Spiritual Encounters with God: Visions and Voices

Spiritual Encounters with God: Visions and Voices

James R. Aist

‘In the last days it shall be,’ says God, ‘that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.” – Acts 2:17

Introduction

Everyone who has been “born again” has the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, living in them (click HERE). I am convinced, therefore, that all true Christians have had, and continue to have, spiritual encounters with God, even if they are not accustomed to recognizing them as such. Here are some examples. When, at your “conversion”, God replaces your spiritually dead human spirit with a new spirit from God – one that is spiritually alive – you have just had a miraculous spiritual encounter with God! When you are reading the Bible and a verse of Scripture seems to leap off the page and drop a new insight or revelation into your spirit, you have just had a spiritual encounter with God. And, when you sense a “leading” to pray for a specific need, you do so, and you see the answer to your prayer materialize “against all odds”, you have had a spiritual encounter with God.

In John 5:24, Jesus says, “Truly, truly I say to you, whoever hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has eternal life and shall not come into condemnation, but has passed from death into life.” This series is an important part of my life testimony. It consists of a number of uncommon encounters with God, comprising different spiritual experiences I have had over a time span of 63 years, so far. I will describe and interpret each encounter as best I can, but feel free to take issue with any of them as you like. However, as you are reading, please keep in mind that God interacts with each of His born-again children however He chooses, and one’s lack of a corresponding spiritual encounter with God does not rule out the validity of another’s. Acts 2:17 says,” ‘In the last days it shall be,’ says God, ‘that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.” We are still in the “last days”, my friends.

Visions

For some reason, my spiritual encounters with God have usually taken the form of visions. Before I get into the specific visions, let me clarify how I experience them. The closest thing I can compare them to is what we commonly refer to as a “daydream.” With a daydream, one does not fall asleep as with a common night “dream.” Rather, while awake, one’s conscious awareness shifts away from the present situation to another situation that occupies one’s mind temporarily. In this context, then, the visions to which I refer here were experienced as if they were “daydreams from God.”

A Conversion Vision. I passed from spiritual death into eternal life in Christ in 1953, when I was eight years old. My new birth was accompanied by my first spiritual encounter with God, during a revival meeting (click HERE for the full account). On the second night, when the evangelist began to preach, I found myself listening intently to what he was saying; it was as if he was talking to me, personally. He didn’t deliver a “hell fire and brimstone” message at all that night. Instead, he focused on how God loves me so much that he sent His only Son, Jesus, to sacrifice his life for my sins by dying on the cross for me. As he was explaining just how amazing such a love is, I had a vision. I first saw something like a dense fog or cloud that parted in the middle, then a soft and diffuse light appeared, and then I heard a voice say to me something like, “What he is saying is true. You can depend on it. Believe it and do not depart from it, no matter what.” Then the vision faded away, and I was so excited that I could hardly wait for the invitation to come forward and confirm what had just happened: God had saved me through a glorious vision and message from heaven that validated to me, beyond any doubt, the evangelist’s message of God’s love for me that night!

The Handwriting on the Wall. I was forty years of age when this vision came to me. It was springtime,1985. One Sunday morning I began to pray earnestly, asking God what He wanted me to do with the rest of my life. Just four days later, in the middle of the night, I was awakened suddenly and sat straight up in bed, aware of the presence in the room of a “spirit being.” By this time I had enough Bible knowledge (e.g., 1 John 4:1) to say to it, “Who are you?” There was no verbal answer, but something bright appeared on the wall to the left. So, I looked in that direction and saw, in large, bright, bold lettering, a Scripture reference: “DANIEL 9: 22…” Then the handwriting slowly faded away. Having made note of the writing on the wall, I lay back down and went back to sleep. Now, up until then, I had virtually no idea what was in the book of Daniel, except for the story of “Daniel in the Lions’ Den.” So, the next morning, with the aid of a study guide, I studied the book of Daniel through twice, and I found out that Chapter 9 is often referred to as the “backbone of Bible prophecy”, because it predicted to the day when Jesus would make His triumphal entry into Jerusalem! As a result of that vision, I became a student of the Bible then and there, no longer just a casual and occasional reader of it.

The Love of God. It was a Saturday morning in the late 1980s, and I lay in bed for a few minutes before getting up for the day. Because of a praise song that was playing in my mind, my thoughts turned to the amazing love that God has for us. Then I saw a vision representing, in crystal-clear graphic form, the love of God. It was like a rainbow, but perfectly straight. I was impressed by how pure and absolutely unchanging and constant was this beautiful, “Technicolor” beam of light. After what seemed like 5-10 seconds, the vision vanished. Then I realized that God had just shown me what His love is like, in a vision!

Christ in Us. In May, 2007, I was listening to a really good teaching on how God sees Christ in us, and the question occurred to me, “What does that actually look like?” Then, in a vision, I saw a group of about 6-8 people standing in a dimly lit space. I didn’t see their physical, exterior bodies, but each had a kind of spiritual body in human form, translucent and grayish, with defined eyes, kind of ghost-like, but not scary. Then I noticed that a couple of them had taken on a soft glow, which radiated gently from their entire body and set them apart, visually, from the others. When the vision was over, I realized that this vision was the answer to my question: God sees a glow in the believers, because of the presence of the Holy Spirit in them, and that glow is, in effect, a manifestation of Christ in them.

The House Rebuilt. It was the Summer of 2007, and I was listening to the pastor teach about how, when we are saved, God makes all things new. He began with an illustration of a construction site that he had observed over the course of several months, in which an old house was being rebuilt both inside, room by room, and out. His point was that that’s what God wants to do with our lives. Then a vision came to me. I saw a construction site, but, instead of leaving the skeletal framework of the house standing and rebuilding from there, the workers had demolished and removed everything, and had begun to rebuild on a brand new foundation. When the vision ended, I understood that this is a better illustration of how God wants to rebuild our lives: totally, from the ground up, beginning with a new foundation! “Therefore, if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature. Old things have passed away. Look, all things have become new.” – 2 Corinthians 5:17.

The Baby in Jesus’ Hands. This is a prophetic vision. In 2015, my daughter began chemotherapy for breast cancer, to be followed with surgery. I shared my belief with her that God was going to carry her through this ordeal and bring her out on the other side fully healed and restored, and she agreed with me. One morning, not long after the chemotherapy began, I was thinking about her situation, and I had a vision. I saw two outstretched hands holding a baby wrapped in a white cloth. At first, I was puzzled by this vision. Why did it come to me at such a time? Then, suddenly, I understood what it meant: We have nothing to worry about, because Jesus has my daughter safely in His hands, and He has since she was a newborn. The vision confirmed what we were believing; that she is going to beat the cancer! By the way, my daughter is now cancer-free, to the glory of God.

The Hand of Jesus. I received this vision May 3, 2017. I was reflecting on the great difficulty many Christians have in trusting God fully. Then I saw the hand of Jesus extended down from heaven: I don’t ask you to let go of your worldly attachments and then reach up and try to take My hand. No, first reach up and take My hand and hold on tight, and I will never let go. Put all of your trust in Me. Then you can let go of the things of this world that you have been clinging to instead of Me. I am your security and your destiny. There is no other.

Voices

God spoke directly to many of the Old Testament saints, including Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, Samuel and David. He also spoke directly to Peter, Paul and John. I have heard reliable testimony of God speaking directly to many of our contemporaries. And, on four occasions that I can recall, I have heard the voice of God speak directly to me.

Let me explain exactly what I mean when I say “I heard the voice of God speak.” We all form our own thoughts inside our minds, and we register them in our minds and recognize them as just common, ordinary thoughts of internal origin. Thoughts that we hear spoken by someone else, however, are registered and recognized as “audible” words received through our ears and conveyed to our minds from outside of our own minds. Then there are the written thoughts of others that we read into our minds. When I say I heard God speak to me, I am referring to words that are spoken directly into my mind without being first received by my eyes or my ears. These words register in my mind as clearly as do words that are audible, but I don’t “hear” them in the common sense of the term, and I don’t mentally manufacture them as I do my own thoughts. They are just suddenly there, as if they came out of nowhere, and they are very clear and rather loud as they register in my mind. I strongly suspect that they originate with the Holy Spirit residing in me. Here are the four that I can recall:

1) “What he is saying is true. You can depend on it. Believe it and do not depart from it, no matter what.” As recorded above, under “Visions”, this is the spoken message I received during a vision that came to me when God saved me. It is self-explanatory.

2) “Without God, you are nothing.” God spoke this to me during a worship service. There was nothing going on in the service that would have triggered me to manufacture this thought on my own; it seemed to be unrelated to the immediate context. I took this to be a terse and sobering reminder of who God is in relation to who I am, and a warning against operating with a spirit of pride;

3) “Stop criticizing!” I received this message from God while I was driving my car and trying to drive also the cars of other motorists in my vicinity, if you know what I mean. I took it to be a direct command for me quit operating with a spirit of criticism; and

4) “You don’t have to live like that.” God told me this while I was at home one day, feeling bad about caving in to a temptation yet again. The devil had been telling me that, based on the recent past, I had no reason to expect to have victory over this sin going forward. But God had a word of encouragement for me: Do not believe the devil, but go ahead and overcome this “besetting sin” in your life. That’s the amplified, paraphrased, James version anyway.

If you ponder the nature of the messages in these four encounters for a moment, you will see that they are all the kind of message that the God of the Bible, through the Holy Spirit, would want to get across to one of His sons. To me, that is at least consistent with the conclusion that they were, in fact, words from God, and I received them as such.

I have recorded these encounters with God so that you will know that God is still interacting personally with His living elect and to encourage you to be alert and quick to recognize some of the ways that God initiates personal encounters with you, for your edification.

(To read more of my bible-based articles, click HERE)

A Homosexuality DICTIONARY for Born-again Christians

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A Homosexuality DICTIONARY for Born-again Christians

James R. Aist

Introduction

The homosexual movement is advancing by way of a massive and ongoing propaganda campaign, fueled by the liberal media, to win over the hearts and minds of the heterosexual majority to their cause, the “gay agenda” (click HERE). One of the strategies employed by gay activists is to control the definitions of key words and terms so that their “gay agenda” can be convincingly marketed to the general public, including born-again Christians (click HERE). A few examples of this strategy should help to illustrate more clearly what I’m talking about: 1) the term “homosexual” is defined by gay activists as a person’s identity, thus making it seem, by definition, that disapproval of homosexuality is a personal attack on who they are, rather than merely disapproval of what they do sexually; 2) a homosexual person who has been substantially transformed to heterosexual but has even the slightest, residual recurrence of same-sex attractions is still identified as “homosexual” by gay activists, rendering it impossible, by definition, for them to ever be seen as the truly “ex-homosexual” or “straight” people they have become (click HERE); and 3) a male pedophile who abuses children of the same gender is categorized by gay activists as a heterosexual pedophile if he has ever had sex with an adult female, regardless of whether or not he also has had sex with adult men, making it appear, by definition, that there are no homosexual pedophiles, and thus, that there is no link between homosexuality and pedophilia (click HERE).

In order to counteract this self-serving “name game” employed by gay activists, and to help born-again Christians navigate intelligently the rhetoric of the homosexuality debate, I have developed a new a set of definitions that more accurately reflects the realities of homosexuality from a more “biblically correct” — as opposed to a “politically correct” — point of view.

Many of the new definitions I propose here may seem, at first glance, to be virtually equivalent to the old ones, but, in practice they are really quite different. Please be sure to read the ADDENDUM for a further explanation of these distinctions.

The Definitions

PERSONAL IDENTITY

Person: a human being. God does not categorize people as “heterosexuals” or “homosexuals”. He sees us as human beings created in His image and dearly loved. This is our true identity. What people do sexually is not really who they are. Although we are all sinners, we are so strongly loved by Him that He offered His only begotten Son, Jesus, to die for us, in order to reconcile us to Himself. No one is outside the scope of His love.

SEXUALITY

Heterosexuality: Refers to the condition of wanting to have sex with human beings of the opposite gender.

Homosexuality: Refers to the condition of wanting to have sex with human beings of the same gender.

Bisexuality: Refers to the condition of wanting to have sex with members of both the opposite gender and the same gender.

SEXUAL PERSONS

Heterosexual person: A human being who wants to have sex with members of the opposite gender.

Ex-heterosexual person: A human being who used to want to have, and is not having, sex with members of the opposite gender. Whether or not they still have some opposite-sex attractions is not determinative; this is about choice of sexual behavior (see ADDENDUM).

Homosexual person: A human being who wants to have sex with members of the same gender.

Ex-homosexual person: A human being who used to want to have, and is not having, sex with members of the same gender. Whether or not they still have some same-sex attractions is not determinative; this is about choice of sexual behavior (see ADDENDUM).

Bisexual person: A human being who wants to have sex with members of both the opposite gender and the same gender.

Ex-bisexual person: A human being who used to want to have, and is not having, sex with members of both the opposite gender and the same gender. Whether or not they still have some bisexual attractions is not determinative; this is about choice of sexual behavior (see ADDENDUM).

ORIENTATIONS

Sexual orientation: Refers to the gender (opposite, same or both) with which a human being wants to have sex.

Heterosexual orientation: Wanting to have sex with members of the opposite gender.

Homosexual orientation: Wanting to have sex with members of the same gender.

Bisexual Orientation: Wanting to have sex with members of both the opposite and the same gender.

ATTRACTIONS

Sexual attractions: Refers to the sexual feelings or desires or urges of a human being toward members of  the opposite gender and/or the same gender.

Opposite-sex attractions: Refers to the sexual feelings or desires or urges of a human being toward members of the opposite gender. If such attractions are toward a person other than your spouse, then they are temptations to sin sexually, in any context.

Same-sex attractions: Refers to the sexual feelings or desires or urges of a human being toward members of the same gender. These attractions are always temptations to sin sexually, in any context.

Bisexual Attractions: Refers to the sexual feelings or desires or urges of a human being toward members of both the opposite and the same genders. These dual attractions are temptations to sin, in any context.

PEDOPHILIA

Pedophile: An adult human being who wants to have sex with children. Such a person has two sexual orientations; one toward the gender of the victims (gender based) and another toward children (age based) (click HERE).

Heterosexual pedophile: An adult human being who wants to have sex with children of the opposite gender.

Homosexual pedophile: An adult human being who wants to have sex with children of the same gender.

Bisexual pedophile: An adult human being who wants to have sex with children of both genders.

PRACTICING SEXUALITY

Biblical marriage: a lifelong, exclusive commitment between one man and one woman. There is no other valid kind of marriage (click HERE).

Practicing heterosexual: A human being who is having sex with a member/members of the opposite gender. Outside of the bounds of biblical marriage, this is always sexual sin, in any context (click HERE).

Practicing homosexual: A human being who is having sex with a member/members of the same gender. This is always sexual sin, in any context (click HERE).

Practicing bisexual: A human being who is having sex with members of both genders. This is always sexual sin, in any context.

Practicing pedophile: An adult human being who is having sex with children. This is always sexual sin, in any context (click HERE).

NAMING AND CLAIMING

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” – Jesus (Matthew 5:10-12)

Anti-gay: a misleading charge used by gay activists to attach a negative label to anything a born-again Christian says that opposes the “gay agenda.” We are anti-sin (of all kinds) and pro-people (of all kinds). It is a blessing to be called “anti-gay” by a gay activist.

Bigot: a born-again Christian who steadfastly refuses to deny anything that the Bible says about homosexuality. It is a blessing to be called a “bigot” by a gay activist.

Born that way: a hoax perpetrated by gay activists to gain sympathy and support for the “gay agenda.” Homosexual people develop homosexually post partum, due, primarily, to “environmental” influences; no one is “born that way” (click HERE).

Cherry picker: a born-again Christian who realizes and understands that only the moral laws of the Old Testament (along with the moral laws of the New Testament) are binding today (click HERE). It is a blessing to be called a “cherry picker” by a gay activist.

Created that way: slander against the God of the Bible. God does not tempt anyone to sin by creating them homosexual (click HERE).

Fundie: a born-again Christian who refuses to deny anything that the Bible says about homosexuality. It is a blessing to be called a “fundie” by a gay activist.

Gay bashing: a false charge used by gay activists to attach a negative label to anything a born-again Christian says that opposes the “gay agenda.” We bash sin, lies and pretense, but not people. It is a blessing to be accused of “gay bashing” by a gay activist.

Gay “marriage”: a fantasy created by gay activists in a vain attempt to confer dignity and pride to homosexual couples. According to the God of the Bible, there is no such thing as “gay marriage” (click HERE).

Hate: a false charge used by gay activists to attach a negative label to anything a born-again Christian says that opposes the “gay agenda.” We hate sin, not people. It is a blessing to be accused of “hate” by a gay activist.

Homophobe: a charge used by gay activists to attach a negative label to a born-again Christian who says anything that opposes the “gay agenda.” We’re not afraid of homosexuality; we just don’t like sin. It is a blessing to be called a “homophobe” by a gay activist.

Homosexuality is immutable: a hoax perpetrated by gay activists to gain sympathy and support for the “gay agenda.” Numerous studies have shown that both religiously and secularly mediated change in sexual orientation occurs in highly motivated, dissatisfied homosexuals at success rates of around 25%-30%, which is comparable to the success rates generally achieved by therapists and counselors for treatment of psychological disorders and behavioral problems, such as alcoholism (click HERE).

Hypocrite: a charge used by gay activists in a vain attempt to convince born-again Christians that they are not qualified to weigh in on homosexual matters. It is a blessing to be called a “hypocrite” by a gay activist.

Liar: a charge used by gay activists to attach a negative label to any born-again Christian who speaks out against the “gay agenda.” It is a blessing to be called a “liar” by a gay activist.

Love: Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. To a gay activist, love means you hold up a mirror in front of someone and help them like whatever they see. It is a blessing to be called “unloving” by a gay activist.

After Word

Above all, let us be quick to treat homosexual people with respect and dignity and to share the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ with them. And may we not let our hearts become darkened with hatred towards homosexual people, just because we hate their homosexual lifestyle. As the Apostle Paul said, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12).

ADDENDUM

Some may protest that “wants to have sex with”, as used here, is equivalent to “has same-sex attractions”, but the two are not interchangeable. While it is probably true that most consensual sex occurs between two people who find each other “sexually attractive”, a person may find someone to be sexually attractive without really wanting to have sex with them. Here are some examples to illustrate this point: 1) a teenage boy discovers that he is sexually attracted to men, but he doesn’t want to have sex with men because he wants to, instead, get married to a woman and father children; 2) a straight, married man who wants to have sex with his wife may see another woman, notice that she is “sexually attractive” and let it go at that, without wanting to actually have sex with her too; and 3) an ex-gay man who no longer wants to have sex with men may see a man, notice that he is sexually attractive and let it go at that, without wanting to actually have sex with him. Thus, people, whether they experience opposite-sex attractions or same-sex attractions, do not necessarily want to have sex with everyone they meet whom they find to be “sexually attractive.” And that is why “wants to have sex with” is not equivalent to “has same-sex attractions.”

(For more articles about HOMOSEXUALITY, click HERE)

Faith and the Scientific Method

English: Science icon from Nuvola icon theme f...Faith and the Scientific Method

 James R. Aist

He replied, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’  and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky…” (Matthew 16:2-4)

Introduction

How can we know that something really is true? Can we prove that it’s true by reason or logic or observation or experimentation? Perhaps we can. But, is there yet another path to truth, a path beginning with a supernatural, all-knowing, spiritual being who communicates truth to us by a spiritual route? Perhaps there is.

Many people believe that science operates apart from faith; that is to say, that faith does not enter into the process of scientific inquiry. This is the claim that I would like to examine more closely with you, to see if it holds up under careful and honest scrutiny.

Two Kinds of Faith

There are actually two different kinds of faith at work in the world. There is a “natural faith” that everyone is born with. It is part of our human nature, and it helps us to deal with the realities and necessities of the natural world.  We use this kind of faith in our everyday lives. By our natural faith, we believe that if we turn the ignition key, the car will start, and so we do it “on faith.” By our natural faith, we believe that the chair we are about to sit on will be strong enough to support our weight, and so, by faith, we “take a seat.” By our natural faith, we believe that if we put a dollar bill into a change machine, it will return four quarters, and in it goes. We are all very familiar with this natural faith. While natural faith is a necessary part of successful and productive living in this world, it is not perfect, as witnessed by the fact that the car doesn’t always start, the chair doesn’t always hold and the change machine doesn’t always return four quarters.

But there is another kind of faith. This is  “supernatural faith.” No one is born with it, so not everyone has it; it is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-9). Supernatural faith enables the “born again” believer to understand spiritual things, qualify for heaven and do good works out of a pure motivation of love and compassion. Contrary to natural faith, supernatural faith, when properly understood and applied, never fails.

The Scientific Method

The “scientific method” is the process by which scientific inquiry is conducted to reach a scientific “conclusion.” The five steps in this process are observation, hypothesis, prediction, experimentation and conclusion. Here’s how it works. One first makes a number of observations about something. Then a hypothesis, or tentative conclusion, is formulated to make sense out of the observations. Next, one reasons that, if this tentative conclusion is correct, then a prediction based on that tentative conclusion is true. One then tests that prediction by conducting carefully designed, scientifically sound experiments. If the results of the experiments confirm the prediction, then a scientifically valid conclusion can be made, based on those results. And finally, when one is totally convinced that the conclusions are warranted, then they are considered “proof” that the hypothesis is correct.

Where Is the Faith in That?

Well, there is, in fact, a kind of faith involved at every step of the process. And it is the “natural faith” that I discussed above. By faith, a scientist proceeds from the observations to the tentative conclusion, since nothing has yet been “proven.” And this faith process is repeated at every succeeding step — prediction, experimentation and conclusion – until the scientist is convinced that they have arrived at the “truth.” Note that the end of the process is when the scientist is convinced, not necessarily when the results unequivocally demand the conclusion that was reached. Thus, the conclusion, when published, becomes a kind of “statement of faith” as it were, where the faith involved is not the supernatural faith that is added to natural faith when one is born again, but it is natural faith alone.

If you’re not yet convinced that natural faith is involved in scientific research, then consider this anecdote. When I took an Introductory Biochemistry course in college, the professor, who was also a research scientist, began his first lecture by pointing out that two-thirds of the research upon which the Nobel Prize in biochemistry had been awarded up to that time was later proven to be incorrect. This result would not have happened if (imperfect) natural faith had not played a role in the scientific method.

Conclusions

We can see that faith, in the form of “natural faith”, is, indeed, involved in the process of scientific inquiry. This faith can most easily be seen at the end of the process, when the scientist is convinced that the correct conclusion has been reached, as well as in the fact that much of the best scientific research is later shown to be incorrect.

Natural faith not only helps us to deal with the realities and necessities of the natural world and is a necessary part of successful and productive living, but it also plays a vital role in the scientific method, which, while not perfect, enables us to learn many important and interesting things about the natural world and how it operates.

(For more articles on BIBLICAL TEACHINGS, click HERE

Some Thoughts on Suffering

A tornado near Seymour, TexasSome Thoughts on Suffering

James R. Aist

“The way to deal with suffering in any form – from the mildest irritation to the mental and physical agony that so absorbs and overwhelms you that you groan and scream – is to offer it to God who has permitted it, telling Him to make what He wills of it, and of us through it.” – John Eldredge

Introduction

I’m not an expert on the topic of how to deal with suffering, and I doubt that I have anything really new to say about it. And I do not have the definitive answers that most people yearn for. But I do have experience with serious suffering, having been forced to suffer through a deeply painful divorce that broke up my family, and having had to deal with the death of my 20 year-old daughter who was struck and killed by a car while crossing the street. And, I tend to process and analyze thoroughly my experiences with suffering, rather than just dismiss them quickly and move on. So, perhaps, something I say here, or how I say it, will be helpful, at least in some small way, to you or someone you know who is suffering with a loss or a personal tragedy. For those of us with a Christian world view, one of the first thoughts that pops into our head when we are suffering is, “Why did God allow that to happen?” So, let’s start there.

God Has a Reason

The week following the death and burial of my daughter was a week out of Hell. I was numb, so stunned and emotionally drained that I couldn’t even go to work. All I could do was to sit in my recliner in the corner of the living room and rehearse the events of the past week. The unthinkable had happened, and there wasn’t anything I could do about it. Now, I’m usually not one to ask God “Why did you allow this to happen?”, but at one point during that week I was hurting so bad that this question was about to come out of my mouth. At that moment, I was stopped by the Holy Spirit with these thoughts that rushed through my mind: “You don’t need to know why. You know God well enough to trust that He has a good reason.” Suddenly, a peace came over me, and I no longer felt the need to ask “why?” God paints with a broader brush than we can even imagine. Put another way, God is sovereign over His entire creation and knows the end from the beginning. And, sometimes, in order to accomplish a greater good, He has to allow us to suffer in this life. Even if He were to explain it to us, I doubt that we would be capable of understanding the explanation, much less of accepting it as sufficient. Sometimes we just have to trust God to have a good reason, even if it hurts terribly and we can’t even imagine what that good reason might be.

God Does Not Delight in Suffering

 “For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.” (Psalm 22:24).

In the Garden of Eden there was no suffering; that is, until Adam and Eve sinned against God. Then the whole creation, including mankind, came under a curse. As a result, sin, suffering and death became the lot of mankind in this life. Suffering is a result of sin entering the world through Adam (Romans 8:18-23). But one day, God will create a new heaven and a new earth in which the original conditions of His creation will be restored. Then there will be no more sin, no more death and no more suffering (Revelation 21:4). That is the heart and will of God toward His chosen ones, and that is the promised future for all born-again Christians.

Jesus Was a Sufferer

“He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.”
(Isaiah 53:3)

“Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering.”
(Isaiah 53:4)

Because Jesus experienced the most extreme and unjust kinds of suffering, He knows what we are going through. He invites us to cast all our cares upon Him, including our sufferings, because He cares for us and He will sustain us (Psalm 55:22 and 1 Peter 5:7).

Finding the Silver Lining

Suffering can be a good teacher. My brother, Gene, used to say, “Some people live and learn; others just live.” I’m more of a live and learn kind of guy. Although I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, I learned a lot from going through the divorce with my first wife. I learned what is most important to me in choosing a spouse. I learned what the roles of a Godly husband are. And I learned how to be strong in a marriage relationship. Ok, I’ll admit that there are less painful ways to learn those things, but, for some of us, it turns out that suffering through a divorce is just what it takes to motivate us sufficiently. I was determined not to make the same mistakes again. And I didn’t.

Suffering can also be a good trainer. In order to be a more effective and understanding high priest, Jesus was made like us,fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and … Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted (Hebrews 2:16-18). In the same way, to the extent that we learn positive lessons from our suffering, we are made wiser, more compassionate and better able to minister effectively to others who are suffering. Granted, we are not likely to be thinking along these lines while we are going through the suffering, but this can be a silver lining that appears later around the edges of our storm cloud of suffering.

And finally, suffering can produce a harvest of undeniable good. Until a couple of years ago, I struggled to find any good that can come from a long, painful and seemingly undignified illness, such as often happens with cancer patients. Death comes without any easily identifiable good resulting from such prolonged agony. Then I heard an exceptional, true story that changed my mind. An elderly, born-again lady was suffering from cancer for six months and was under sedation for severe pain most of the time. In her hospital room, she drifted in and out of consciousness, mostly out. But during this time, something extraordinary happened. Her family began to sense a very strong presence of the Holy Spirit in her room every time they came to visit. The hospital staff began to sense the same thing. The born-again Christians among them were able to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with all who came into the room. Word of this spiritual experience spread among the staff, and more and more of them came into the room to find out for themselves. By the time the lady finally passed away, 18 people had received Christ as their Lord and Savior because of the presence of the Holy Spirit in her hospital room and the faithful obedience of the believers present! Now, this may sound presumptuous, but I can only imagine that this is one cancer patient who would agree that her suffering was well worth the harvest of saved souls that resulted from it.

Knowing When to Quit

When tragedy happens, it is normal — perhaps necessary – to try to understand why it happened, or why God allowed it, or if there is any good thing that can possibly come of it. I believe it can be a good thing to attempt to find answers to these important questions. Sometimes, one can come to, at least, a tentative answer that is satisfying to some extent. But, at some point, chasing these elusive answers gets to the point of diminishing returns. We find ourselves retracing our thoughts without any new revelations or any greater understanding than came to light the last time we agonized over the same thing. That’s a good time to practice self control and quit trying to figure it out. It’s time to force ourselves to focus on moving on, and to just let it be what it is.

Keeping the Faith

If you’re angry with God, you believe in Him. So trust in Him too. He has a good reason for whatever He allows in your life.

Sometimes, people get so angry with God for allowing something really bad to happen to people they know and love that they turn against Him, abandon their faith and break off fellowship with Christian friends. Nothing good can come from such a reaction. When this happens, it’s a good time to re-examine your knowledge and understanding of God and the nature of the faith that you did have. Was yours a natural faith contingent upon God pretty much doing what you want Him to do, or was it a supernatural faith based on a genuine, born-again experience? If you were born again, then you will not really abandon your faith; God will guard your heart and your mind and preserve your faith. You just have to stand firm until the storm passes.

Jesus didn’t promise us a “rose garden” in our Christian walk here on earth. But, He did say, “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.” (John 16:33). So, hang on to your faith in Jesus no matter what happens in this world. That is the most precious of your possessions, and the one you can least afford to walk away from. Your eternal destiny is hanging in the balance.

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