I want to begin with some common situations that I suspect many of us have faced, perhaps in our own lives or in our ministries with others. These are all pseudonyms. I think of Nicole and Dan. They started off with a very beautiful marriage, but the marriage began to decay in several ways over the course of years. Dan became overly busy, and some anger began to show in how he treated Nicole, and she responded to that with much disappointment and became very depressed about her life. Very common things that we see in marriages.
I think of a couple, Clay and Melissa, who have a son who got in trouble in school. He was suspended for several days and failing classes as a high school student. Since then, things have actually gotten worse as he left home and turned away from Christ, breaking the hearts of Melissa and Clay, who are strong Christians.
I think of a man that I work with, I’m calling him Ryan, who was very excited when the new boss came into his unit because the new boss had fresh ideas, stuff that Ryan was really liking. Unfortunately, some of those new ideas included relooking at the other employees, including Ryan, and eventually, Ryan was terminated from his position. So, he went from excitement to disappointment.
There are obviously a lot of experiences that people go through in a lot of ways. People suffer in light of those experiences. You have someone like Nicole who would respond with eating issues when faced with various kinds of anxieties. You have folks like Clay and Melissa who have dealt with anger and depression. Then you have a guy like Ryan who’s just very discouraged, and then his own anger is shooting up, and it’s all a mess, right? In these cases, it’s very difficult to say, “this is a single problem,” or “this is the idol.” We realize that people are much, much more complex; hence we need the fullness of God’s Word to help people.
One of the things I think we find in all those cases as Christians is this question that has to do with God. As a caring counselor, even with an unbeliever, we will want to bring God into the question, and then what happens? You could recite all those questions about God, and you know them. “Does God really love me? Does He really care about me? How can I be sure of this”? And then, “if God really loves me, then why did this happen? What’s He up to? Is He punishing me? What have I done wrong?” And if you say that God loves me and He does care about me, what does that actually look like?
What is the Purpose of Suffering?
I suspect all of us in this room who know the Lord are familiar with Romans 8. I want to start there just to lay the foundation so that I could help us think about a nagging question that I have when I have read and meditated on Romans chapter 8. There are some foundational truths to set the context. We could start in Romans 8:18 to get the larger context of what I want us to look at. We can see that we have a life of suffering. We live in a fallen world filled with suffering and groaning. The creation itself groans. We, as the people of God, groan. We see the suffering and the misery. We find, for example, not just in that text, but if you looked a little further down into Romans 8:26, the Spirit groans with us, He intercedes for us.
We have a fallen creation. We have the Son in Romans 8:17 who suffers. We have a Father who sends His Son later in the chapter, who suffers. There’s a lot of suffering going on in this whole passage. But amid the hardships, what we find in this passage is the presence of God. And again, without trying to exposit the entire passage here, you see a God who is Sovereign, wise, and has a purpose. And then, of course, a God who loves us. If you’ve read the Scriptures, the great conclusion of Romans 8 is, nothing can separate us from this glorious love that God has for us in Jesus Christ.
Look at Romans 8:35 and following: “trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, sword, neither death nor life, angels, demons, nor things present, future, powers, nothing will be able to separate us from the love of Christ.” It’s very inclusive, which gives us confidence as we handle counseling ministries. Is there anything in that list that’s not what you run into in counseling, at least in seed form? Now, I realize some counseling situations are merely getting some basic counsel. Still, when you’re talking about those deeper issues, those personal problems, those relational conflicts, you’re right here in Romans 8. So I want to focus, then, and take us into Romans 8:28, which we all are familiar with. We know that “in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose”. We walk away from that saying, “good, God has a purpose,” and that’s something that we need to know.
Now, here’s the problem that becomes the nagging question. It’s a question for me to ask you rhetorically. What is the purpose of God stated in verse 28? What is the purpose of God stated in the passage? Of course, I love doing this with my class because they’re going to give me all sorts of answers, and probably they’re all good, but I ask, what do you see in verse 28, and then they get the point. “Oh, okay. I’m supposed to look at the text.” Which is what we try to train seminary students to do, right? I keep asking, “what is the purpose?” “Well, I’m not sure. It’s something good.” Yeah, good, you got that, but what is the purpose? Then someone will say, “Well, I guess we have to look at verse 29”.
Then I say, “What are they teaching you here at this seminary? Are they telling you that you have to look at the context to understand a verse? What a crazy thought!” Well, of course, we have to look at the context, and when we look at the context, we see this purpose of God, this eternal love, this foreknowing love that He has for us, leading Him to predestine us to conformity to the image of His Son. So, what is the “good purpose?” It’s to make us like Jesus Christ, and we can take that in a bigger sense to make us like Christ unto the glory of God. I’m going to focus on making us like Christ.
Now, that left me with a second question that verses 28 and 29 don’t answer for me, and they don’t answer for many of the people I’ve talked to. “Okay, Pastor Bob, I get that. Can you tell me how this hardship will actually make me like Christ? Will something just happen? Will something float down from heaven somewhere? Is there a zap that occurs? Just because I’ve gone through hardship and because I do believe, the hardship has a purpose?” That’s the question that I want us to focus on here.
How does it actually happen? How does God show His love? How does God make us like Christ?
Now, I will move from this text to do some topical thinking throughout my Bible and invite you to walk with me. I want to suggest to you seven ways (seven E’s) God uses suffering to make us more like Christ.
God is lovingly using a hardship in the life of a believer to enhance their relationship with God, to deepen it, and make it stronger.
Here’s a simple observation: those seeking to follow the Lord usually turn to God. So this is what I find. A Christian says, “I’ve prayed more. I’ve tried to read my Bible more,” and they are still confused and need help, right? I commend people who come to me for counseling, and I teach our students the same thing that when I sit down with someone right away, one of the first things I say to them is, “I want to thank you for coming today. I want to commend your decision to come to talk with me as your pastor. I don’t know the details of your problem yet, but I look forward to getting to know you and finding out how I can help you. But I’ll tell you something I do know that your struggles are probably not unique to you.” Of course, I’m thinking 1 Corinthians 10:13 in the back of my head, but I don’t necessarily go there at that point.
But here’s what I also find, many people who have the same struggles never seek help. Or if they do seek help, they don’t seek help from the Lord, or His Word, or a biblical counselor. So, I want to commend them. “I’m glad you’ve made a wise choice today.” God uses the hardship even to stir them up to seek counseling, which is a good thing.
King Ahaz and King Manasseh
As I was reading devotionally through the Bible years ago, I came to 2 Chronicles. A passage just jumped off the page for me. The first time I saw the dynamic was in chapter 2 Chronicles 28:22. It had to do with an Israelite King named Ahaz, it says this about Ahaz, “in his time of trouble, he became even more unfaithful to the Lord.” Here’s a guy facing hardship, military threats of invasion. The bad guys are going to come in. Instead of turning to God, he turned further away from the Lord. That’s kind of sad. But I kept reading on, I came to chapter 33, just five chapters down the road there, and I read about a different King, an evil King. In fact, among the worst kings ever, King Manasseh. It says of him in 2 Chronicles 33:12 “in his distress,” which was similar to the distress of Ahab five chapters earlier, “in his distress he sought the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his ancestors.” A simple takeaway, right?
In the same kind of hardship, you can go left or go right. You can go to or away from the Lord. I’ve shared that with counselees, “let me tell you about two kings and Israel,” and I won’t get into all the details, but I’ll say to them that they came to a similar fork in the road. They could go this way or that way. Manasseh’s repentance is really a celebratory event, I believe. In fact, I tell people that as long as you have Saul in your New Testament and Manasseh in your Old Testament, there’s always hope for even the worst of sinners, the worst prodigal, because if God can divert those two guys Old and New Testament, you’ve got much hope.
We could turn all over the place in the book of Psalms because what we see constantly is suffering, pressure, hardship, but then we see the Psalmist crying out to God, moving toward God. One of the questions I keep inserting as I think about these seven E’s is this, could it be that one reason God has allowed this hardship is to encourage you, to draw you, to invite you, to elicit from you of a deepening faith response to Him, that you would go to Him in the midst of your struggle?
I mentioned this woman Nicole whose husband began to drift away from their marriage and she became very depressed in the midst of that. For her, it was Psalm 3. It showed her that this is a God who understands suffering and a God to whom she can go to. In the language of Hebrews 4, a God who invites her to the throne of grace where she can find two things. She can find mercy, which I understand to be forgiveness because she needed it, but also grace to help us in time of need.
The idea of grace is not merely forgiving grace. The New Testament has a rich use of the word grace for enabling grace, empowering grace, sustaining grace, strengthening grace. That’s what the 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 “grace” is about. That’s what this grace is about there in Hebrews 4 as well. She was able in her time of need to turn toward the Lord. So, I leave that with you as the first question. Could it be, as you think about the hardship in your life, that one reason God allowed that is to bring you closer to Him?
For some people, it’s been conversion. We all know people who in the midst of a crisis in their life, it was their turning point where they began to turn towards God, and that’s where conversion occurred.
God uses our hardship to help us experience Christ’s sufferings.
Philippians 3 is a passage that I’ve always found interesting. Paul talks about his past and his prior state of his religious self-righteousness and how he threw that all away. That’s a marvelous picture of saving grace, not based on works. I’m going to go on into verse 10. Paul says, “I want to know Christ,” and you and I say, “Yes, amen.” He continues, “and the power of his resurrection.” You and I say, “Yes.” “And the suffering….”
Lord, two out of three, please. Can I know Christ and the power somehow, not the suffering?
I think God’s answer to us is “It’s a package deal.” It’s a package deal because my Son experienced it all. Now, I don’t want to imply with a second point that we can ever suffer to the level or in the same way as our Savior, because all the temporal things aside, what we don’t have is the bear of the wrath of God for all people. So in that sense, His suffering is unique. But apart from that, Hebrews 4 tells us that Christ was tempted in every way, just as we are. Yet without sin. This gives us great hope that we don’t have to give into the pressures and that Christ empathizes with us because of this.
Jesus Suffered Too
I think of our Lord in Matthew 23, as he comes to the city. “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.” And then a parallel passage to that in Luke’s gospel tells us that Christ comes to the city and He weeps over the city. “If only you knew what I had for you” is basically what He’s saying there, “but you’ve rejected it.” The sufferings of Christ. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. Isaiah 53, the Man of Sorrows acquainted with grief. He has His very closest friends, His three closest friends that He chooses. He invites them to go with Him to the place of prayer, and they fall asleep on Him. All the disciples left.
I had the privilege of counseling two sets of Christian parents almost six months apart from each other. One of them was a medical doctor who was highly committed to biblical counseling. He came to me with his wife. He traveled far because he wanted to find a biblical counselor just to share the heartbreak they were having with their daughter who had gotten in trouble at home and was disobedient and rebellious—this is the Clay and Melissa story I mentioned at the beginning—she also got in trouble with her school and was suspended. They came to me and told me their story, and one of the questions I asked them in the first session was, “How has God been comforting you now?” Clay said to me, “Well, Romans 8:28 has been so helpful to us.” And I said, “Oh, so glad to hear that. Let’s talk about that.” So, I asked him, “So what is God’s good purpose in this situation?” He said, “Well, I think God is using the hardships to bring our daughter back to Him.” And I said this to him, “There’s a sense in which there’s nothing more or very little more than I would want for you than that, and I’m going to join with you in praying for your daughter. I want to give you some perspectives on how you can love her better, but that’s actually not what this passage is about.”
What do you find in counseling? People will define their own good based on Romans 8:28, and that’s what this couple was doing. So, I supported them. I said, “Absolutely, I want to pray for you and help you. I want that for your daughter, but you know what, there’s something else here for you today.” What is God up to? And we began to talk about the Father sending His Son and more passages where Christ experiences rejection. I was reading Mark’s gospel, the story of the Rich Young Ruler. Jesus loved that man, it says, and the man left, right? Here’s what I say, “Could it be that God is allowing you to get a taste of what Christ experienced when He saw those He love turn away from Him and go the wrong direction? Could it be that God is giving you deepening compassion and a sense of His suffering that you can feel, taste and experience?”
God uses hardships to expose our remaining sin.
If you were an Israelite and you had gone through the 40 years in the desert experience, and you look back on those 40 years, you might conclude this was a horrible 40 years of your life. But it’s interesting. When you look at Deuteronomy 8, God gives a different perspective. By the way, that word, perspective, was fresh to me a week or two ago when a counselor shared their situation with me, and I asked, “How can I be of help to you right now?” That was her word, “I just need to get a new perspective on this whole thing I’m going through.” When I think of Deuteronomy 8, I think of a new perspective because this is what Deuteronomy 8:2 tells us, “Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your hear, whether or not you would keep his commands.” God saw within His people a mixture of faith and unbelief, of obedience and disobedience, and God allowed them to go through those 40 years to show Him, but also to show them, what’s really going on in their hearts.
This is 101 for us as biblical counselors because we recognize that the deepest problem that anyone has is ultimately sin. Not always personal sin, but certainly, the Adamic sin, the sin of a fallen world, and the suffering we face. But even when that happens, God likes to use our hardships to expose things. Let me quote from our brother David Powlison here,
“Often our typical sins emerge in reaction to betrayal, loss, or pain. Hammered by some evil, we discover the evils in our own hearts. And perhaps most often, in the hands of our kind and purposeful Father, the bad and the good both come out. A trial brings out what is most wrong in you, and God brings about what is most right as he meets you and works with you.”
So, when telling you that God uses these hardships to expose sin, I also want to encourage us as counselors, to be looking for those ways in which God has shown forth their faith, their maturity in our counselees. I want to commend those positive responses but then help the person see that the other responses are showing some things in their heart that God would like to work on in their life.
When I think about this, this gentleman that I’m calling Ryan, who lost his job, one of the things that was helpful for us, after having spent time listening to the story, is to model humility, being willing to talk about how in times of hardships, I have failed and God has exposed things in my heart. Eventually, he began to soften. He humbled himself and recognized, “I was terminated wrongly, but it doesn’t mean that I was entirely innocent in that.”
So, he began to see two streams. He began to see things he had done, sins of commission, ways he had wrong attitudes where he had just not done his work heartily as unto the Lord but sort of just getting by. He began to lose some of his energy in serving in the company. He had become critical to his coworkers. He tried to control the situation in some ways, and he just wasn’t an easy guy to work with. He began to see that, but the other thing he began to see is this, “I have to be a different kind of worker.”
There were not just sins of commission what he had done wrong, but he needed to develop a new work ethic; a whole new way to look at work, a new way to look at, “I please God by making my boss successful, by trying to be the best employee I can be, not just waiting to be told what to do, but discerning what my boss would want me to do,” and moving forward much more proactively, and then learning to put on the fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5. We talked about some of that. I wish I could tell you that he repented. Well, he did repent in his heart, and I wish I could tell you that he went to his boss, which he did, and I wish I could then tell you that he got his job back, but he didn’t. But he got something better.
There’s something even greater than the circumstantial relief. He didn’t get his job back, but he got something better—a deeper relationship with Christ and a recognition of his own failures. Repentance is always at the door to renew the joy of grace, the joy of forgiveness, the joy of the Spirit now working, and the cleansing that he experienced in that way.
God uses hardships to engage us in the body of Christ.
What tends to happen in our lives and in the people we minister is that we often pull away from people when there is hardship and temptation. You see this in those who grieve. Just think of many ways this appears where there’s been a loss bereavement, you suffered in that way, and you just don’t want to be around people. You don’t want to be around people because they will say things that aren’t really that helpful. “How are you doing?” How do you answer that when you’ve gone through grief? What do you say? Then, you’re supposed to say the right thing because if you say, “I’m doing a horrible, life sucks,” it doesn’t fly on Sunday mornings sometimes, right? You can say that to your closest friends and your pastors and counselors, but the temptation to pull away is common. Here’s the problem, when we do that, we isolate ourselves from one of the means of grace God has given us.
One of the criticisms early on, and I’m going to say this very carefully because some of you have been part of NANC and ACBC for a long time. I got involved with NANC/ACBC in the early 1990’s. So, I’ve been part of that for a while. One of the criticisms early on that was launched against biblical counseling, at least the way we had framed it, was the impression that you could get all you needed with the Holy Spirit and your Bible. Now, I think that was probably an unfair criticism, but I would say this: I think we had an underdeveloped theology of the church at that point, an underdeveloped one-another vision. I think it was there because all the leaders of our movement have always been well trained theologically, but the impression was that all you needed was your Bible.
Well, one counselor is your Bible and the Holy Spirit, ultimately the Spirit. But I would argue, based on many passages, particularly in the New Testament letters or in the book of Acts, that the body of Christ is an important means of grace in our lives. It’s one of the components that I think we are developing as our movement of 40 years matures. I think we’ve done well. I’m thankful to the Lord for that, but there’s always more work to be done. Paul tells the Thessalonians, “You guys love each other but love each other more.” I think that’s what we need to do. I think that’s part of why you have a 40th celebration as we want to go 40 and however many years until Christ returns for us.
The Church as a Means of Grace
Trials can tempt us to pull away, and part of God’s answer is going to be the body of Christ. You’re familiar with Romans 12:15. The Apostle urges us to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. What does that mean? What does that look like? That’s something we here in the room need to continue to dwell on and reflect on. What does that look like in your church? I’ll give you one practical takeaway for me. I work as hard as I can with everyone in my church that I am counseling. But even with those outside the church, I work to try to wisely and carefully connect them to other mature believers. For me, a practical homework assignment includes involvement in a small group or sharing privately and confidentially with your small group leader or leader’s wife that you are in counseling. Even if you don’t divulge the nature of the problem, ideally, I try to involve the small group leader or another pastor, someone besides me in that person’s life.
What connections can I make without violating confidentialities but persuading the counselee to be willing to allow the body of Christ to have a role in their life as I continue my counseling ministry with that person?
Rejoice with those who rejoice. I want the body to be part of that. 1 Corinthians 12, “if one part suffers, every part suffers with it. If one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” I not only want my counselees to be able to share their suffering with other believers but also share the joy of growth, repentance, and progress because that’s very encouraging.
You’ve seen that as you’ve counseled—I tell people that I have a wonderful privilege that a lot of people don’t have as a counselor. You have it available too! You get to sit right there at the 50-yard line in the front row to watch God working in someone’s life. How exciting is that? But the other pastors in their church don’t get to see that or know about that if there’s isolation here.
I think of this couple that I mentioned, Clay and Melissa, who had the daughter who was turning away from the Lord, and eventually turned away completely from the Lord. Here’s what God did, though. They began to carefully and share their story in only a small little way and ask for prayer. Going to a couple of people in the church and saying, “Hey, you know something, you see our daughter’s not here recently. She’s pulled away. Would you pray for us? We’re struggling to handle that.”
Can I tell you what happened? You can guess. As the words slowly leaked out, a couple of other parents came to Clay and Melissa and began to share, “You know, our son, our daughter, is struggling in the same way as well.” Just like ladies or husbands, you let it be known that you had a pregnancy loss miscarriage, and guess what happens? Suddenly people start whispering, “I had the same thing.” If you’ve had an abortion and you let that be known, people will slowly say, “I’ve been there too.” The body of Christ is a huge ministry that, in many ways, is untapped, at least within our historical biblical counseling movement. I hope that will grow in this way.
God uses hardships to exhibit, display, and show forth Christ’s work in us to other people.
Could it be that God allows you to face this hardship so that the light of Christ within you can shine in new and fresh ways? I love The Sermon on the Mount. I love the passage in Matthew 5:13, where he says, “You are the salt of the earth,” and in verse 14, “You are the light of the world.” Then he says this in the same way, “Let your light shine before others that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in Heaven.” I might get in trouble on this one but let me tell you what I think the passage is not teaching. This passage is not a passage that should be the exemplary passage for why we should be politically active.
Now, you can be politically active, and I hope in one sense you are, and we all know frustrations as Evangelical Christians this election year. But, you know the people that Jesus is talking about there? These are the people who are being persecuted, suffering, mourning, and spiritually poor, at least in Matthew’s version, or financially poor, I think, in Luke’s version. These are people who are suffering. It’s not the strength and power of our political movement; it’s the weakness of the suffering that’s the context for this, and in the weakness of the suffering, show people what makes you continue to persevere with Christ. What makes you show forth Christ? What makes you tick spiritually? It’s Christ in you.
Have you looked at mature Christians who have gone through suffering and said, “How is that person still able to come to church and love the Lord after what happened in their life?” I love congregational worship for many reasons, but I love standing and singing with people around me that I know they have suffered in some way. They’re belting it out, “How firm a foundation, ye Saints of the Lord. It is found in the Word of God.” And I’m saying to myself, “I haven’t been where they’ve been, but boy, they are helping my soul today.” If we are a congregation of sufferers who are looking up to Jesus Christ, could that be one of the reasons God is allowing this to show forth the light of Christ to His people?
God is using hardships to equip us for more compassionate and wiser ministry.
This is one you would have guessed very easily, as biblical counselors. 2 Corinthians 1, where Paul tells us that part of the purpose for us being comforted by God in our suffering, and therefore part of the purpose of the suffering is so that we would find His comfort so that we can comfort others. In the words of Randy Patton a couple of years ago, “God did not comfort us in our suffering only to comfort us. But so that we would comfort others who suffer.” That’s the beauty of what we’re all about as the biblical counseling movement. That God has changed our lives by grace. As we’re learning the sufficiency of grace in our own lives, we bring hope to others, but we do so with more wisdom and compassion because we’ve been there.
This passage in 2 Corinthians 1 doesn’t say there has to be a one-to-one correspondence. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble. I don’t have to have the same experience that you’ve experienced to help you, to tell you how God has helped me in my situation, and God will promise to do that in yours as well.
I think of this couple that I worked with, and not only that people began to come to them, but they also began to develop a ministry. They never went national. They didn’t have billboards or cards printed up, but they had ministries in the lives of people because of the situation God placed them in and the way God help them. So, could it be? My counselees’ name nor your name is written in the text. I can’t say definitively. I can say definitively about people in the Bible. For example, God tells me what His purpose was in Jobs’ life, but I can at least say, could it be? Would you take time to think about these truths and pray and ask God to show you?
7. Excite/ Elevate
God uses our hardships to excite and elevate our longing for Christ’s return.
At the end of the day, biblical counseling isn’t going to fix this world. If we could fix this world before Christ returned through biblical counseling, then Christ doesn’t need to come back. Because one of His express purposes for coming back is to bring the “final fix,” every tear will be wiped away on that day and no earlier. Revelation 21 and 22 on that day and no earlier; when we see him, 1 John 3, we will be like him. Do you long for the end of the Civil War in your heart? Can I tell you the corollary of that verse, though? We will not be fully like Him until we see Him; we will still be the work in progress.
You start thinking about eternal matters as your aging. Then you start realizing that 1 Peter 3 is a passage about suffering, “set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming.” Grace to be brought to you in Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because having stood the test that person will receive the crown of life. There’s your ultimate hope for trials and hardships. We look forward to the New Heaven and New Earth!
One more observation about this truth, and then I’ll bring it together for us. It seems to me—check yourself as you read the Bible and ask your pastors about this—it seems to me, that every place or virtually every place where the second coming of Christ is promised or described is in a context of either the readers are suffering or the writer is predicting suffering. 1 and 2 Thessalonians, that’s an easy call. Plenty of suffering going on there. Matthew 24 and 25, all three of the main gospels, all predicting Christ’s return. All in the context of suffering when He comes back during suffering… Revelation. If we were to just go through our knowledge of our passages about the return of Christ, you’d see that it’s in the context of suffering.
I don’t know what you want to do with prophecy charts. I don’t know what you want to do with figuring out how many toes are on Daniel’s or the common market in Europe and Gog and Magog. I don’t know what you want to do with all that. I’m not despising that. Study what the text says and don’t go beyond what the text says, but even more than that, see the purpose for the Holy Spirit giving us these passages. They weren’t given to merely arouse our political and intellectual curiosities; they’re given to comfort the people of God.
There is no final answer in this life for some hardships. You don’t have a guarantee of physical healing in this life. You don’t have the guarantee that the husband will come back, the kid will repent; you don’t have those guarantees. But you do have strong and even more glorious guarantees. We’ve got to set our eyes on that, and I’m saying that suffering is an occasion for us to do those things.
Lastly, what do you do with all this stuff? Here’s what I do with it personally. When I go through a trial or hardship, I try to run these through and pray, “Lord, show me.” When I’m counseling someone, I want to assign them these passages, and I want to ask them to look up the passages for the next few days and think about what they teach, then write a prayer to God. Now, your prayer to God may have very little content on that particular day because this one doesn’t hit you as much. But one of those seven or several of those seven, I think, will eventually grab you. Write a prayer to God, talk to God and then let’s meet again and talk about what God is up to in using these seven ways, perhaps in your life.