23.11.22: Covid

Context: I have very long experience of living with chronic illness and fatigue, but it’s interesting to observe how wearing it is to have Covid on top of this. Although I tested negative for the first time last Sunday, my symptoms continue, and the virus certainly isn’t giving up its grip yet.

I’m vividly aware that all around the world hundreds of thousands have died of their infection, whilst countless others are suffering, or have been left disabled. My only coping technique is to say, “Yes”, to God at every moment, and to keep on whispering, “Thank you, Jesus.”

It’s impossible to predict the outcome of this illness for each individual, including me, so all I can do is to put my trust God, who brings good from everything, no matter what happens:

I love you, LORD; you are my strength (Psalm 18:1; NLT). 

I love you
As I wake again
To yet another
Day of pain.
Don’t leave me here
To live in vain,
I pray.

I love you,
And I seek your face.
I long to know
Your warm embrace,
Receive your kiss,
And share your grace –
One day.

I love you,
And I choose your will,
With thanks
For every good and ill.
Lord, help me, please,
For you are still
My Way.

Jesus told him, “I am the way” (John 14:6; NLT).


References 

Hold firmly to the word of life; then, on the day of Christ’s return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless (Philippians 2:16; NLT). 

The LORD will work out his plans for my life – for your faithful love, O LORD, endures forever. Don’t abandon me, for you made me (Psalm 138:8; NLT).

My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” Your face, LORD, I will seek (Psalm 27:8; NIV). 

May God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior give you grace and peace (Titus 1:4; NLT). 

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16; NIV). 

All of you share in God’s grace with me (Philippians 1:7; NIV). 

I want your will to be done, not mine (Luke 22:42; NLT). 

I create the light and make the darkness. I send good times and bad times. I, the LORD, am the one who does these things (Isaiah 45:7; NLT). 

When I am overwhelmed, you alone know the way I should turn (Psalm 142:3; NLT). 

Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, “This is the way you should go,” whether to the right or to the left (Isaiah 30:21; NLT). 

19.11.22: God is near

Context: The night before last, my seventh with covid, I managed for the first time to cope without taking any cough-suppressant. As soon as I woke in the morning, I began to pray, but within seconds I was overwhelmed by today’s blog:

He is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being’ (Acts 17:27-8; NIV). 

God is not far away,
But very near:
In everyone we meet,
And see, and hear;

In every joy and sorrow,
Smile, and tear;
In pain and anguish,
Suffering, and fear.

God is not far away,
But deep within:
In every mind, and heart,
And soul, and skin;

Despite our hatred,
Selfishness and sin –
God is not far away,
And God is King. 

God is the King over all the earth (Psalm 47:7; NLT).


References 

There is one Savior, one faith, one baptism, one God and Creator of all, who is over all, who works through all and is within all (Ephesians 4:5-6; TIB).

You
are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (2 Corinthians 6:16; NKJV). 

May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else (1 Thessalonians 3:12; NIV). 

Love your neighbour as yourself (Leviticus 19:18; NLT).

Love the stranger (Deuteronomy 10:19; NKJV).

Show love to foreigners (Deuteronomy 10:19; NLT).

Love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you (Matthew 5:44; NLT).


Rosary news:

Despite covid, I made a (hopefully) more accurate Fiat Rosary today, with the colours in the right order. Here is is:


…and here it is again, lying on my shrine overnight, soaking up God’s blessings:

11.11.22: Thank you, Jesus (with thanks to E.S.)

Context: Early yesterday morning, during silent contemplation, some words started to thrust themselves upon me. I tried ignoring them, hoping they would drift away. However, they became more and more insistent, until eventually I had to write them down.

Their source was a story told during a zoom session I had attended a few days earlier. The meeting was part of a two-year process of spiritual formation and discernment which I recently joined. The speaker described her dear friend’s practice of responding immediately to events she saw as negative by saying, “Thank you, Jesus.”

This approach to life’s many trials and sorrows certainly beats other reactions, such as impatience, anger, swearing, stress, blaming others and self-pity. Accordingly, I have now started using this practice myself.

Give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18; NIV).

So, as soon as anything happens which I feel to be “negative”, I respond to it immediately by saying, “Thank you, Jesus”. With practice, this approach rapidly starts to become habitual. It’s remarkable how quickly it defuses my negative reactions, turning my mind straight back to God, and getting events into perspective.

An example

A good example of this happened yesterday when I wanted to print a single copy of a prayer from my iPad. The printer is in another room, so I couldn’t see what was happening. After a short time I became aware of a characteristic sound: paper crashing to the floor every few seconds. I hurried to the printer, which was churning out page after page.

My old reaction of instantaneous irritation rose up for a split-second, but then I remembered my new practice, said, “Thank you, Jesus”, spontaneously beginning to laugh as I picked up the paper. All the sting of the event had been removed by those three little words. Then I cut the pages in half and stapled them together to make a little notebook, bringing good from bad.

Opportunities for practicing

Here are a few general examples of opportunities to introduce this practice, but I’m sure you can quickly think of  many more:

Trivial irritations and frustrations
Minor misunderstandings and disappointments
Spilling, dropping, or breaking something
Making a mistake, getting something wrong
Accidents and falls
Events not working out as I had hoped
Someone hurts me
Failing at something
Delays, postponements and cancellations
Sickness, pain and disability
Undergoing medical treatment
Receiving bad news
Losing the capacity to do something I used to manage, or enjoy
Losing someone I love, or someone I rely on
Feeling depressed, anxious, afraid, or panic-stricken

Three precious words

To these, and more, as they occur, I will now respond as quickly as possible with those three, precious, deceptively simple words: “Thank you, Jesus”. What a difference they make! Why not try it for yourself?

Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! (Romans 7:25; CSB).


References 

The LORD gives, and the LORD takes away. Blessed be the name of the LORD (Job 1:21; CSB). 

I will sacrifice a thank offering to you and call on the name of the LORD (Psalm 116:17; NIV). 

Should we accept only good things from the hand of God, and never anything bad? (Job 2:10; NLT).

Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows (John 16:33; NLT).

Though the Lord gave you adversity for food and suffering for drink, he will still be with you to teach you (Isaiah 30:20; NLT).

I want your will to be done, not mine (Luke 22:42; NLT). 

Patient endurance is what you need now (Hebrews 10:36; NLT).

Enjoy prosperity while you can, but when hard times strike, realise that both come from God. Remember that nothing is certain in this life (Ecclesiastes 7:14; NLT).

The LORD your God is testing you to see if you truly love him with all your heart and soul (Deuteronomy 13:3; NLT).


Rosary news:

I’ve run out of cord, but more is on order, so will hopefully arrive soon. Meanwhile, today I put all my kit into an organiser box, rather than having it loosely mixed up together in a tray:

8.11.22: Inner peace

Context: Today’s blog grew from a single moment a couple of days ago, when I saw that inner peace comes through voluntarily choosing to embrace God’s will for us, rather than fighting against it, or pursuing our own personal desires.

Introduction

We say Christ’s familiar words so often, “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10; RSV), but do we really mean them? Do we truly embrace God’s will, giving thanks in all circumstances, no matter what he sends? (1 Thessalonians 5:18; NIV).

Perhaps we greet only things we think of as good, or desirable, as coming from God’s hand, whilst seeing everything we judge to be bad, unpleasant, or unwanted, as having nothing to do with him at all? (Job 2:10; NLT).

In fact, God sends all we experience: “I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the Lord, do all these things” (Isaiah 45:7; NIV). As the Book of Ecclesiastes advises: “Enjoy prosperity while you can, but when hard times strike, realise that both come from God. Remember that nothing is certain in this life” (Ecclesiastes 7:14; NLT).

Trials and sorrows

Trials and sorrows are a normal, inevitable part of every human life (John 16:33; NLT). Our suffering is only increased when we deny or resist them, for it is useless to fight against God’s will (Acts 26:14; NLT).

Thus, the way to experience inner peace is by yielding to God. We can do this by actively choosing his will rather than our own, time after time: “Now yield and submit yourself to Him [agree with God and be conformed to His will] and be at peace” (Job 22:21; AMP; my emphasis).

So, as we remember that, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away,” let’s praise and thank God for everything, no matter what we must face and endure (Job 1:21; CSB).

Why embrace God’s will?

Some people may ask why embracing God’s will is more important than longing for, or pursuing, our own desires. There are several answers to this question:

  • God shares our suffering (Isaiah 63:9; NLT).
  • God speaks to us through every kind of suffering and pain (Job 33:19; TIB;  Job 36:15; NIV).
  • No matter how hard our lives are, God will be there to teach us (Isaiah 30:20; GNT).
  • God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose for them (Romans 8:28; NLT).

Yielding to God

Paul specifically advises us to “…yield ourselves to God” (Romans 6:13; RSV), and a moment’s reflection will remind us of the huge consequences which can flow each time we do this. Think, for example, how differently events might have turned out:

  • If Mary had not said; “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word” during the Annunciation (Luke 1:38; KJV). 
  • Or if Jesus had not prayed, “I want your will to be done, not mine” in the Garden of Gethsemane  (Luke 22:42; NLT).

Inner peace comes through accepting God’s will wholeheartedly 

So let’s ask God to help us endure our suffering patiently, whilst continuing to serve him as best we can (Hebrews 10:36; NLT). As Paul writes: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7; NLT).

Incredibly, God’s peace can help us through even the most extreme suffering: “Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me” (Psalm 23:4; NLT).

Conclusion

The way to find inner peace is to embrace God’s will for us voluntarily, thanking him for everything he sends, both “good” and “bad”, with joyful hearts: “Submit to God, and you will have peace” (Job 22:21; NLT).

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; NIV).


Rosary-making news:

Thrillingly, I received my last few rosary-making necessities yesterday, especially some 1mm waxed polyester thread and larger beads. This enabled me to make my very first complete rosary. It is admittedly very simple, but hopefully usable, and is already bringing me joy.

21.10.22: Gifts

Context: Yesterday morning I prayed with words, then without, until I suddenly saw this little poem:

God has blocked my way so I cannot move. He has plunged my path into darkness (Job 19:8; NLT). 

You have taken away my companions and loved ones. Darkness is my closest friend (Psalm 88:18; NLT). 

I give you my darkness,
My weakness and sin –
That’s all I can offer, Lord:
Failure, within.

I give you my loneliness,
Sickness and fears –
That’s all I can offer, Lord:
Mourning and tears.

I give you my sorrow,
My anguish and shame –
That’s all I can offer, Lord:
Longing and pain.  

I give you my suffering,
Body and blood,
My mind, heart and soul, Lord:
I give you my love. 

I will give you my love (Song of Songs, 7:12; NLT). 

15.10.22: Together

Context: The inspiration for this poem came to me during a long train journey a few weeks ago. There were many distractions all around me, but writing it kept me happily absorbed for miles.

When I wake up, you are still with me! (Psalm 139:18; NLT).

I pray beside you when I wake,
And kneel beside you to adore.
I serve beside you when I can,
And sit beside you when I weep.

You stay beside me all day long,
And share my suffering and pain.
You comfort me when I’m afraid,
And help me when the way is steep.

So, we face it all together:
Joy and sorrow, grief and fear.
Then, when every day is done,
You watch beside me while I sleep.

The Lord watches over the simple (Psalm 116:6; NASB20).


References

Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me (Psalm 23:4; NLT).

Be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20; NLT). 

Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us (Colossians 3:11; NLT).

23.9.22: A letter (with thanks to C.O.) 

Context: Yesterday I stayed in bed because of a migraine, and used the time to reply to a letter from a friend. Very unexpectedly, inspiration sprang from our correspondence, so I’d like to share with it you:

Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go (John 21:18; NIV). 

Serious illness and ongoing deterioration change our lives in countless ways, but with God we can slowly face and accept this, learning to live within each fresh limitation.

There can still be joy in our hearts, but there can also be regret, sadness, frustration and even anger about all that has been lost. 

The Lord gives and takes away, but we can praise and thank God, no matter what happens. As Mother Theresa said: “Give whatever He takes, with a big smile.” Fortunately, loss and suffering can also bring good into our lives. For example, they can teach us patient endurance, and deepen our understanding, sympathy and love for others.

Speaking more personally now, Mother Theresa’s words have to be my watchword, because I have no control at all over what God chooses to take from me as I progressively lose my physical and mental capacities.

Work, whether paid or unpaid, used to give structure and meaning to my life. It also generated a sense of a separate selfhood, though this is of course, temporary, and, in the long term, illusory. However, as some of you will know, I have recently had to change the way I manage my website, because I no longer have enough energy to spend whole days writing each blog. At present, I can still post each day, but now in the form of a spiritual diary, rather than referenced poetry and articles. It’s not quite the same as before, though, and my sense of “self” is considerably diminished, as is my feeling that existence is meaningful. Gradually, illness and the limitations it imposes are taking over all aspects of my life.

In time, whether through my spiritual development, through dementia, or through death, I will lose my illusory sense of selfhood in God’s overwhelming greatness. Then I will be set free into eternal oneness with the Lord. 

Sometimes I hope this will happen soon, dreading a long future of increasing dependence and becoming a burden to others. However, my release from exile will come when God decides: not a moment too soon, and not a moment too late. Until then, the Lord will see me through whatever each day brings.


A reading: Ecclesiastes 12:1-8; TIB

  1. Remember your Creator while you are still young, while still innocent, before that time of life when you say, “There isn’t pleasure anymore”;

  2. before the sun dims, as well as the moon and the stars; before the clouds return once the rain stops;

  3. before the day when the house guards tremble, and the mighty are bowed low, and the millers stop for lack of help, for the day darkens at the windows;

  4. and the front doors are shut; when the sound of milling is faint; when the chirping of the birds vanishes, and the singers are silenced;

  5. when you become afraid of heights, and dread walking in the streets; when the almond trees bloom, the grasshoppers are sluggish with food, and you lose your appetite; when you go to your eternal reward, and the mourners go about the streets;

  6. before the silver cord – a sign of life – is snapped; or the golden bowl – a sign of life – is broken; or the pitcher at the well – a sign of life – is smashed, as well as the pulley;

  7. or before dust returns to the earth as it was at the beginning, and before God rescinds the breath of life.

  8. “Completely illusory” says Qoheleth. “Completely illusory! Everything is just an illusion!”

Trust

Context: This prayer started to arrive just before the appointment with my consultant, and (to my great surprise), continued to arrive after it! My doctor couldn’t give me any definite news, though some conditions have now been ruled out. It’s looking more and more likely that I have Autonomic Neuropathy, so the next step will be a trip to London for more detailed tests. These should lead to a conclusive diagnosis. Meanwhile, here is today’s prayer:

Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.
(John 16:33; NLT).

Lord,

1. I put my trust in you
To help me face each test.
Depression and anxiety?
Well, all you send is blest.

2. Sorrow, fear and suffering?
Your will is my command.
Darkness, panic, grief and tears?
I place them in your hand.

3. For these have now become my “pearls”,
My pearls beyond all price.
Through them, Lord, I learn to grasp
Your perfect sacrifice.

4. My trials are now my offerings:
I share them all with you,
While you, Lord, share them all with me,
And love to help me, too.

5. Thus, you show me how to live,
To learn, and grow, and care
For others, while you help me face
The burdens I must bear.

6. My faith, my pain, my love, my life:
I lay them at your feet.
My Lord, my God, my All-In-All,
Your healing is complete.

Those who suffer he delivers in their suffering;
he speaks to them in their affliction (Job 36:15; NIV).

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly
we are wasting away, yet inwardly
we are being renewed day by day.
(2 Corinthians 4:16; NIV).


References 

1. I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life (Psalm 143:8; NIV). 

The LORD your God is testing you to see if you truly love him with all your heart and soul (Deuteronomy 13:3; NLT). 

Blessed is the one whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty. For he wounds, but he also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal (Job: 5:17-18; NIV).

2. He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine” (Matthew 26:39; NLT). 

 3. The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant’s search for fine pearls. When one pearl of great value was found, the merchant went back and sold everything else and bought it (Matthew 13:45-6; TIV). 

Though the Lord gave you adversity for food and suffering for drink, he will still be with you to teach you (Isaiah 30:20; NLT).

4. When Christ came into the world, he said to God, “You did not want animal sacrifices or sin offerings. But you have given me a body to offer” (Hebrews 10:5; NLT).

God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time (Hebrews 10:10; NLT). 

Trust in him at all times. Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge (Psalm 62:8; NLT). 

In all their suffering he also suffered (Isaiah 63:9; NLT). 

This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most (Hebrews 4:15-16; NLT). 

Then Jesus said, “Come to me all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light” (Matthew 11:28-30; NLT).

5. Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23; NLT). 

His command is that you walk in love (2 John 1:6; NIV).

The LORD is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving (Psalm 28:7; NLT). 

6. “My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed (John 20:28; NLT). 

Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all (1 Corinthians 15:28; NKJV). 

Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again (Psalm 71:20; NIV).

He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever (Revelation 21:4; NLT). 

A dream: 13.8.22.

Context: A few nights ago I had a vivid, strange and disturbing dream:

I saw a group of very young children who had just been separated from those whose task it was to take care of them. The children weren’t old enough to walk, so they were having to crawl along a rough, narrow, dirty street, moving away from their carers, and towards an unknown destination.

All of them were wailing. It was a heartbreaking sound. In his distress, perhaps blinded by tears, one little boy blundered head-first into a stone wall. He slumped to the ground, and I was shocked to hear him cry out, “They don’t love us any more”, in utter despair, hopelessness and desolation. After that he stopped moving. It was clear that he had given up the will to survive.

My heart went out to him. I jumped up and ran to him, putting my arms round his small body to comfort him. At that moment, I woke up with my arms clasped around my pillow. Instantly, even before I could begin to pray, several realisations struck me hard: 

What I realised

Everything I experienced during my childhood laid the foundations of my mental health during adult life.

This includes how I was treated by those who brought me up, as well as by those I was exposed to at school, in churches, clubs, hospitals and all other settings.

Thus, for good or ill, I have been influenced and affected by all the relationships and events I experienced during my formative years.

Comments

From my dream, and from the realisations which followed immediately afterwards, I understood even more clearly than before that the damage done to me in childhood caused the wounds and scars I have carried into adulthood.

These wounds shaped the person I have become, including all I feel, think, say and do. They affect how I behave, relate to others, cope with suffering, treat the world, understand God, and even whether or not I want to live. They also affected how I brought up my son, and how I reacted to having a miscarriage.

My dream showed me the mechanism by which so much of my psychological distress and mental illness has been caused. Only God can fully heal the inner damage I sustained, and the consequences with which I have had to live.

I am the LORD who heals you (Exodus 15:26; NLT).

He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds.
(Psalm 147:3; NLT). 

A crash course on suffering (for J.C.)

Context: While I was praying for a friend who recently asked me some significant questions about suffering, I was given the inspiration for the following article:

Introduction 

This crash course addresses ten questions about suffering. Immediately below each answer there is a series of Biblical quotes. These are offered as an aid to reflection, perhaps over a period of several days.

1. Where do we come from?

All human beings are part of God, who makes us, breathes life into us, cares for us, and loves us unfailingly. 

YHWH fashioned an earth creature out of the clay of the earth, and blew into its nostrils the breath of life. And the earth creature became a living being (Genesis 2:7; TIB). 

The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life (Job 33:4; NLT). 

I will be your God throughout your lifetime – until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you (Isaiah 46:4; NLT). 

He loves us with unfailing love. (Psalm 117:2; NLT).

2. What is life?

Life is the period during which we are exiled from heaven, though not from God’s constant, invisible, loving presence. We come from God, spend time on earth, then return to God.

I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb (Jeremiah 1:5; NLT).

You will soon return from exile (Lamentations 4:22; NLT).

3. Why are we here?

Our task is to get to know God. We do this by seeking God, and by praying constantly, thanking God in all circumstances, and rejoicing, no matter what we face.

His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him – though he is not far from any one of us (Acts 17:27; NLT).

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; NIV). 

4. What does life offer us?

Life offers us the chance to learn how to live in God, to grow more like Christ, and, astonishingly, even to become more like God.

We will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ (Ephesians 4:15; NLT).

This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ (Ephesians 4:13; NLT).

Put on your new nature, created to be like God – truly righteous and holy (Ephesians 4:24; NLT).

The Lord – who is the Spirit – makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image (2 Corinthians 3:18; NLT).

5. Why do we suffer?

Trials and sorrows are an inevitable part of our time on earth because our bodies, minds and hearts are fragile and mortal, though our souls are immortal. Life here is essentially a training-ground. It offers us the opportunity to make our own choices, reach out to God and grow in faith. This developmental process helps us to love God, all people and the world, until we eventually discover our oneness with God, and with all. 

Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows (John 16:33; NLT).

How frail is humanity! How short is life, how full of trouble! (Job 14:1; NLT). 

If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me (Jeremiah 29:13; NLT). 

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them (1 John 4:16; NIV). 

Love your neighbour as yourself (Leviticus 19:18; NLT).

Love the stranger (Deuteronomy 10:19; NKJV).

Show love to foreigners (Deuteronomy 10:19; NLT).

Love your enemies (Matthew 5:44; NLT). 

6. Where does suffering come from?

Everything comes from God, both good and bad, though some people would prefer to see good things as coming from God, and suffering as being inflicted by “the devil”. However, the concept of the devil as an external being arises from a combination of mistranslation and the human desire to disown the temptations and terrible impulses which well up spontaneously from our unconscious minds (see https://wp.me/p45bCr-bPK). When we act these out, evil occurs in truly shocking and horrific ways, but the impulse, the decision and the action always come from within.

Learning to accept suffering as God’s will, and to make the best of it whilst still loving and serving God in others, is one of the major challenges and opportunities of our lives.

When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other (Ecclesiastes 7:14; NIV).

Enjoy prosperity while you can, but when hard times strike, realise that both come from God. Remember that nothing is certain in this life (Ecclesiastes 7:14; NLT).

Should we accept only good things from the hand of God, and never anything bad? (Job 2:10; NLT).

The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord (Job 1:21; CSB). 

7. Why does suffering exist?

Suffering has much to teach us. Without it, we might not grow in trust and faith. Christ’s example is particularly helpful here, for even as he begged God to spare him from extreme suffering, he maintained his resolution to accept God’s will rather than his own. God suffers with us and helps us to learn through all we face. This is how we grow in endurance, patience, inner strength, hope and love.

Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine (Luke 22:42; NLT).

In all their suffering he also suffered (Isaiah 63:9; NLT).

Blessed be the Lord! Day after day he bears our burdens (Psalm 68:19; CSB).

Though the Lord gave you adversity for food and suffering for drink, he will still be with you to teach you (Isaiah 30:20; NLT).

My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever (Psalm 73:26; NLT).

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love (Romans 5:3-5; NLT). 

8. How can good come out of suffering? 

As we grow in love and trust by facing and sharing our suffering with God, God brings good from it all. This is something we can ask for when we pray for others, as well as for ourselves.

We know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them (Romans 8:28; NLT). 

Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan (Ephesians 1:11; NLT). 

9. What is the purpose of life?

The purpose of life is to recognise, love and serve God in ourselves, in others, and in all things. This means becoming aware of our constant oneness with the Divine. To live like this, no matter what happens, is to live joyfully in heaven on earth.

You are the temple of the living God (2 Corinthians 6:16; NKJV). 

There is one Lord …who is over all and in all and living through all (Ephesians 4:5; NLT). 

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them (1 John 4:16; NIV). 

So, my dear brothers and sisters, this is the point: You died to the power of the law when you died with Christ. And now you are united with the one who was raised from the dead. As a result, we can produce a harvest of good deeds for God (Romans 7:4; NLT). 

10. Where do we go when we die?

As mentioned briefly in #2 above, when we die, we return immediately to God, who welcomes, kisses and embraces us. Completely healed, forgiven and restored, we are absorbed back into God’s infinite peace, bliss and love – and this time, it’s forever.

The dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it (Ecclesiastes 12:7; NIV).

I came from Abba God and have come into the world, and now I leave the world to go to Abba God (John 16:28; TIB). 

So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. His son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.” But his father said to the servants, “Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found” (Luke 15:20-24; TIB).

Goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever (Psalm 23:66; KJV).

Whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord (Romans 14:8; NLT).


Conclusion

In this article I’ve addressed ten questions about suffering. I hope very much that you have found something here that interests or helps you. Remember that I pray for you all every day.

We keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of his call. May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do (2 Thessalonians 1:11; NLT).

✝️ With love from Ruth.
14.8.22.