During this week, Time With God will break from its regular format to explore selected passages to prepare our hearts for the coming New Year.
Yesterday and today, Time with God is examining the means of grace, which are the Spirit’s tools of growth in the life of the believer. They are practices, ways, or actions that strengthen our faith. Today we will look at how suffering is a means of grace inwardly, to our soul, and outwardly, to a world in need.
Suffering is inevitable in our fallen world. It’s a calling of God that helps us identify with the Savior. It’s not a means of grace that we seek out, but it’s still a powerful part of our maturity in the gospel. The pain we feel testifies that things are not as they should be and serves as a wakeup call to action. More than any of the other means of grace, suffering drives us to dependence.
Let’s look at how suffering is both an inward means of grace to our soul and, to a world in desperate need of the gospel, an outward means of grace.
READ THE WORD: Romans 5:3-5 (ESV)
3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5)
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. (2 Corinthians 1:3-5)
English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
RESPOND TO GOD
Suffering is an inward means of grace in that it refines us toward holiness, toward becoming who God already sees us to be. He is the one who shepherds our soul in the dark and distant places, gently leading us back to the safety of himself.
Suffering is also an outward means of grace. It was the price paid for our redemption. We join with Jesus in our suffering to display the very nature of so great a salvation to a world in need. As we entrust ourselves and our situations to the Lord, he will be faithful to bring good to us and glory to himself. Suffering is a bittersweet means of grace given to us now to prepare us for a relationship with him forever.
For those who are suffering, the Word is a healing balm to your soul:
- If you are weary, try reading Psalm 28.
- If you are struggling with injustice, try reading Psalms 37 and 73.
- If you feel crushed in spirit, try meditating on Psalm 34.
- If your “tears have been your food day and night,” try reading Psalm 42.
- If you need encouragement in waiting, try reading Psalms 40 and 62.
- If your world is falling apart, try reading Psalm 46.
- If you need to confess your own sin, try praying through Psalms 32 and 51.
- If you need motivation to seek God, try praying Psalms 63 and 77.
- If you need covering and protection, try reading Psalm 91.
- If you need assurance that God is really in control, try reading Psalm 93.
- If you need help believing that God is good, spend time in Psalms 103-106.