How to Suffer Missionally

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Broken relationships.
Cancer.
Sickness.
Death.
Loss.
Tragedy.
Grief.
Loneliness.

What if Scripture tells us God is a divine multitasker and that this hurt doesn’t only affect us? What if we aren’t suffering because God is cruel but because He’s equipping us to help others in ways we couldn’t without it?

We all suffer. What separates Christ-followers from the world is the way we respond. And with hearts and ears anchored in the Gospel, we can hear the sermon suffering preaches.

Suffering tells us we’re all groaning for full redemption and that we’re not alone because no life is untouched by difficulty. The poison of sin has slithered into the DNA of every human and with it comes suffering—the proof of our brokenness.

Perhaps God walks us down roads filled with potholes and trials and grief so we can learn the streets and one day drive others down them, helping them to navigate the curves to get to the finish line.

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When the Tree Seems Dead

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One of the most encouraging things I’ve read in a long time:

“Remember, the growth of a believer is not like a mushroom, but like an oak, which increases slowly indeed but surely. Many suns, showers, and frosts, pass upon it before it comes to perfection; and in the winter, when it seems dead, it is gathering strength at the root. Be humble, watchful, and diligent in the means, and endeavor to look through all, and fix your eye upon Jesus, and all shall be well.” -John Newton

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2017 Reads

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I love to read. 

And this year reading was a challenge.

It was hard to focus and get sucked into the pages because, for the first time in my life, I liked what was happening in my own life better than what was happening in the world of books.

Who knew that was possible?

Instead of spending every free second reading about other people living their lives, I was actually living mine. And it was wonderful and hard and beautiful and excruciating, and I would choose every second all over again to see God the way I do today and to get to know and love (and be known and loved by) the extraordinary people in my life.

Anyway, here are the books I did read. (And, minus the top five, these are in no order whatsoever).

“If you don’t like to read, you haven’t found the right book.”
-J.K. Rowling

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2017: Leaning in Because Jesus is Better

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My “Jesus is Better” bracelet is tarnished and worn.

I think that’s appropriate.

It’s had to be repaired four times in the last month.

I think that’s also appropriate, because Jesus really is better than anything, including a piece of jewelry designed to remind me of that truth.

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What Bonhoeffer’s Last Letter Teaches Us About Christmas

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“The joy of God
has gone through
the poverty
of the manger
and the agony
of the cross;
that
is why
it is
invincible,
irrefutable.”
-Dietrich Bonhoeffer


Originally penned from a prison cell on November 29, 1942, Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s final circular letter to his friends is one of the greatest things I’ve ever read.

Read it for yourself in Tony Reinke’s excellent blog The Invincible, Irrefutable Joy. I was going to include a big quote from it but don’t want to ruin it for you, so do your heart a favor and read it for yourself as you let your heart soar in worship over this sin-taking, joy-bearing, joy-giving God that has come to us.

(Another stellar blog from Reinke on Christmas and Bonhoeffer is Christmas in a Cold Prison. The last two paragraphs alone are worth the whole read.)

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Joy is Here

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(This is in NLT, not Amplified. I’m sorry.)

This is a hard season for many.

I feel deeply the weight and heaviness of sin, brokenness, and the overall hurt of living in a fallen body in a fallen world with other fallen humans.

But the pain isn’t meaningless.
The weight won’t crush us.
The fire won’t burn us.
The flood won’t drown us.
The despair won’t destroy us.
The enemy doesn’t have the final say.

Our champion reigns.
Hope is here.
Glory is coming.
Joy is to be had.
Freedom is ours.
Victory is here.

Fix your gaze.
The true and better Aslan is on the move.

“You who fear the Lord, praise Him!
All you offspring of Jacob, glorify Him,
and stand in awe of Him, all you offspring of Israel!
For He has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted,
and He has not hidden His face from him,
but has heard, when he cried to Him.”
-Psalm 22:23-24

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A Thanksgiving Prayer from Valley of Vision

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O Source of all good,

What shall I render to Thee for the gift of gifts,
Thine own dear Son, begotten, not created,
my Redeemer, proxy, surety, substitute,
His self-emptying incomprehensible,
His infinity of love beyond the heart’s grasp.

Herein is wonder of wonders:
He came below to raise me above,
was born like me that I might become like Him.

Herein is love;
when I cannot rise to Him He draws near on
wings of grace,
to raise me to Himself.

Herein is power;
when Deity and humanity were infinitely apart
He united them in indissoluble unity,
the uncreated and the created.

Herein is wisdom;
when I was undone, with no will to return to Him,
and no intellect to devise recovery,
He came, God-incarnate, to save me
to the uttermost,
as man to die my death,
to shed satisfying blood on my behalf,
to work out a perfect righteousness for me.

O God, take me in spirit to the watchful shepherds,
and enlarge my mind;
let me hear good tidings of great joy,
and hearing, believe, rejoice, praise, adore,
my conscience bathed in an ocean of repose,
my eyes uplifted to a reconciled Father;
place me with ox, ass, camel, goat,
to look with them upon my Redeemer’s face,
and in Him account myself delivered from sin;
let me with Simeon clasp the new-born child
to my heart,
embrace Him with undying faith,
exulting that He is mine and I am His.

In Him Thou hast given me so much
that heaven can give no more.

-The Gift of Gifts, Valley of Vision

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God Will Give You More Than You Can Handle

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“It’s all too much,” I cried into my coffee. “I can’t do it. I’m not enough.”

Sitting in that quiet coffee shop, reality hit with force.

Every day is filled with one reminder after another that I am not sufficient. I am not enough for my small group girls; I am not enough for my best friend; I am not enough for my parents; I am not enough for counseling others; I am not enough to teach the Word of God; I am not enough for the church; I am not enough to write helpfully; I am not enough to consider marriage or parenting or anything else God calls me to.

I am not enough.

Do you feel it too?

Do you feel strained by the seemingly endless litany of tasks before you, the weight of burdens in community and ministry, and the demand to do and be it all without cracking under pressure?

During those times I’ve heard well-meaning people say, “Yeah, what you’re going through is hard, but God won’t give you more than you can handle.”

The problem with that and Mother Teresa’s famous quote—“I know God won’t give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish He didn’t trust me so much”—is that it’s not Scriptural.

And anything meant to be a comfort becomes a confine when it isn’t based on Scripture.

What if Scripture actually says God intentionally gives us more than we can handle?

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Six Quotes on Weakness

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I’ve never felt complete and total weakness more than in the last year. 

And that’s only intensified in the last three weeks.

At times, that weakness has led to introspection, waterfalls of fear, running from everyone and everything, building walls, shutting down, depression, despair, and grasping for control.

At other times, that weakness has served as a beat up taxi into which I climb and let drive me to the throne of grace and into the arms of the Strong One whose sufficiency shines against the bleakness of my lack and covers me with blankets of mercy and security.

One of the things I’ve learned? Comfort in weakness is always found at Calvary.

May the following quotes lead you there.

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Charles Spurgeon on Heartbreak

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“There are many sorts of broken hearts, and Christ is good at healing them all…

The patients of the great Physician are those whose hearts are broken through sorrow.
Hearts are broken through disappointment.
Hearts are broken through bereavement.
Hearts are broken in ten thousand ways, for this is a heart-breaking world; and Christ is good at healing all manner of heart-breaks.”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, “Christ’s Hospital: A Sermon on Psalm 147:3,” originally published in Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Vol. 38 (1892)


This sermon has been especially helpful for me today. I promise it will not be a waste of your time to read it: https://www.spurgeongems.org/vols37-39/chs2260.pdf 

“Do not despair, dear heart, but come to the Lord with all your jagged wounds, black bruises, and running sores. He alone can heal, and He delights to do it. It is our Lord’s office to bind up the brokenhearted, and He is gloriously at home at it.”
-Charles Spurgeon

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