When we talk about suffering and longsuffering, we must remember that we are not alone in our experience. Far from it. Jesus Himself is a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53:3). We serve a longsuffering God: “But You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth” (Psalm 86:15).
We serve a God who is longsuffering toward us, and He is the source of all patience and longsuffering for us. So we look to Him for the supply. Colossians 1: 11 tells us that God strengthens us (“according to His glorious power”) for “all patience and longsuffering with joy.” This means that God doesn’t just give us the ability to endure and persevere in trials, but He gives us joy in it.
Suffering for a long time with joy is humanly impossible. But we must go back to see Who enables us for such a thing. It is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who “has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins” (vs. 13). He is the God of all patience and comfort (Rom. 15:5). He overflows with abundant mercy and truth.
I have a friend who has suffered a hard providence, and she told me that she would not change one thing. She has no quarrel with God. That is a faithful response, and that is the demeanor that finds joy and hope in longsuffering, and all to the glory of God.
11 thoughts on “Longsuffering with Joy”
Thank you – from the bottom of my heart – for this post.
I once read an article where an elderly lady in her 90’s said ‘Cheer up, the first hundred years are the hardest.’
By God’s grace in and through my Saviour, that is true, and I have a future to look forward to that is completely glorious and undeserved.
This was timely and helpful for me today. Very interested to know what joy looks like when long-term suffering is the context. Love to know your thoughts.
“…what joy looks like when long-term suffering is the context.”
This phrase makes me think of my father, who injured his back in a car wreck when he was in his 70’s and spent the last couple of years of his life in awful, constant pain. He was able to walk, but with difficulty, and had to lie down often. One of my most vivid memories is of him lying on my couch while the rest of us finished dinner. My two year old daughter was lying down cuddled up next to him, and he was telling her jokes and stories.
At the last, he was confined to a hospital bed in his bedroom, but my memories of him will always be filled with pictures of his humor, dignity, and strength of faith. I’ve tried to analyze how he was able to die with such dignity in a situation that could have been so miserable and humiliating, and I think his secret was that he lived life “zoomed-out” from himself. That is to say, not focused on himself, but with his vision zoomed-out to the big picture. I think that’s how he was able to see others’ needs even when his suffering was so overwhelming, and he was able to put his suffering in context as “light and momentary,” because he kept the big picture in view. Not easy, and possible only by God’s grace; truly the “peace that passes understanding.”
Amen Nancy!! Bring the good news sister!!
Becky, Thank you for sharing about your grandfather, what a faithful example. May we all be so into others and lacking in self attention. Bless you!
As always, very well said!!
If you could bear with me, I have a question and a dilemma; a very dear friend of mine believes the health and prosperity gospel – and we have been, well, “discussing” suffering, healing, faith and belief and I have hit a wall. I have put before her all that I can about what I understand the Bible to say regarding this subject: (in the most basic of terms) God is the same today as He was yesterday and will be tomorrow and it is His to give and His to take away. Blessed be the Name of the Lord!
Unfortunately she has said that I have the faith of a Hindu and that One has to “press in to get the blessing” and that if one doesn’t get said “blessing” (or healing), ones belief/ faith is in indubitably weak. I asked what happens if your children get terminally ill? – I would question their faith – was her quick response. Oh the grief to hear those words!
I write these words in grief. I love this woman, but believe her to be very deceived. She is a single mom who has gone through WAY TOO MUCH, as many single moms unfortunately do. My husband has said that since she’s not under authority I am not to debate this with her any longer – which was almost a relief to hear! But please counsel me on how to be her friend. I have shied from her, though she has reached out to talk and get together. I see her as deceived and don’t trust my own mouth to speak encouragement and love.
How about suffering that involves false accusations from a Christian sister and sudden betrayal without warning? Oh, and let’s add a group of accusers, no specific allegations (‘you did x’ or ‘you said y’), a surprise public execution, and written proof of the opposite actually being true. How does one demonstrate joy in the context of psychological suffering (as opposed to physical)? I am assuming it isn’t happy-go-luckiness or even mere forbearance and patience, but…. JOY? How do you do that???
There are no easy answers to Meredith’s questions. Joy doesn’t always smile and look happy. And it really does not require favorable circumstances to be present! But with my mouth I will praise Him!
I am writing in the midst of longsuffering over a beloved rebellious daughter. I often think of the Potter: to shape the clay, He applies pressure, sometimes cutting tools, then puts the pot into the fire. This is a powerful picture of some very real sensations!
Sometimes I say out loud, “Thanks be to God,” or “God be praised!” I am choosing to say these things; I am choosing to believe that God is good, even though it feels otherwise. I am choosing to acknowledge that I see as in a mirror dimly.
A dear, faithful lady said that one day she told God, “Even though you don’t like me, I am still going to follow you because it is the best way.” I love that!
Have you ever had to scrub gravel out of a kids’ knee? It’s excruciating and they cry and ask you to stop but because you love them, you clean the debris out of the wound so it won’t get worse. I have to preach stories like this to myself all of the time.
Meredith, I am also suffering the lies, accusations and attacks of someone dear to me (my mother-in-law), and I am constantly fighting the fear I feel knowing that there is nothing I can do to turn her heart or mind. I am so tempted every day to just walk away and be done with it, to stop trying and sever the relationship. But my husband keeps reminding me that “the joy of the Lord is my strength”. I suffer trying to repair a thoroughly broken relationship because my joy and my hope are in Him. This gives me the stremgth to keep going.
I come to the Lord many times a day about this trial because it hurts so much, and because I don’t want biterness to grow in my heart. And he answers my prayers. He has allowed me to pray for the good of my m-i-l, and to meditate on the good things she has done throughout her life. He has shown me how to have pity on her own sufferings, and how to praise her for her faithfulness in the midst of that suffering. I have no idea whether the Lord will work in her heart to realize what she is doing to our family, but my joy is knowing that He is walking with me daily (sometimes even carrying me) through this trial, and He will never leave or forsake me. My joy is also knowing that He is drawing me nearer to Him through it all.
Thanks so much for this encouraging instruction. I know that as I look back on a couple of the hardest times of suffering in my life I am amazed at what a dim memory they are now and what a present comfort it is, when hard things come, to remind myself of God’s faithfulness in those previous hard things. If God was so good and faithful then, He will continue to be so now! If He has and does deliver other brothers and sisters in Christ from numerous trials, won’t He be just as kind to me?! Of course! I think one of the most helpful sermons I ever heard regarding hard things was one that Pastor Wilson did regarding Phil. 4: 6-8 “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
In response to the struggle Meredith has shared, there are some biblical truths that can guide us here. No matter the wrong that we endure from others, God has endured much worse from each of us. Remembering, Christ loved us with the sacrifice of Himself while we were in sin against Him. This is a convicting example of what it means to really love in the midst of being wronged.
It is one of the most humbling experiences in life, to be truly wronged and take it. This is the best understanding I have seen in regard to turning the other cheek. It is not always the case that we should take it. But when the situation is such that talking it out isn’t bringing peace, by Godâ€™s grace alone, we have to learn to be wronged and put down our fists and close our mouths. This is amplified when a person is sharing this wrong with others, by stumbling others to take offence on their behalf, all the while carelessly slandering your character in the process. But God says it is better to be wronged than to wrong. 1 Cor. 6:7-9 confronts Christians who will not take the wrong but return the wrong instead, â€œwhy do you not rather let yourselves be cheated?â€ That is Godâ€™s counsel to us.
So be strong in the truth that God is in it all, and He promises to right every wrong. If you are humble and repentant to God while striving to be faithful to Him in how you deal with those who are slandering you, He will be sure to do the vindicating. It may take years, it may take heaven, but God will make it all right in the end. So be patient, and diligently pray for those who struggle against you. Be humble and kind, and do not be deceived into thinking you do not deserve this. It is deserved, and it is only because our God is gracious, that we are kept from more of this. Bestow on these people the grace you would hope to have bestowed onto you if you were the one caught in a trespass. After all, peace is what we are striving for, and only God can bring about true reconciliation and peace.
I am still giving much thought to these messages on longsuffering. Two thoughts come to mind repeatedly:
One, many of the people who truly endure longsuffering, practice kindness, and really know the joy of the Lord, would not think of themselves AS longsuffering. Their attitudes toward their difficulties are different than the one who considers him or herself in *longsuffering* at every difficult or inconvenient turn of life.
Two, those who go around announcing they have the *joy of the Lord* with a sour face do not win many people to Christ. If you truly have the JOY of the Lord, it generally does not need to be announced!!