Finding JOY in Suffering
Finding joy in suffering is an important discipline and teaches us to notice God in all things.
Good morning. My name David Sorn. Lead Pastor of RC.
We’re kind of mixing things up today and switching everything around.
Look under your chair right now, and you should see a connection card and a pen. Go ahead and pick those up.
One of the things we do every week at Renovation Church, is fill out these connection cards.
It’s a way for you to connect with us and for us to connect with you.
If you have a prayer request and want our prayer team to be praying for you this week, there’s a space for that on the back as well
I had a couple of announcements that I wanted to talk personally with you about today
If you’re new within the last month or two…looking to connect
Consider signing up for a house group
(Explain house groups)
I know some of you would prefer to wait until we re-sign up again in the fall
But if you liked to get a head start on meeting some fabulous ppl at RC, there’s still one month left.
As you could probably deduce we have a trailer that believe it or not all of this stuff fits into
We are at the point now where we are desperately looking for 1 or 2 more ppl to volunteer their driveway (once a month)
Sometime in the next week or two
Otherwise, we’ll have to pay to store it
If interested, talk to me or email me
Every once in a while people ask me, why do you guys use nametags here?
That’s a great question!
Besides the fact that they’re a great fashion accessory, if you’ve ever wondered, we do it because
1) It’s a great way to actually learn names
2) And it’s a way that we communicate that we are interested in community and in knowing each other
So I challenge you next week to be a part of that…and put on a nametag
We are going to take an offering as well
A time for us to give back to God who’s blessed us so much
If you’re a visitor, feel free to let the offering just pass you by
As the offering goes by, you can stick your connection card in there as well
We started off on a light note with our video today, but today’s topic in our JOY series is really quite a heavy one.
We’re talking about the importance of finding joy in suffering.
So today might be a little different than your normal RC Sunday. As our topic is much heavier.
Before we create any confusion on what “suffering” is, I think it’s helpful for me to define it somewhat
Next week, we are going to be talking about a similar but yet distinct topic: “Finding Joy in Opposition”
It’s probably most helpful for me to define that first and then compare
What I mean by opposition is: When you are opposed for your faith. Christians call this persecution. And the Bible speaks often of it, and it tells us we should find JOY in it.
So today, when I talk of suffering, I’m not speaking of that. We will cover that next week.
Today: I’m talking about the majority of suffering we experience as human beings, whether that’s the pain of a relationship ending (family, dating, divorce), tragedy, death, job loss, addiction, failure, depression, you name it.
It’s impossible to live this life without suffering.
We all suffer.
Some haven’t suffered as much, and some, have suffered immensely
THE BIG QUESTION
There is of course, a bigger question here, right? A bigger question than “How do we find JOY in suffering?”
And that question is “Why does God allow evil and suffering in the 1st place?
THAT question is in fact the single biggest obstacle for spiritual seekers.
There was a poll done that asked people, if you could ask God one question, what would it be?
Most common question: “Why do you allow suffering?”
Now, I realize that I’m probably being foolish by raising questions and not answering them, but today anyway, we aren’t going to focus so much on the why.
We will eventually. We often come back and will come back to many things we need to cover in more detail. And at some point we will dive into these tough questions.
But I want to look at the topic from our series perspective, and it’s a different way to look at the topic: Looking at it from the perspective of JOY.
Because, whether we answer the question of WHY or not, we’re still going to suffer.
Just knowing why doesn’t change everything.
It’s like, when you’re at the doctor, and they say those famous words, “This might hurt a little.”
Well, let’s think about this: We know WHY it’s gonna hurt, we even know it’s coming. But it still hurts. Suffering is still suffering.
And plus, honestly, there is no easy answer to that question of “Why does God allow evil and suffering?”
I know I’m prob not supposed to say that, but it’s kind of true. True at least in the fact that I couldn’t cover the topic in 25 minutes and have you leave here and go, “OH, I totally get it now”
I took a class in seminary that was called, “The problem of evil and suffering.” And we studied it over and over. 4 hour lectures every week, read 5 different books, lots of papers, and when the class was over…I felt like I had a little better understanding…but not a lot.
It’s not an easy question. There’s no one sentence answer, and if people try and give you a one sentence answer, they neither truly know God or truly understand the pain of suffering
So, if it’s okay, we aren’t going to focus as much on the WHY today, but on the HOW…how do you still find God when suffering comes…because it does.
I want to study today’s topic by studying a little known book in the OLD TESTAMENT called the book of Habakkuk.
It’s really a great book for BOTH suffering and opposition as the two are often closely related
Habakkuk was a prophet who lived in the area around Jerusalem around 600 BC.
His life and ministry, like SO MUCH of what we read in the Old Testament centers around the event of the people of Jerusalem and Judah getting attacked and then exiled by the Babylonians. (we’ve referenced this a lot already this year in fact)
Habakkuk was a prophet who not only prophesied and predicted the Babylonians would come, he lived during it
If you read the book of Habakkuk, (quick read…just 3 short chapters), the first 2 chapters are Habakkuk arguing with God
Put yourself in his shoes. Imagine you are sitting and talking to God and He tells you, “Listen, the people of MN have sinned greatly against me. I’m going to be sending in an invading army from another country, and in a few years they will almost completely devastate Minneapolis, and will carry away the rest of the people to a foreign land”
That’s essentially what he heard.
So he begins to argue with and complain to God
And he complains about the evil of his people, the evil of the invaders, and why God would allow it in the 1st place!
(Habakkuk 1:2-3) – NLT
2 How long, O Lord, must I call for help?
But you do not listen!
“Violence is everywhere!” I cry,
but you do not come to save.
3 Must I forever see these evil deeds?
Why must I watch all this misery?
Wherever I look,
I see destruction and violence.
I am surrounded by people
who love to argue and fight.
And later he also writes:
(Habakkuk 1:13) – NIV
Your eyes are too pure to look on evil;
you cannot tolerate wrong.
Why then do you tolerate the treacherous?
Why are you silent while the wicked
swallow up those more righteous than themselves?
He’s basically stating the problem of evil: Why do you allow evil and suffering?
And God begins to answer him by telling him that He is just, and justice will be done. And that He is good. He is alive. And He is control.
We are going to study more of God’s answers to Habakkuk next week, but for now I want you to look at the very end of Habakkuk’s final answer back to God
He says these following words knowing full well, knowing full well suffering and devastation is coming, or perhaps has already begun
(Habakkuk 3:17) - NIV
Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
Let’s pause for a second and think about this. Sometimes when we read verses like this we shrug it off because words like vines, olives, and sheep don’t mean as much to us.
But to these people, this is utter devastation. Their crops have been devastated by the enemy (thus no food and nothing to sell to get more food); their sheep and cattle have been taken or killed and thus, again no food and no money.
Let me, for the sake of interpretation and good Biblical application, read this verse as if it were written in Minnesota in the year 2010 from someone like us
Though the stock market has crashed
and my money has vanished,
though my very own company has been attacked
and ruined before my eyes,
though the job market has disappeared
and I have no food to feed my family.
THAT is what Habakkuk is saying. There will be OR has been complete devastation in the land.
There has been what we would label: SUFFERING.
Suffering in a lot of ways. No money, no work, no food. Just loss, pain, and death.
But look at the next verses:
(Habakkuk 3:18-19) – NLT
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord!
I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!
19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength!
He makes me as surefooted as a deer,
able to tread upon the heights.
In the worst of circumstances, Habakkuk not only keeps his faith God, but even finds JOY.
THE DISCIPLINE OF FINDING JOY IN SUFFERING
I think we would be being too simplistic, too ignorant of the pain of suffering, if I stood up here and said, “Now just find joy in your suffering like Habakkuk did!”
We have to ask: “HOW?” How could he still find joy in his God?
Well, remember (And I’m going to keep saying this cuz I don’t want anyone confused on this) It’s NOT about focusing on JOY instead of pain
It’s in the midst of great mourning and pain, finding a piece of joy to hold onto
It’s this: If we can’t do what Habakkuk did…if we don’t learn the discipline of finding JOY in suffering (of finding GOD in suffering), then we are in danger of eventually not finding Him at all.
If we can’t teach ourselves to still see God in suffering, if we can’t learn that discipline, even in the little things, something will happen, and you might be in danger of walking away from Him.
So, we must learn the HOW, we must the learn the discipline of finding him EVERYWHERE
There’s a woman in our church who writes a daily blog about finding things to be thankful for each day.
That’s SUCH a good discipline. Because she’s teaching herself to find God even in suffering.
If that discipline sounds odd to you, let me give you some examples of what I mean by teaching yourself to find JOY (find God) in suffering
LEARNING FROM SUFFERING (“BOUNCING”)
Lots of times when we suffer, we bring it upon ourselves. Not always, never listen to anyone who tells you that all suffering is something you deserved. That’s neither logical or Biblically sound
But, at least some of the suffering we have in our lives is a result of our own choices.
Our addictions, our relationship mistakes, our laziness, our pride
And sometimes, not always right away, we can find reasons to rejoice because of that suffering.
I said to a friend this week, “It’s sadly often when I’m at my lowest point, that my desire to change and live for God is at its highest”
That’s because, often when we hit the bottom, we bounce. Sometimes we even pray for people to hit the bottom so they would bounce back.
I’ve heard many stories over the years like this. Stories like when a wife tells a husband that their marriage is falling apart and she’s leaving him.
And THAT, that is suffering. That is the bottom. But for a lot of people when they hit that bottom, they bounce
And now, in an odd way, they can look back, and even rejoice that God brought them there because they are now stronger than ever.
And in a weird way, there is JOY in suffering.
Think about it this way, how many lessons have you learned in life that haven’t come from some sort of suffering?
However, sometimes suffering comes NOT as a result from anything we did wrong.
Whether that be from the economy, or tragedy/disaster, an accident, disease, or many other things.
And in these things, finding JOY is even that much more difficult.
To not avoid the difficult topics, let’s take what psychologists often call the hardest suffering for humans to overcome: the death of a child
I have no idea what that pain would even be like. I can’t imagine.
But even in a tragic situation such as that, a small sliver of joy can be held onto
The fact that there were good times together…cherished memories
And the fact our time on this earth is just a blink of an eye, and that if those parents put their trust in Jesus, they will be reunited w/ that child for ALL of eternity
And finding that small piece of JOY, keeps you going
I’ve been to a lot of funerals in my relatively short life
By the time I finished 8th grade, I had already been to 7 funerals of family members
All 4 of my grandparents died in a span of 5 years (3rd to 8th grade)
And now, after being a pastor for 6 years, I’ve been to many, many more funerals…sometimes of people I didn’t even know
And in contrast to my non-Christian upbringing, as I’ve talked with families over the last 6 years who’ve been especially hurt, one’s where death came WAY too early or was unexpected…
I kept hearing the same phrase over and over
“David, we have no idea how we would get through this without God!”
That had, somehow, developed the ability, even in the darkest moments of life, to find a reason to rejoice in God
That He still loved them, and was present there with them in their pain
So how can we do that if and when suffering comes to us?? How can we get to the point where we WON’T turn on God…where we won’t be SO enveloped in our suffering that we wouldn’t even TALK to Him? How do we avoid that?
We have to do what we see in God’s word. In fact, it’s what we see in the story of Habakkuk.
We have to remember WHAT HE HAS DONE and WHAT HE WILL DO!
And THAT’S exactly what Habakkuk remembers before he rejoices in those verses we read earlier!
(Habakkuk 3:2-4) – NIV
2 LORD, I have heard of your fame;
I stand in awe of your deeds, O LORD.
Renew them in our day,
in our time make them known;
in wrath, remember mercy.
3 God came from Teman,
the Holy One from Mount Paran.
His glory covered the heavens
and his praise filled the earth.
4 His splendor was like the sunrise;
rays flashed from his hand,
where his power was hidden
Habakkuk goes on to explain more of what God had done in the past (like in the Exodus account w/ Moses) and he explains that God will indeed let justice be served in the future
And like Habakkuk, we too need to remember what he has done and what he will do
Remember that He came and lived and loved and then bled at the cross, dying a death to take your place.
Remember that He offers you forgiveness and if you take it, keeps that promises. Forgiving you everyday.
Remember that He is desperately in love with you.
Remember that you and He will be together forever in eternity.
And we need to Remember it every single day!
So practice and prepare NOW the discipline of finding JOY in what He has done and what He will do because someday you might need to remember it more than you think
I heard a story this week about Joni Eareckson Tada (explain her story)
Years and years ago, she was at a healing service and while waiting for the elevators, she thought to herself, “Is trying to constantly remove suffering from my life, the only way to deal with it?
Or is God bigger than that?
Can we learn to praise Him and worship Him even when we suffer? Can we begin to accept suffering as a part of life?
As a method in which we sometimes learn, sometimes even get joy, and then…there are sometimes where maybe we see nothing good come out of it
But can we somehow still trust that as Romans 8:28 says, “That in all things God works for the good of those who love him”
And maybe that good isn’t even for us. But it is as the passage says, according to his purposes. Which are good. He IS Good.
And thus CAN you live a life where you love for Him isn’t conditioned on how well things turn out?
Can we be a people who are willing to praise Him in the storm, always remembering that through the pain of life, and through the storms, He sits with us, loving us.
He doesn’t keep us safe from every trial, he doesn’t give us a pain-free life…but He never, ever leaves us. Never stops loving us.
And thus, can you, like Habakkuk, be satisfied and love your God, despite not knowing all the answers? Despite not knowing how things might work out or even why they did work out the way they did?
Is your love for God bigger than your desire to know all the reasons why?
You might need it to be. Because often we don’t KNOW why something happened… and all we can do is “TRUST” He is good.
That’s why they call it faith.
And finally, may we remember, that when we suffer…that He suffered too.
He came, and gave his very own life for us.
So in our pain, may we find a rock to hold to on to. A small and quiet….but a reason to rejoice.
That our savior, our Jesus, in his suffering has conquered the grave, and He loves us. And when this difficult life is over, in a blink of an eye, we will spend eternity with Him.
And may that give you joy.
This morning, we are also going to take communion as a body of believers.
It’s a way for us to remember/reflect on the radical grace of Jesus Christ.
In the NT, Paul writes this about the reason for communion:
(1 Corinthians 11:23-26) –DON’T PUT ON SCREEN
23For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." 25In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." 26For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.
And that is what we will do. But Paul also writes in this passage that we ought to examine ourselves before taking communion.
To 1) not do it in vain. To only do it if we truly believe it 2) To examine ourselves (ask yourself some tough questions)
In the back, 2 tables….with pieces of bread and a bowl of juice. When you’re ready, you can get up take an individual piece of bread and dip it in the juice.
However, take some time to examine yourself before you go back.
Sometime to remember what He’s done and what He will do
And when you’re ready, at any time during the next 3 songs (if you need to wait to the 3rd song), you can go back and take communion.
If you would like to pray while you’re back there, we encourage you to do so. With each other, by yourself, or get prayer from our prayer team.
We really just want you to encounter God during communion.
Let’s worship Him!
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
You may use this material all you like! We only ask that you do not charge a fee and that you quote the source and not say it is your own.