The Comfort of the Cross

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Here are six truths about suffering that should prove comforting to any Christian in pain:

God didn’t cause our suffering. God never, ever wants us to suffer. He hates it when we hurt. We hurt because pain is part of the human legacy, period. God could, of course, instantly stop all human suffering, but doing so would involve interfering with our free will, which he loves us to much to do. He allows us to suffer, but that we do is agonizing to him.

Christ, who loves us, knows our suffering. Christ proved his love for us on the cross. And on the cross he also proved to us that he knows the depth of earthy, human suffering. When we call upon Christ to comfort us, we can do so confident that He who heals us understands the full measure of human pain.

Christ wants to love and comfort us. Christ’s purpose is to comfort and heal us. He loves us—and he proved he loves us. He is our friend, our bringer of peace, our soul’s physician. God cares; he is the opposite of indifferent to our suffering.

Through suffering we can grow in our identification with Christ. As Christians, we want nothing more than to as fully as possible identify and commune with Christ. Christ purposefully suffered for us on the cross. Our suffering provides us with a means of more fully appreciating the depth and reality of that sacrifice.

Suffering clears a way for God. Suffering has a way of clearing our minds of superficialities, of focusing our attention on the core essentialities of life. When we’re suffering, Channel God tends to come in a lot clearer than when we’re not.

God sees our suffering in the context of eternity. A big part of our suffering is the fear that we won’t get better. But God already knows just how fantastically better we’re going to get. We see ourselves as earthly creatures; God sees us, already, as the angels we will become.

If you’re suffering, here are four things your can do to help yourself heal:

Pray. Ask for God’s peace. Don’t be shy about asking for it; don’t be hesitant about asking for it; don’t in any way qualify your desire for it. God is there for the suffering. And He can bring to you what you cannot deliver to yourself; God, and only God, can make 2 + 2 = 5. When suffering, you need something extra, something beyond yourself, something unfathomable: You need a miraculous calming of your waters. Calming stormy waters is what God does. Ask, and you shall receive.

Share your troubles. Suffering tends to make us crawl into ourselves, to isolate with our anguish. Resist that counterproductive impulse, which only serves to coddle and thus empower pain. Instead, reach out to others when you are hurting. Share your troubles with your spouse, your friends, your family. With them be honest and open; free yourself to be as vulnerable as you feel. Receive their input, their sympathy, their care. Receive their love. Allow God’s greatest power to come to you through God’s greatest creation: People.

Seek the support of others afflicted as you are. The value of being in a support group with others who share your specific affliction cannot be overstated. There’s nothing like communicating with others who know exactly what you’re going through to relieve the psychological stress that is often the worst part of suffering. Look for a local support group to join. Start one if you have to; there are sure to be others in your area going through whatever you are. Join an online community. Do anything to begin sharing your story with others who are already living so much of it.

Become informed. If idle hands are the devil’s playground, ignorance is his factory. Fear and anxiety naturally thrive in the vacuum of unawareness.  Learn what there is to know about whatever’s grieving you. When you actually know about something, it is never as bad as you think it might be when you’re only guessing about it. Knowledge really is power. Get all of it you can.

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. Don't forget to sign up for his mucho-awesome newsletter. If you shop at Amazon, help support John by entering the site through this link right here--Amazon will then send John 3-4% of the cost of anything you buy before exiting the site again.

 

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Awesome news about your guys' situation! I was in part thinking about your situation when I wrote this. Please keep us up on what's happening with your husband's cancer. It's so exciting, to hear how clearly you're perceiving God with you through this.

    I will of course be glad to expound upon my little idea that God … can't do math. I'll make that my bloorg for tomorrow.

    God bless you, Elizabeth.

  • Elizabeth

    John, great blog!!! Thankfully, we have a wonderful support system to help us through our situation (as I have posted before), through our local church and from our circle of family and friends.

    Talk about your comment, “And He can bring to you what you cannot deliver to yourself; God, and only God, can make 2 + 2 = 5. ”

    God has been very good to us, in spite of the tough situation, and we are feeling His unbelievable presence every step of the way, as we deal with this illness. He has provided some totally cool surprises along the way, too… some that have just absolutely blown us away! What a totally cool, totally AWESOME God!!!!

    We still have much ahead, and appreciate the prayers of you and your readers (as you asked last week.)

    All the best to you!

  • Rachel Cabal

    thank you as always for your clear understanding of the place God commands in the midst of our suffering. Commands!! isn't that the whole comfort of God in our lives?? our peace depends on getting that!!

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Thanks so much for this, Rachel. And you're certainly right.

  • patricia kissby

    thank you so much for this information it has helped me to understand what is happing to me better as a christian and a person

    please i would like to read more from you it is a blessing to me again thank you

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    You're welcome, of course, Patricia.

  • nisperos

    Great!

  • http://born4battle.wordpress.com/ Born4Battle

    The Apostle Paul:

    "Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." {Rom 5:3-5 NIV}

  • altonwoods

    John, I've only just stumbled across your blog recently, but I want to tell you how much it means to me to hear a man such as yourself speak as you do for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. There's a definite shortage of people who will, or even can, reach the people that you do. Please continue!

    • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

      Thank you, alton.

  • Christine

    Thanks John, really needed to hear that and turned up in my inbox just when I needed it. I forget sometimes and it makes it all so much harder when you don’t realise he is there alongside you. Again, thank you, timing was brilliant

  • http://megaloi.blogspot.com Redlefty

    I’m pretty sure if you put Chuck Norris, Christopher Walken and Dolph Lungren in a room for a day, they’d be able to make 2 + 2 = 5.

    Maybe. They’d at least be good for a 4.7, I think.

  • http://kansasbob.com Kansas Bob

    Thanks John.. much wisdom in your words!

  • http://www.ldbeams.wordpress.com ladybeams

    Thank you so much for such an encouraging post. I personally find a lot of comfort in Psalm 91 11-12, that he has "sent his angels to take charge" over me.

    God Bless.

  • http://www.ipandora.net matthew

    John, regarding the first point, of God hating when we hurt.

    What do you think about the drama of Job as God brought Job specifically to Satan's attention and specifically allowed the evil one to bring extreme hurt and pain into Job's life.

    It wasn't because Job deserved pain or suffering or punishment, as is fleshed out through that narrative.

    Rather, I would say that God allows pain in our lives for the purpose of bringing Himself greater glory through His refining of us into purer and purer vessels.

  • http://www.screwtype.com Lucas

    Have you taken into account this vision of Christ?

    http://bowflexjesus.ytmnd.com/

    We all might need to start doing a lot more crunches in order to be saved.


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