12 Reasons God May Be Calling You to Suffer
Once a year, everyone should fly into their home airport at sunset.
That’s what I did today and it was amazing. Little did I realize that less than ten minutes flying-time south of downtown Chicago is mile upon mile of red barns and farmland. The freeways that edge the city’s outskirts connect like patterns of lace. And familiar businesses and homes look downright spectacular washed in the glow of the setting sun.
But all too soon our descent took us into O’Hare and our perspective became horizontal again. Once again we were part of the scene, rather than awestruck observers.
Having a horizontally-challenged perspective is a big part of what makes us human. Too often, the limited perspective makes us believe this moment is all that is and the scene in front of us is all that will ever be.
Of course we know better than that, but at times that’s how it feels.
A thousand feet up, we see that there’s more to the story—our lives unwrap in panorama just like a blanket of farmland, woven together by threads of rivers, and multi-colored sunsets.
A Vertical Perspective
The trouble is, down here you need faith just to imagine it. Horizontally-speaking, life feels rather one-dimensional: hard.
What we need is a vertical perspective when we’re waiting for something life-changing. We need assurance there’s an end in sight when we’re going through something heart-breaking. We need faith in a sovereign God when we’re called on to suffer.
I heard today from a favorite friend who has just been told by his doctor to ‘get his affairs in order.’ A short wait from now, most likely three to six months, Ben’s horizontal view of life will become vertical.
Even today he’s seeing things from a new perspective.
Ben wrote in an email to friends and family, “I’m going to submit to God even though I don’t know why He has allowed this and I don’t know what He is doing. I am going to humble myself before Him and believe He has a purpose I will someday understand. I refuse to be bitter—yet all the while I will fight this cancer. With everything in me, I will fight. But ultimately, my life is in God’s hands, even though I realize that the end of this battle could be for me a portal from this life to the next.”
Walking by Faith and Not by Sight
Like my friend so courageously demonstrates, when we willingly put our hand in God’s hand and walk with Him into whatever He allows, for whatever reason He has planned, we are walking by faith and not by sight. Then we can believe that eternity will prove God’s wisdom and goodness even though we can’t see it today from our horizontal perspective. This is what it means to embrace God’s sovereignty at the highest and deepest level. When we walk His path, we are preparing our lives for a joy so immense that few ever truly experience it.
Sovereignty means that God sees the end from the beginning and everything in between. He sees the path our lives take through the landscape, including the deep gorges and the high peaks. His hand directs the bend in the river and He pieces out the patchwork of colors and shadows. He is in control.
That difficult season you are enduring today? He has determined where it ends.
That painful relationship that has led your heart away? He traces the route out for your return.
That career path that’s hit a brick wall?—from God’s perspective that wall is a walkway into the next scene.
You may not see it, but God is working His character in you in a way you would not believe . . . even if you did see it.
At the Center
I would guess that like me, you never anticipated life would be this hard. But every step of the way is under God’s watchful eye. That’s why I’m calling us both to a seemingly blind faith. While we feel at times like we’re walking in darkness, we must trust that He sees what we do not.
If we could observe our lives from a thousand feet, we’d realize that God is at the center of our story, not confined to the margins. He doesn’t wait on the fringes for us to call on Him in emergencies. He is today working a plan that will cause our hands to fly over our mouths in awe when we finally see the whole landscape.
I promise you this is true. Even better, God promises.
God promises a future and a hope. He promises sustaining grace for every trial. He promises His presence with you—as close as your heartbeat and as near as your breath. He promises to never leave you. And never to walk away.
So today, allow God to take away your fear of the unknown and replace it with a calm, quiet confidence. He knows the path of your life from a thousand feet as well as the route that you take on your way to work today.
He is with You
So, if you’re struggling today, I’ve got good news for you. Spoiler alert! Not to wreck the ending, but it’s going to be OK. And if it’s not OK yet, then it’s not the end.
My friend Ben closed his email to us with Job 23:10: “But [God] knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.” Seems to me that Ben has gotten a glimpse of his life from a thousand feet.
You may not see it, but . . . the best is yet to be. So, given our horizontal tendencies, how does this help us live today?
He Will Guide You
This helped me. A poem by Minnie Louise Haskins caught public attention in 1939 when Queen Elizabeth I handed a copy to her husband, King George VI (same king as in the movie, the king’s speech) and he quoted it in his Christmas broadcast to the British Empire.
“I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year,
‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’
And he replied, "Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light, and safer than a known way.”
You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy. Psalms 16:11
Here are 12 reasons you might be called to suffer:
•So God may show us how much we want what He wants (James 1:3).
•So God may motivate us to follow Him (Hebrews 5:8).
•So that we might be a comfort to each other (2 Corinthians 1:6).
•To keep us from doing our own thing that could hurt us (2 Corinthians 12:7).
•So that we might point others to God’s amazingness (1 Peter 4:16).
•So that we may identify with Jesus a little more (Philippians 3:10).
•So that our faith might grow a little stronger (1 Peter 5:10).
•So that others would see us and be compelled to follow us to Jesus (2 Timothy 2:10).
•To make us an example of what a life entrusted to God looks like (Romans 8:28).
•To move others to pray and depend on God what only He can do (2 Corinthians 1:10-11).
•To train us to go to God first for help (Psalms 30:6-7).
•To give us a special experience of God’s presence and an amazing story to tell others (James 4:6-7).