The last two days, I have heard echoes of the conflict inside me from the mouth of a teenager and I have learned so much in speaking with him. I have ministered to him with many scriptures, because it’s easy to regurgitate scripture even when your heart is hurting. I have also shared my own stories of perseverance in the pain. I know too well the depths he’s drowning in.
“I don’t even know if I believe anymore. What’s the point in it? I mean, I want to but I just feel like everyone around me is having a great time with life and I am hurting. Nothing ever goes right, all joy is stolen from me right after it starts and I’m tired of it.”
Oh, boy! I said, “You seem to be in one of those moments where you’re like, ‘God! What are you doing in my life? You’re really hurting me!”
He nodded his head.
I shared with him some scriptures, starting with Psalms 72. He asked me to explain it to him. I told him that David prayed the same things. Everyone around him was prospering in life, and especially those who lived such wicked lives. David wondered at their peace and prosperity and asked, ‘What’s the point in keeping your commands, God, if I’m going to suffer so much in doing so?’
Then he went into the temple and prayed. He was reminded of the end; a time when all will reap what they sow and all that people have will blow away like dust and all that will remain is what has been done for the kingdom of God. I also mentioned that his belief in God “is not something you just walk away from because you are bitter. You can’t disown God after knowing Him as truth. You simply put up a wall of hatred and refuse to let him into your life. You lie to yourself because you feel betrayed.”
Why do we often feel betrayed? Here’s why: we haven’t properly read the Bible. Joel Osteen says God wants you healthy, wealthy and living your best life now, but that is not what the Bible says. We shouldn’t wonder at rejection, poverty, or any other suffering. Paul says we were destined for it (1 Thess. 3:3). He also tells us that Jesus learned obedience through what he suffered. He learned to say, “this hurts, but whatever you want.” I reminded this kiddo of the Garden of Gethsemane, when Jesus was so shaken by the suffering ahead that he prayed so fervently, he sweated blood. His prayer was that God let there be another way to redeem humanity. Jesus had shared so many times that this was his whole purpose in coming to earth, but in that moment, he really wanted to back out. “Father, if there be any other way, let this cup pass from me.”
It was a bitter cup. It would take all that he was capable of giving and all of the Spirit of God inside him to get through the agony of the next 24 hours of his life. The physical torture, the mental anguish, the final death. Sometimes, God takes us to the edge of ourselves and asks us to bring Him glory there. To do His will – drink the cup – in the worst moments of our pain.
This kiddo told me, “I’ve been suffering my whole life.” I simply said, “You know, me too. It’s never been easy. But God never said it would be. He told us to expect it. Jesus said, ‘If they rejected me, they’ll also reject you.’ You have something inside of you that no one wants to be confronted with because it testifies against their flesh (John 7:7). We’re no better, but the Spirit of God inside of us pours righteousness out on us and teaches us to live a different life than we can apart from Christ. People who don’t know Him can’t stand that.”
He started talking about doing good and being good as the whole purpose in all of this, i.e. the ticket he needed to get into heaven. I said, “No, the scriptures say that if you believe in your heart that Jesus is the son of God, and confess with your mouth that He was raised from the dead, you have citizenship in Heaven. But scripture also says that if you continue to live in sin after hearing this Word, you don’t know Jesus at all, and haven’t believed anything in your heart. You’ve just made a meaningless confession. It’s not truth in you (1 John 2:3-6). If you truly believe it, then you can’t disbelieve it just because you are suffering in life. That’s a lie based on bitter feelings. God did not ever promise us wonderful things this side of heaven. He actually told us we would suffer and be rejected, just like Jesus. Jesus learned obedience through what he suffered (Hebrews 5:8-9), and I know that sometimes, God teaches us obedience through our suffering as well. Also, we go through things just so that He can make us more like Christ. And Christ’s main goal, aside from dying as our substitute, was to bring glory to God.”
I watched the anguish melt from his face and tears form in his eyes and I knew he had taken a hold of hope again. As the devil continuously assaulted me over the last few days, I kept looking up to find the silver lining and rejecting the roots of bitterness that were trying to take hold of me again and again. I told God how faithful He is and how grateful I am to know Him and be a part of His plan, even though it hurts a lot. I can’t wait to get to heaven and see Christ face-to-face and feel the immediate release of anxiety when Jesus wraps His loving arms around me and says, “Well done.” I’ll sweat for that. I’ll take the blows and hand back mercy and forgiveness. I’ll die to self so Jesus can live through me. When these feelings overwhelm me, I’ll go to Him and be renewed and restored, and comforted, so I can comfort others with the comfort I have received (2 Cor. 1:4). It’s gonna be worth it!