Thursday, July 5, 2012

Why Do We Suffer?

That is what Mary DeMuth discussed in Chapter 3 of her novel “Beautiful Battle,” at least that is my take away from it. The title of the chapter is “The Right Story: God’s Sovereignty. The Wrong Story: Our Comfort.” The wording of this initially confused me, though I understand it well enough now. This is a chapter I want to dissect a little bit, for me to fully understand what DeMuth is explaining.

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The first thing I did after I finished reading the chapter is look up the word “sovereignty,” more specifically the root word “sovereign.” The word appears often in the chapter and also in correspondence to God.

As an adjective, as describing God, “sovereign” means: 
  1. Having supreme rank, power or authority 
  2. Supreme, preeminent, indisputable 
  3. Greatest in degree, utmost, extreme 
  4. Being above all others in character, importance and excellence 
     (Dictionary.com)

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After taking in the impressive definition of “sovereign,” I agree it is a good word to describe God. In fact, many of the words to define it are also used in reference to our Holy Creator. So in respect of the title of DeMuth’s chapter three, “The Right Story: God’s Sovereignty,” we are talking about God’s absolute power, authority and supreme rank above all else (including Satan).

On the first page of Chapter 3, DeMuth states, “Satan isn’t behind every annoyance. It’s simplistic to think that Satan is our only obstacle on this earth...(p37)” I both agree and disagree with this statement. In the context DeMuth is talking about the obstacles she faced when she and her family lived abroad. We all face similar obstacles on a daily basis. We are troubled by finances, sickness, work environments, attitudes of the people surrounding us, even a bad hair day. Did Satan wake up and cause your hair to not fall in place, no. But Satan does not have to be there controlling every action to cause us to question and be quick to anger.

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Satan is “of the world” and he roams the world. These are concepts I have covered so far in this devotional study. Satan is not behind every small this that goes wrong. However, Satan is the root of all evil and all cause to sin. So Satan would not have made my hair stand on end, but if I said “Satan get out of my head and under my feet in the name of Jesus,” it would still be effective to the situation. I am using the blood of Jesus within me to call on God’s authority to overcome the Devil. Satan was not the cause of my hair not cooperating, but he was the cause of me feeling vanity of it not looking right. Satan does not have to be present in any situation for us to be affected by his deceptiveness and his lies.

In my opinion this is what Spiritual Warfare is all about. We have talked about being covered with the blood of Jesus and we have talked about God’s Sovereignty, his authority over the Devil. Spiritual Warfare is being able to confidently and consistently use that power over the evil forces roaming the earth and meddling in our everyday lives. If we can stand up, in the name of Jesus, and rid our minds of these evil, sinful thoughts then we can live a life full of God’s love and grace.

Already, by digging deeper and exploring the idea of God’s Sovereignty, his authority over Satan and how that affects Spiritual Warfare, I understand this chapter a little better. It also is an easy lead in to DeMuth’s second aspect of the chapter “The Wrong Story: Our Comfort.”

When it comes to the subject of suffering, DeMuth, like many others calls on the book of Job. Job is a very hard book to read, but it is also full of many wonderful lessons when it comes to God’s love.

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The basic story of Job is that Satan comes to God to talk. “Then the Lord asked Satan, “Have you noticed my servant Job? He is the finest man in all the earth. He is blameless--a man of complete integrity. He fears God and stays away from evil” (Job 1:8). Satan replies that of course he fears God because his life is perfect. Job has a family, a house, he prospers in everything he does. Satan challenges that if Job lost all that he holds dear, he would turn his back on God. God allows Satan to take all of his possessions to find out the result. Even when Job loses everything he still praises God. Satan then asks God to take away his health. God agrees, but even then Job is still loyal to God. Throughout the story Job has several misled friends who encourage Job to repent of his sins and turn back to God so he may be healed. However, Job is faithful to the Lord, is honest and true. He had done nothing wrong and he knew it. Job takes his message straight to God. Through this hardship, Job formed an even closer relationship with God. Eventually, God proved his point and gave Job even more prosperity than he had before.

There are many take aways from Job’s story:
  1. All Satan’s doings are filtered through God’s hands 
  2. Put your trust in the Lord, not in people around you 
  3. Go to the Lord first with all of your questions and desires 
  4. Suffering is often not a response to anything we did wrong 
  5. The Lord gives and he can take away 
  6. Be content with what you have for it is all fleeting 
These are a few among many lessons, but the most important lesson to learn from Job, that DeMuth also points out is that through hardship we become closer to God. When we reach out to communicate with him daily, when we depend on him for our very survival, and when we go to him for our comfort and not the world, we step a little closer to him.

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This ties in to the chapter title that states our comfort is the wrong path. By following God and maintaining an active and close relationship to him we will not always be comfortable. The closer we are to God the more Satan wants to hurt us (like he did with Job) because it would hurt God greater to see us suffer. However, God allows suffering because that is how he comes to know us better and us him. God made the ultimate sacrifice when he sent his son, Jesus, to walk the earth and die for all of our sins. That decision had nothing to do with comfort, it had everything to do with love. God allowed the ultimate form of suffering so that he may know his people closer.

DeMuth states in concurrence with this concept, “trials and struggles and distresses simply help us to become more like Jesus. More selfless. More giving. More hope-filled. More forgiving. More abundant” (p38). This life isn’t about comfort. It is about learning, growing close to God while on the earth, helping others in any way that we can and going home to be with the Father once again.

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I want to go one step further. You do not need worldly comfort or possessions to know true joy. It is forming and maintaining this close relationship with God that you find that constant, underlying joy in your heart no matter what is going on around you. There are days when Satan is continuing to knock at your door, but if you have joy in your heart, if you are covered by the blood of Jesus and reaching out to God everyday then no matter what happens you are blessed. God is watching out for you, running closer to you and looks forward to the day when you can sit next to the throne of God and tell the stories of how you overcame all obstacles.

Why do we suffer?

Because God loves us and wants a close relationship with us. He wants to be the first one you go to when Satan bothers you, when you have a bad day or a good day, when there are others in trouble that you want to help and even when you are so happy you can’t hold it all inside. God wants to be there. Just like our earthly parents, he wants to be involved, he wants to help and guide you on your way, he wants to know how it all worked out. Sure, he is all-knowing, but it is important that he hears the news from us.

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We suffer because if we don’t know pain and loss then we can never really know prosperity and true joy. Our God is a good God. Spiritual Warfare is real. It is our choice to equip ourselves with the knowledge and the armor of God. With our close relationship to God, the blood of Jesus covering us and our hearts full of joy we can step onto the battlefield confident knowing our enemy, the Devil, is going down.


*Note: This is a series that I will link up with at "Joyful Mothering;" however, the group discussion will not begin until later this fall. For now, I feel compelled to continue studying and posting what I learn.

Devotional Study based on "Beautiful Battle" a novel by Mary DeMuth.

The Beautiful Battle Series:
Part One: Foundations
Introduction: "Warrior Women"
Chapter One: “Beautiful Battle
Chapter One: "Woman at the Well"
Chapter Two: "Satan: The Enemy"
Chapter Three: "Why Do We Suffer?"

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