To the non-believer, rejoicing and hoping during times of adversity and affliction seems to be an exercise in futility or unreality. The non-believer challenges, “How can a loving God allow such pain? ”
Many believers might ask the same question, albeit not publicly.
We know there is a reason for pain, regardless of our acceptance or even understanding the reason. To tell the suffer-er that the pain is for the glory of God seems…well uncaring to say the least.
The suffer-er knows what the Word says, he/she just finds the application hard. Cherished friends have been suffering for what seems to be a lifetime. “When will it end?” is the unvoiced question.
The Psalmist writes (Psalm 119):
It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes.
Those who fear You will be glad when they see me, because I have hoped in Your word.
This is such a manifestation of trust in the goodness of God. The suffer-er finds personal benefits for his sufferings. But he also recognizes that God might have purpose beyond himself – and that is the benefit for others. The suffer-er accepts that how he responds to suffering will become a testimony of faith. And through that testimony, along with the blood of the Lamb, he will overcome!
I know, O LORD, that Your judgments are right, and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me.
Go back and reread that verse. The Psalmist declares that our afflictions come through God’s faithfulness!
We don’t know what the suffer-er’s situation was. Had he strayed or sinned? God will not be mocked as we reap what we have sown. Regardless, the suffer-er relies on the faithfulness of God.
The choice of the Hebrew word translated as “faithfulness” is interesting. It is not the root “emet” which comes from “amen” which gets translated as “true, faith, faithfulness.” Instead the Psalmist uses “hesed” which is best translated as “the covenant keeping loving kindness of God.”
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to beconformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. (Romans 8:28-29)
Here is the real testimony of a faith in God that trascends circumstances and looks to the faithful love of God. The God who laid on His only begotten Son the suffering, sin and sickness of the world.
When we look at His cross, the ultimate in suffering, while it doesn’t end our suffering, we can know that we are not alone. Because of His suffering, Jesus understands our pain and walks with us through our circumstances.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4)
The unhindered view from the 6tth floor apartment is spectacular especially at sunset; but it does have a challenge -there is no protection from sun or from wind.
Over the past few years I’ve had to experiment to discover what plants will grow well in such conditions. Sweet smelling trees like “Jasmine” are out of the question as are many pretty flowering plants. So I’ve learned to like a variety of cactus and spices.
But I so love color.
Thus I was thrilled to learn that pansies are great in the winter months AND love lots of sunlight.
So I loaded up on pansies with their face-like petals.
But some weren’t quite ready for the incessant sun. Others didn’t survive the learning curve as I determined how much water they needed. Still others didn’t last through my travel schedule.
However there were several hearty plants that thrived. That is until a “freak” storm hit Israel. Rain, hail and even snow pounded the entire country. Most destructive of all was the wind.
Although annoyed, I didn’t mind the loss of the cover for the grill that we had carefully tied down after losing the first one. But I was really upset about the beautiful pansies.
The wind had lifted them right out of the ground! They had been flexible enough to withstand the normal” late-afternoon winds, but when the pressure increased they could not stand. Only one solitary plant remained.
They had been grounded in good soil and nourished well, but they had not developed a strong enough root system.
We, like the pansies need to be grounded AND rooted!
I had learned about the importance of roots several years ago when I had a little plot of land outside my cellar apartment. The plot had been neglected for years and looked like a forest. There was one particularly ugly and bothersome plant that spewed its huge leaves onto the little space of patio. It had to go!
I cut off its leaves down to the ground. Then I tried to pull out the roots. Didn’t work. Having no real tools, I used a little pair of scissors to cut into the ground following the root system. I worked for hours digging, cutting and pulling. The root system seemed to meander all over the “garden” having neither beginning nor end.
By the third day I was determined. No I was angry. This was war. With scissors in hand I used my God given authority to take dominion.
The victory was mine!
As ugly as I considered these roots to be, they did show me what it means to be “rooted and grounded.”
The Apostle Paul prayed for the Ephesians:
For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Eph 3:14-19
Consider these definitions:
- Rooted: ῥιζόω rhizoō: to strengthen with roots, to render firm, to fix, establish, cause a person or a thing to be thoroughly grounded.
- Grounded: θεμελιόω themelioō: to lay the foundation, to make stable, establish
Paul’s ultimate prayer for the Ephesians was they would be rooted and grounded in God’s love.
- That they might know the love of God.
- That they might be filled with the fullness of God.
Being rooted and ground in love is crucial.
I suggest because we have been created to respond to God’s love.
God’s love will hold us secure through the harsh winds of winter. God’s love will comfort us when our hearts break. God’s love will enlighten our darkness. God’s love will provide a refuge when we are abandoned. God’s love will fill the hole from rejection or betrayal. God’s love is always available. God’s love never fails.
May your roots go ever deeper into God’s love, where there will be no beginning nor end.
 Blue Letter Bible. “Dictionary and Word Search for rhizoō (Strong’s 4492)“. Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2013. 8 Jan 2013. < http:// www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm? Strongs=G4492&t=KJV >
 Blue Letter Bible. “Dictionary and Word Search for themelioō (Strong’s 2311)“. Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2013. 8 Jan 2013. < http:// www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm? Strongs=G2311&t=KJV >