Note: This is what I wrote to present in a Sunday School class in which a member was recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The teacher asked me to bring a word of encouragement to help deal with what the family and the class is facing. Below are the notes I handed out and as such are not always in complete sentence form. To a great degree this handout was designed to facilitate discussion. I ask your indulgence.
We have all been shocked and surprised by David’s diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. Obviously our heart goes out to his family… Karen, Olivia, Will, and his mom Susan. They will all continue to be in our prayers.
The issue before us may take more than one Sunday to present. I also believe/know that there may be many questions that we should take the time to answer without being hurried. Feel free to ask whatever you like at any point.
From my experience, working out these thoughts will take time before they are settled in our hearts. Be patient with yourself as you work to get your arms around how suffering is to be dealt with in the Chrisitan’s life. Now some initial things that might be of help.
My Journey (How I arrived at my theology of hardship, difficulty, and suffering). I am the product of dysfunctional family (Who’s family isn’t?!). I almost lost my son Britton to liver disease. I’ve lived 48 years (Difficulty is part of life). Twenty years as a pastor walking with people through many hardships. These are the things that have contributed to my understanding of suffering and difficulty.
The Most Important Thing… Seeking God. “The most important thing about us is what we believe about God.” Thus I believe it is essential that we settle what that is BEFORE we are in the middle of a hurricane. Or, when we see the hurricane coming, we settle those things as best we can (“Seven Things To Settle Before All Hades Breaks Loose” below). For me this is all about reading, meditating, and reflecting on Scripture. When we read the Bible we are hearing God. The following passages are the ones I go to most often when I’m struggling.
When I read Scripture during difficult times, I read it SLOWLY. I ask God to reveal Himself to me as I read. I meditate upon each word or phrase of importance. I pray it back to God. I take my time and don’t hurry.
I personally love to dwell in the passages that remind me of God’s sovereignty and power! (Is 46:9-10; Dan 4:35; Is 6:1-7; Gen 18:14a; Jer 32:17b; Luke 1:37)
Then there are passages that direct me to think Biblically. (2 Chron 20:12b; Pr 3:5; Ps 37:4; Hab 3:17-19; 1 Pet 5:6-7, 10; Phil 4:6-7; Heb 12:3-11; Ja 1:2-5)
I also remind myself of Christians who’ve suffered before me and how they trusted God. (JESUS! Job 1-2, 42:10-17; 2 Cor 6:3-10; 2 Cor 11:23-30; 2 Cor 12:8-10; Phil 1:18b-30)
Quotes And Thoughts For Encouragement:
“In prayer God gives us everything we would have asked for if we knew everything He knows.”
“Jesus didn’t suffer so that we wouldn’t suffer, but so that when we suffer we’d be like Him.”
“God only allows Satan to do what will accomplish the opposite of what Satan intends.”
“Just because we don’t see how something can be good doesn’t mean it isn’t good.”
“The same sun that softens wax hardens clay.”
“Every event of life is God calling us to a closer walk with Him.”
“Don’t Waste Your Cancer” An article by Dr. John Piper…
Note: When suffering enters our life it does NOT mean God is punishing us or displeased with us. When Jesus died on the cross He took all God’s wrath for our sin. Thus our suffering cannot be a sign of God’s anger toward us. We may not know what the reasons are for our suffering, but we know what the reason AREN’T!
Things That Help Me During Struggles And Difficulty: I suggest making a CD of songs that ministered to you and listen to it as you can. Worshipping with God’s people… in church… and attending Sunday School. Encouraging others who are struggling with much the same thing (2 Cor 1:3-7). Keeping a good heaven theology! (Col 3:1-2). Also reading through the Psalms (Day of month, plus 30, times 5). Today is March 1st. That means I read the 1st, 31st, 61st, 91st, and 121st Psalm. In a month I read all the Psalms (Note: This is from Billy Graham.).
Blog Posts On “Ron’s Reflections” There are a number of posts I have on my blog that might be of help and interest. I list these below. I offer these because you can read at your leisure. Reflect on them and consider what is presented. I tend to give more information than is needed/requested for the individual to pick and choose what they’d like to read.
Seven Things To Settle Before All Hades Breaks Loose (Seven part message series)
When God Doesn’t Answer Our Prayers The Way We Expect
There Are No Tragedies For Christians
Peace Is Found In God’s Sovereignty (Click, Click, Click, Click)
Cardboard Testimony (Video Post)
Who Sinned… This Man Or His Parents? (Siran Stacey)
Conclusion: Philippians 1:29, “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in Him but also suffer for His sake…” (ESV). Don’t be surprised when suffering comes into your life. It is there for God’s glory and to conform you to the image of Christ (Roman 8:29). In suffering God’s grace will be sufficient for you. It is also an opportunity for you to encourage others (2 Cor 1).