Perspective, Revelation Series, Suffering

Revelation (series): Suffering—What’s Your Perspective?

@JeanneTakenaka +Jeanne Takenaka

I didn’t set out to write a series based on Revelation 2-3. As I began reading the book of Revelation during my quiet times, I wanted to find truths written to the churches that apply for my life. What came from that desire to find one thing in each letter . . . is this series.

The churches to whom John wrote dealt with many of the same issues we face in an increasingly godless culture. Just as the early churches made choices about whether they would live for Jesus or themselves, so too, do we. 

We have the gift of being able to look at back at their strengths and weaknesses and learn from them.

This isn’t an in-depth theological rendering of these letters. Rather, each post reflects what God has taught me through studying both the letters and the churches. As we walk through Revelation two and three over the next seven weeks, I hope you’ll be encouraged and share your thoughts here! Past posts can be found here: Revelation Series 

~~~~~~~

Can I just be honest for a minute?

I prayed for years that God would spare me from the hardships of life. I look back now and see what an unrealistic prayer that was. From my current vantage point I understand that this prayer opposes God’s best for me . . . for each of us.

As I read the words of Jesus to the church of Smyrna (Revelation 2:8-11), my heart went out to the people of that day. They were told that they would endure affliction.

They were afflicted and poor, and yet God called them rich.

What?!

They were rich because, in spite of their outward poverty, they walked closely with Jesus. 

The people of this church were slandered by the “religious” people of their day. Reputations smeared in the dirt. Lies spoken about them.

This church suffered.

How discouraging.

Any one of these kinds of persecution can drain the life right out of a person. This church faced all three.

Then the church of Smyrna was told more suffering was coming. Some of them would be sent to prison.

The imprisonment was a test.

I don’t pretend I understand all of God’s ways. I don’t know why He chooses to test His people with such painful difficulties.

I don’t know why He allows His children to face unjust treatment. Why He permits people to persecute His children.

We see it in our world today. People in the Middle East who are gunned down for their belief in Jesus. Others who are imprisoned because they insist on embracing the Gospel and its hope.

We see it to a lesser degree in our country as Christians are maligned for their “archaic” belief in a God who allows bad things to happen to the people He “supposedly” loves. Some are fired because they have minor displays of their faith on their desk, or computer.

When we view suffering through eyes that only see the circumstances, we develop a limited, sometimes worldly perspective. 

God told the people of Smyrna to “be faithful, even to the point of death.”

God doesn’t allow us to suffer just because. When He allows suffering into our lives, He has a purpose, often more than one. We can choose to view it and respond to suffering (and God’s hand behind it) with an earthly viewpoint and become resentful.

Or we can choose to yield to God’s plan and accept the suffering, believing that He has a bigger purpose behind it all. 

Sometimes when we walk through suffering, we learn more about God. We see Jesus with a deeper perspective.

Sometimes, we see ourselves more clearly—our strengths . . . and our flaws. God doesn’t let our flaws be our judge. But they can drive us closer to Him in the midst of the hard.

We can choose to be faithful in holding to our beliefs that God is a good God, even when our circumstances seem to portray the opposite. 

When we view suffering through eyes of faith, we embrace an eternal perspective. Even if this does mean suffering to the point of death this side of heaven.

Will we remain faithful to the God we say we love?

God didn’t promise to rescue the church of Smyrna out of their sufferings in this life.

But, He did promise them a victor’s crown—life.

“Because He would give them life as their victor’s crown.”

This passage reminds me that truth is this—We will suffer in this life. We should expect it. Most of us will not suffer unto death, but none of us gets out of this life without scars.

Just because we suffer—or we suffer more than those around us—it doesn’t mean God loves us less for allowing it. He promises to be with us.

And He tells us we will have life as our crown.

In walking more years with Jesus, I’ve learned suffering is not the bad thing. The bad thing would be to accuse God for allowing it, rather than to trust that He knows what He’s doing in and through my life.

Even when I don’t.

As we live out our days in a world that increasingly turns its back on the one true God, we can expect to suffer. But, when we walk through trials with a determination to live faithful, God walks with us. And He assures us there is a crown of eternal life waiting for us.

What about you? How do you navigate the seeming discrepancy between God’s goodness and His allowing us to suffer? What is one verse that helps you stay close to God during times of suffering?

Click to Tweet: When God allows suffering into our lives, He has a purpose, often more than one.

I’m linking up with #RaRaLinkup, Jennifer Dukes Lee, and Holley Gerth

Advertisements

30 thoughts on “Revelation (series): Suffering—What’s Your Perspective?”

  1. Outstanding post, Jeanne! And the pictures are a perfect choice.

    I m not sure that God ‘allows’ specific suffering beyond allowing it in the context of a world that is fallen, and in which free will is required to choose Him, to choose faith. My perspective may be somewhat limited; I’ve gone through some much pain, and am going through so much more, that it’s taking a toll on my character. I’m simply being beaten to death, with the very real prospect of death-by-pain-induced-shock.

    What I believe He does offer is help in bearing what has become unbearable., and the mental clarity to see that however ghastly each day is (and today set a new personal worst) there is something worthwhile to be gained in trying to keep my focus. Just in trying, mind you, even though I may and often do fail.

    I don’t think there is any perspective from which my experience could be considered a ‘good thing’; I believe that God is as horrified by the whole thing as I am, and more so, and that what stays His hand from making it all go away is the knowledge that with deliverance would come some loss of free will, and it’s my constantly revalidated choice that is the only thing that will make me a fit citizen of heaven.

    Like

    1. Andrew, your words, your heart, is beautiful. You add so much more depth than I can to the subject of suffering. You’re living it out each moment of every day. I appreciate your perspective. Thank you for the reminder that God is with us, He enables us to bear the unbearable. You are in my prayers, my friend.

      Like

  2. Jeanne,
    This is a wonderfully written post! I, too, wanted to avoid suffering in my life, but it is the very suffering that I have gone through that has drawn me into a close and enduring relationship with the Lord. I don’t think I would have near the compassion for others that I do had I not gone through suffering. I agree that we need to take on an eternal perspective. God wants us to become more like Christ and Christ certainly suffered. I believe in order to be like Him we need to take on suffering like He did. The verse that I cling to is 2 Corinthians 12:9 :”My grace is sufficient for you; for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Like John, I have had the thorn in my side of living with anxiety and depression. Had God taken it away, I don’t think I would have learned utter reliance and dependence upon Him. I have had to learn that His grace is, indeed, sufficient and suffering was the only way for me to learn this. Excellent post!
    Blessings,
    Bev xx

    Like

    1. Bev, thank you for your encouraging words here. I haven’t gone through the kind of persecution or suffering that many have. But, I have seen what you have: God draws us closer to Him during times of suffering. Thank you for sharing 2 Corinthians 12:9. It’s such a great verse to help during those seasons of suffering. Thank you for sharing from your own life, my friend.

      Like

  3. Jeanne, much of my adult life has involved seasons of hardship. While I would not wish to repeat it, I am thankful for the ways I have been made more in the image of God through them. In fact, my writing and passions reflect that. I am thankful for a sovereign and redemptive God who transforms our experiences so that evil cannot claim victory. Romans 8: 35-39 is an encouraging passage for me.

    Like

    1. Stephanie, I like the way you share about the hardships you’ve endured. I’ve said those things about some of my own hard seasons. I came out richer for them, but I don’t want to repeat them. 😉 God does have a way of conforming us into the image of His Son, and it seems like this is often done as we endure difficult seasons. Thank you for sharing Romans 8:35-39. It’s reassuring to know that nothing can separate us from God’s love. Thank you so much for sharing your heart here, friend.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Jeanne.

    I really appreciated your post on “Suffering.” It is so true that we yield to what is pleasurable while avoiding the difficult. Unfortunately, the enemy often holds up his tempting offer against God’s less-tempting trial; and, as you stated, we develop a “worldly perspective.”

    Thank you for the call to “yield to God’s perspective.” That is such an important message that is often overlooked by the ‘worldly Christians’ that are brought up in our often worldly churches.

    I cling to John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

    Jesus doesn’t teach us how to avoid the troubles of the world, but to seek peace in Him when the trouble comes; because He has overcome them all…for us.

    God bless you, Jeanne.
    -Brian Michael Kindall

    Like

    1. Brian, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. You’re right. We humans do tend to look for the easy, pleasurable way, don’t we? And yes, often, the enemy is the one showcasing these, not God.

      I love the verse you shared. Peace in the trials can only come when our hearts and minds are set on Jesus. I so appreciate what you said about Jesus not teaching us how to avoid the troubles in this world. But He gives us His peace when we walk through them with Him.

      I’m so glad you stopped by. Thanks!

      Like

  5. I appreciate you highlighted perspective in this post. How we look at suffering makes all the difference? Are we looking at it through God’s eyes or a worldly perspective that tells us we don’t deserve anything bad?

    God tells us life with Him isn’t going to be easy. But even knowing that can lead to heartache when we forget that God always has our best interests at heart. I’m not sure I always handle suffering well, but I do know how God loves me through it. He never leaves my side and provides whatever I need. I pray I always embrace this eternal perspective when suffering comes my way.

    Like

    1. Mary, I so appreciate your thoughts here. More and more, I’m seeing how the perspective I hold in a situation will sway me toward God or toward my own devices. Focusing on the latter never ends well.

      I like your reminder that God always has our best interests at heart. When we can remember that, remember that He loves us and hurts with us, there can be a measure of peace to help us with the suffering. I’m with you…so glad God loves us through the suffering.

      Thank you for sharing your wisdom, friend!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. You’ve shared these truths in such a gentle way, Jeanne. It’s so comforting to remember that our sovereign God always, always has a purpose. One verse that helps me stay close to God during times of suffering is actually my favorite verse, Deuteronomy 31:8 … “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Hugs, friend.

    Like

    1. Lois, what a great verse to hold tightly to. I’m so glad God goes before us and is with us. That He never leaves or forsakes us and He helps us to not be afraid.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts here, friend!

      Like

    2. Dear Jeanne, this is beautiful! God blessed me years ago, when our first child died, when He showed me pain has a purpose. I also learned that it’s His call, and His grace, on whether or not He reveals the purpose.
      Dear Lois, I’m so glad to see you here! I was going to reference your post about God’s “divine recycling process”. I am so blessed to be journeying with two such devoted Sisters in Christ! XXOO to you both.

      Like

      1. Awww, Alice, thank you for your kind words. I’ve seen that pain has a purpose too. Sometimes it’s hard to see this in the midst of the suffering. I’m glad He never allows suffering into our lives for no reason. Even when I don’t understand the why’s, I know I can still trust Him. You are a blessing, lady!

        Like

  7. This is a great post, Jeanne! Suffering is such a difficult subject. I think we would all like to avoid it but often, looking back, we can see how God has been at work in the midst of it, and that the hard times often cause us to seek him more. I like what you say about having an eternal perspective. Trusting that God has a purpose, and that he is at work even when we can’t see it, makes a big difference to how we deal with suffering.

    Like

    1. Lesley, yes, if we could avoid suffering, I think most (if not all) of us would. I’ve been strengthened by Him when I can look back and see His hand in the midst of a hard season. And almost always, I’ve come through trials closer to the Lord and knowing Him better. Thanks for your wise words here, friend!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Our ‘suffering’ does bring out our character, for sure! And it is our character that God wants to transform to be more like Christ. And being more rooted in our identity in Christ brings us a freedom from our suffering as the suffering then does not define us. It sure isn’t an easy road, but like you mention, it is the road that leads to the ‘crown of victory.’ Or like Paul says too…to the prize that is in Christ. Just writing this has ministered to me. Thanks for such a thought-provoking post Jeanne!

    Like

    1. Yes, Lynn. God does want to transform our character. Your comment reminded me of Romans 8:29, which talks about how God desires to conform us to the image of His Son. You’re so right. When we are rooted in our identity in Christ we can walk in freedom. Walking a road of suffering isn’t an easy road. I’m so grateful God walks with us through all the seasons of life. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Lynn!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. “When we view suffering through eyes of faith, we embrace an eternal perspective.” I’m learning to do just this right now. Beautiful photos too, Jeanne. Sharing this on Twitter.

    Like

    1. I’m learning this too, Sarah. God seems to teach me similar lessons on different levels, if that makes sense. Here’s to both of us continuing to learn how to see suffering through eyes of faith. So thankful for your visit!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Hi Jeanne,

    Great to be back on your blog.

    Yes, it sure is a tremendous gift to be able to read about the struggles of the first Christians and learn from it.

    Your honesty in your blog posts are refreshing and one of the elements that I look forward to whenever I visit your blog.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the church of Smyrna with us.

    We need more people who dare to stand up and say: I don’t know.

    We do not need to have the answer for everything.

    Sometimes it’s difficult to see the purpose in life for some.

    I understand, when many people say life has no purpose.

    It’s easy to say all the random stuff but challenging to be honest and reveal our doubts.

    God bless!
    Edna Davidsen

    Like

    1. Edna, sometimes it is hard to understand the purpose in life. The purpose in suffering. I guess the thing that I always have to come back to is knowing the character of God. He allows hard things into our lives, and though I don’t often understand why, I know I can trust Him through it. I just have to remember to stay in that trusting place when the doubts and the pain hit hard.

      Thank you so much for stopping by!

      Like

  11. Beautiful photos–and even though they all represent winter (a time of slowed growth and adversity), we all know that the trees and ground will come out the victor in a few months. Someone recently asked Pedro if he wished he could have not had cancer. His answer? “I wouldn’t want cancer again, but I’m glad I went through that experience because it taught me so much about God and how he wants to be in relationship with me.”

    Like

    1. Anita, I always appreciate your insights. Yes, the promise of new life does come. Refreshes. gives us hope when the ground feels hard and unyielding.

      Pedro’s answer to the questions is beautiful. May we always cling to that perspective. Thank you for giving us eyes to look beyond the suffering, my friend.

      Like

  12. I am SO glad you are doing this series on Revelation. It is the book I shy away from the most–mostly because the apocalyptic allegories get murky for me. I too prayed not to suffer for a long time. And yet, I have never seen so much grace and hope come from it (our fight through infertility and our parenting a child with special needs). It has changed me for the better.

    Visting from HolleyGerth (and from your comment on http://www.mom-gene.com as well) : )

    Like

    1. Thank you for visiting, Jamie. Revelation can be an intimidating book. For some reason, reading through it this time (at least chapters 2 and 3), I gleaned so much from it. I like when God does that.

      God has a way of working around some of our prayers, doesn’t He? We dealt with infertility too. I wouldn’t trade those years walking that path. It was painful, but that season was also what opened my heart and eyes to God in ways I’d never comprehended before. It changed me for the better too.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Yep, our natural instinct is to run from suffering … fast. I do whatever I can to get it to go away. Yet I know, looking back, that it was in those seasons that God meet me strong and powerful. That’s when my faith grew ’cause I had nothing in my own strength to lean on.

    Just Jesus. And His everlasting arms …

    Like

    1. Agreed, Linda. It’s the seasons that are out difficult that seem to yield the richest fruit in our lives, isn’t it? God is sweet to give us that 20/20 hindsight. Have a great weekend, friend!

      Like

  14. How brave of you to tackle Revelation! You are doing it in a beautiful way that I’ve not seen before. Suffering. Yes we all experience it, but you’re right it’s the “how” that determines the result. God is so good to allow suffering because it does draw us closer to Him. He never abandons us during it, and when our trek through the pain is done, we often see how it has benefitted us. It is the only way some blessings can raise us up. I too love Deut~ Deuteronomy 31:8 … “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”So true! Hugs, Jeanne!

    Like

    1. Thanks, Mom, for your words. We will all suffer. In varying ways, and to varying degrees. But, it’s where we focus that can help us or make suffering times harder. I’m thankful God is always with us, that He’s promised to never leave or forsake us. And, He is good to help us see that the pain is not wasted. What a great verse! Thanks for sharing Deut 31:8 here. It’s a good one to hold onto.

      Like

Comments are closed.