Suffering; November 16, 2022

Joel 2:32 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved;
for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance,
as the Lord has said,
among the survivors whom the Lord calls.

This chapter is quoted multiple times in the New Testament. Peter famously quoted it on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2:17-21, and Paul quoted this verse in Romans 10:13. However, we tend to overlook the fact that this is talking about what will happen after events that we would call disaster. This verse explicitly talks about “survivors,” implying that many will be killed. We don’t like to think about it that way. Recently the Lord has given me a phrase that I think is very accurate and descriptive: the world is a mess because we are a mess. We indeed live in a fallen world, and disasters should not surprise us. Jesus said clearly that “In this world you will have trouble,” (John 16:33) but in that very verse He said that He wants us to have peace, and that we should be encouraged by His victory – which was achieved through horrible scourging, crucifixion, and death. We want the victory without the suffering! Unfortunately, the world doesn’t work that way, as has been demonstrated countless times throughout history. Christians have been put down for “Pie in the sky by and by” theology, but the fact of human suffering remains. As Paul put it, “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” (1 Corinthians 15:19) He later wrote to the same group of believers, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Corinthians 4:17) Paul certainly didn’t live an easy life, but he had full assurance that it was all worth it, because “I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.” (2 Timothy 1:12) We are to follow His example and trust God through whatever He allows us to experience, not demanding or expecting “easy street” but rejoicing in Christ whatever our circumstances, for His glory.

This feels very close to home. My personal suffering has been largely secondary, as my wife has gone through assorted medical problems and is closing on her second month in the hospital at this point. Frankly, the separation is a real trial for me as well, and I don’t have the physical pain to distract me from it. We had hoped that she would be released this Friday on her birthday, but that looks pretty unlikely. This morning I’m speaking at an interdenominational prayer meeting, and my message is on gratitude. It would be very easy to preach if everything were rosy, but I think it will be far more powerful precisely because at the moment it’s not. I am to encourage my hearers with God’s words, so that we may yield nothing to the devil but walk in the peace and joy that God intends for us, for His glory.

Father, thank You for this clear Word at precisely this point. I pray that I would be able to communicate it clearly, as well as walk in it myself. There are things to be done today, and then from tomorrow it will be very busy. Help me rest, relax, and rejoice in You whatever is going on around me, for the blessing of those around me and for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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