“The iron bolt which so mysteriously fastens the door of hope and holds our spirits in gloomy prison, needs a heavenly hand to push it back.” Charles Spurgeon
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1)
The Problem: Life is Hard
Despite the way our culture values “authenticity,” most of us rarely feel comfortable enough to speak honestly and personally about the wounds and pains we carry, the weariness and weakness we feel, the dark thoughts we wrestle with, or the disappointment or frustration with life experienced. While it might be okay to admit generalities like “my life is a mess” or “I’m struggling along,” to say how and why we are fragile or broken, to confess our sins, or to share our burdens seems a bit too far. It can be an awkward moment of transparency in a world of surface-level dialogue.
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“Brokenness precedes usefulness.” Despite our failures, despite our weakness and weariness, despite what was done to us or what we’ve done to others, and despite hard seasons that feel like we’ve been put in the garage because we’re no longer useful, God uses broken people. In fact, God often walks us through a season of suffering or humility to make us usable.
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The Bible speaks about various positive outcomes to suffering, or reasons why we can rejoice in suffering. However, one which I think we often miss out on is that as we suffer Christ actually suffers with us. It’s not simply that we suffer like Christ or that we suffer in his name—although both are also true—but the NT offers tremendous encouragement in the mystery that Jesus actually in some way suffers with his church. This truth, forged in the OT with texts about God walking through the fire with us or being in the fire with us (cf. Is. 43; 63:9; Dan. 3:25; Ex. 33:14), is only ratcheted up in the NT through union with Christ.
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