to live lives of obedience, trusting fully that whatever we go through is being used by you so that your will is done on earth as it is in heaven. In Jesus’ name, Amen.