Perpetual Happiness – The Devil’s Trap – Part 2

A Promise of Pain and Suffering

In the previous blog (Part-1) we talked about how pain and suffering is an opportunity to improve your character, gain valuable life experience that can help others, and learn how to combat the temptation of becoming angry, jealous, hateful, envious or vengeful. Since we live in a fallen world and God’s plan is not yet complete to reconcile the evil, we have to understand that when we encounter evil, either through our own choices or otherwise, we must understand that God is working in the background for the good of all His followers. Sometimes, like His Son, we are sacrificed, for lack of a better term, and our pain is used to help others. If we understand the Christian religion and God’s plan, we can face these adversities as the apostles and prophets did. Usually not to that extreme, we hope.

If we fail to understand this, the pain and suffering will become a distraction rather than an opportunity to grow. The devil wants you to keep blaming God for his handiwork and for you to stay distracted long enough as to become useless to the Kingdom. The devil wants you to do his work for him.

The promise of pain and suffering for the Christian resonated with me in a way that brought me answers to the questions that I’d had all my life. It also answered the lingering questions I’d had from my past, which all seemed to start when my mother was killed by a drunk driver when I was five. After becoming a Christian some 30 years later, and understanding the complex nature of the Christian religion, I was able to look back and follow, and continue to see, the bread crumbs in my life and the purpose of all the downward trends and where they had led, and why it was important that I be who God wanted me to become.

The positive things in life, the wisdom and perspective I had gained, as little as it may have been at times, would not have been possible without the pain and suffering. The wisdom gained seemed to be proportionate to the pain I experienced. Everyone can sympathize to some degree with people but the road narrows on empathy. Few people take their pains and grow through them in order to help themselves and others.

Fyodor Dostoevsky, born in 1821, a Russian novelist and Orthodox Christian said it clearly; “There is only one thing that I dread: not to be worthy of my sufferings.” He knew that he didn’t want to miss the message, nor the opportunity, by falling back into self-pity. It’s very hard sometimes to ignore the pain and feeling the pain is part of being human. Our discipline, determination and most importantly, our faith, will pull us through.

God Shapes us Through Adversity

God uses pain to shape us, develop us, into who we need to be to further His Kingdom. That’s right; we work for Him. After becoming a Christian, my life was starting to make sense, so much so that I started thinking back on my past and weeding out the memories that were the most painful. I looked desperately for the lessons that were there for me; what had I missed? What was that purpose that I skimmed over or was too blind to see so many years ago?

The pain was sometimes so great that it was hard to focus on anything other than the pain. Sometimes the lessons came much later. I saw seven distinct times in my life when I could have died but didn’t. Not all were obvious but in looking back, it was clear. He still had a plan for me. There was another time in my life when His interference was much more dramatic and if He hadn’t intervened I most likely would have spent my life in prison, but that’s for another blog. It was remarkable to see it so clearly now. That’s when I knew He wasn’t done with me yet. I was still working for Him.Man walking up stone steps into clouds at night

Often times we don’t see the reasons until years or even decades later. Sometimes, as in Job’s case, we never see the reasons and have to trust in God’s ultimate wisdom and love for us. He must have loved us unconditionally to have His sinless Son die for us in such an excruciating way. Would you have done that for a stranger in your life? Better yet; would you die for someone who hated and despised you in order to save their soul? Imagine now, a Being that was so powerful and intelligent that He could create a universe. Imagine that He didn’t need us, and was of an inexplicable divine nature. Why did He sacrifice Himself in such a way for us? It’s hard to comprehend. And yet there are still people who tell Him to mind His own business. That may be the hardest to comprehend.

Understanding the Christian faith is tough. Don’t send me a bunch of comments telling me how a child can understand it; if it was that easy to understand, there wouldn’t be so many false teachers out there that want to sugar-coat the Christian message and lead gullible people away from the true nature of God. These false teachers are more interested in bolstering their church membership than in promoting the truth.

The Mystery of Divine Personality

To understand the complexity of pain and suffering you must understand the Christian faith. To understand the Christian faith you must understand Jesus Christ, the God-man, the second-Adam, the only one who could make atonement for our sins. He says it clearly that to follow Him, you must take up your cross and carry it. He’s telling you that the cost in following Him is to suffer.

To help us understand Jesus’ divine nature there’s a wonderful description of Jesus that was written by James Stewart, a Scottish Theologian who wrote this of Jesus. It’s called, “The Mystery of Divine Personality” He wrote:

“He was the meekest and lowliest of all the sons of men. Yet He spoke of coming on the clouds of heaven with the glory of God. He was so austere that evil spirits and demons cried out in terror at his coming, yet he was so genial and winsome and approachable, that the children loved to play with him and the little ones nestled in his arms.

No one was half so kind or compassionate to sinners, yet no one ever spoke such red-hot scorching words about sin. A bruised reed he would not break. His whole life was love. Yet on one occasion he demanded of the Pharisees, how they were expected to escape the damnation of hell.

He was a dreamer of dreams and a seer of visions, yet for sheer stark realism, he has all of us self-styled realists soundly beaten. He was the servant of all, washing the disciples’ feet, yet masterfully he strode into the temple, and the hucksters and moneychangers fell over one another to get away in their mad rush from the fire they saw blazing in his eyes. He saved others, yet at the last, he himself did not save.

There is nothing in history like the union of contrasts which confronts us in the gospels; the mystery of Jesus is the mystery of divine personality”.

From the Apostles to the Prophets Suffering was a Way of Life

When I became a Christian I saw a conspicuous amount of relative stories and historical documentation to the point of “individually targeted suffering”. By targeted I mean suffering that has a goal and a meaning, individually for a particular person; custom tailored, if you may. Even if our suffering is only to serve as an example to others and that is all we can find for its purpose, it’s best that we trust God. He loves us. He has our best interests and eternal plans in mind. With Satan’s hand on the world right now, combined with our free will, we’re going to make poor decisions and face adversity and God will be there to guide us through; but we have to listen to Him.

It was astonishing the amount of pain and suffering some of the most prominent figures in the Bible had to endure. Yet they did it, voluntarily, and at enormous personal cost. They lived their lives as if they expected the outcome. They faced their expected fates with courage and determination. Why? Because they understood the Christian faith. They never thought they should have a bigger house, more wealth, or more political power. They worked to save souls.

The story of Job illustrates tremendous suffering and it really set me back on my heels. Job’s wife could have used some self-reflection, granted, but Job was faithful in the face of extreme hardship. Not only did the story of Job shock me but, learning that Isaiah, one of the major prophets of the Bible, was sawed in half with a wooden saw, left me speechless. How was I to translate this into God loving us? Here are the very people that were spreading God’s Word of love, grace and mercy yet God was allowing these horrible things to happen to them. I read that these were “light afflictions”. I started to get on board and felt that until I understood the Christian faith in its entirety, I would never understand, nor accept, why we suffer in such high degrees.

Second Corinthians 4:16-18 says;

Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

God promises us that this world is not the end but rather where our inward man is being renewed day by day and that these afflictions are working for us an eternal weight of glory. We need to focus on what is not seen.  

There are so many examples of martyrs in the Bible that a book could be written on that subject alone. (I know, there already has been written a book, 66 of them)

Before I move on to the next blog in this series I wanted to mention the martyrdom of both Peter and Paul whose last days were spent in the Mamertine Prison in Rome.  This was Paul’s second time in a Roman prison and he was to be executed by beheading. He was not allowed to be crucified because he was a Roman citizen and Roman citizens could not be put to death by crucifixion. Peter, on the other hand, could be. He said he was not worthy of being crucified in the same manner as his Lord so asked to be crucified upside down, along with his wife. Peter walked with Christ through most of His ministry. Paul, having met Christ on the road to Damascus, went from being a respected Pharisee, well-educated and fluent in several languages, to a hunted man who faced floggings, a stoning, beaten with rods, shipwrecked several times and thrown into prison twice, and eventually being executed. These two heroes of the Bible clearly saw beyond the pain of life and were set on working for God.

The Mamertine Prison is still there today and the occupancy of both Paul and Peter has been documented by Roman Chronicle writers as well as the Bible. While Paul was imprisoned, thirty feet underground in a dungeon, a small room where he was with 47 other prisoners, he baptized the prisoners as well as two Roman guards who were later put to death for their conversion. It’s said that a small spring (that still remains today) miraculously sprung up so that he could baptize the prisoners and guards that were willing. Even while Paul was under great persecution and suffering badly, he was still converting people and trying to save souls for God. A remarkable, and humbling example of picking up your cross and carrying it. He was never distracted by pain and suffering.

My point in the first and now this second blog post is to take away the false impression of when you become a Christian, things get easier; they don’t. What can happen is, if you research and come to understand the meaning of the Christian faith and know what is meant by “You must pick up your cross and carry it”, your life will change and you will no longer look at life as highs and lows but as lessons and opportunities to gain wisdom and help others through your own experiences.

It seems that the more faith you have in God’s love for you, and the more you come to understand and embrace the Christian faith, the more adversity God will allow in your life. The Bible says that God will never give us more than we can handle. Doesn’t it make sense then that he will give us as much as we can handle?

For more on the Mamertine Prison in Rome, see the links supplied here.

Mamertine Prison-part – https://youtu.be/5_0mrDQ9-P8

Mamertine Prison-part 1 – https://youtu.be/P4Gb0tWvYx4

Mamertine Prison-part 2 – https://youtu.be/FdF7IJ6yLRQ

Mamertine Prison-part 3 – https://youtu.be/bUtJcT2KnfM