Spiritual Growth from Suffering Adversity

Yesterday I had the privilege of driving out to Snowfield, a beautiful property nestled among farms in Shenandoah’s blue mountains. I took a meal out to the home of our dear friends, my pastor and his wife. After three weeks, he is finally back home, transitioning to his new way of life, after undergoing a below-knee amputation. This will be a trial of immense spiritual growth for him and his wife. In addition, it has a huge effect on his family, friends, and our church. The truth is that our spiritual teacher has always been there to guide and direct us, provide us with spiritual wisdom, and to pray for and encourage us. But now, our teacher needs us, more than ever. It’s clear we need to step it up and be strong in The Lord our God. At the same time, our church is watching our beloved pastor. How will he handle this? Will he be okay? What will we do, if it all becomes too much for him? How much can he handle? How can we help him? It’s a season of new growth in spiritual maturity. It’s a time for our church to stand in Christ and be strong for our pastor, his wife and family, and each other.

Does Jesus understand all this? I can’t help but see the parallel here. Jesus’ disciples looked to him for biblical truth and teaching. He counseled them, helping them to look beyond adversity, ahead to the joyful prize of a perfect eternal life awaiting them in Heaven. Meanwhile, Jesus gave his disciples strength to overcome the adversity and hardships attacking them on earth: shipwrecks, being put in chains in prison, sickness, hatred, physical pain, and times of simply being and doing without. Just as the disciples were gaining strength through getting a grip on how to rely on Jesus for all their needs; their whole world crashed and turned upside-down. Their teacher was in trouble! Or was he?

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Phil. 4:12-13 New international Version).

It became apparent that Jesus was going to suffer even more for spreading the gospel. People did not like the fact that Jesus was claiming to be King of the Jews. They hated it so much, in fact, they planned to kill him. Not only was he going to suffer persecution, he was going to be mercilessly murdered, by being horrifically sacrificed. And what a shock for the disciples to be told by Jesus; that he was going to let all of this happen to him, when it was absolutely in his power to prevent it all!

But Jesus knew it was God’s Will. Of course God did not want Jesus to suffer and endure such unbelievable torture and agony. But both God and Jesus (Whom are One and The Same Person with The Holy Spirit, creating The Trinity) knew it was part of the plan for something far greater… the salvation of souls. Though the suffering was intense, there would be an ending, a time when it would be finished.

“When he had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (Jn. 19:30).

When I received the news that my beloved pastor and friend was going to have his leg amputated below the knee, I was completely shocked. Like Peter, I wanted to yell, “No! I won’t let them hurt you!” I sobbed in my husband’s arms, choking out the words, “No! This can’t happen to Pastor Mike!I found myself pleading, “Oh no, God, You can’t!”

Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. ‘Never, Lord!’ he said. ‘This shall never happen to you!’ ” (Matt. 16:22).

Of all the disciples, I’ve always identified most with Peter: feisty, loyal, loving… fearful. As a child, I didn’t understand why he was being corrected for sticking up for Jesus. He seemed to make a lot of mistakes, but he clearly loved The Lord. But as a mature Christian, I now understand that to oppose God’s plan, could be to oppose spiritual growth; not only for the church, but for our dear Pastor himself. After all, God’s plan for Jesus, involved suffering, and it resulted in him becoming The Everlasting King of the Heaven and Earth! It is also resulting in millions of souls being saved from spending eternity in Hell. No true Christian wants any soul to spend eternity in Hell. For, a true Believer understands that a place of never-ending terror, torture, and damnation really does exist. If you could prevent someone from going there, would you?

Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns’ ” (Matt 16:23).

I don’t want to let the devil use me as a stumbling block to God’s work! So instead, as my pastor faced his surgery, I asked for God’s will, not mine, to be done. I always do pray for His will, even when it’s difficult, for God commands us to do this. When we pray for God’s will to be done, we are being obedient to Him. It pleases God, and He promises to care for us. We do not have to carry fear about it, because the Bible tells us over and over again to “fear not!” So I laid my request for our pastor before God, according to His will, and I continued to pray without ceasing. I prayed while alone, with my family, and with my church. We continue to pray even now, trusting God through this trial, serving each other as Jesus Christ serves us.

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me’ ” (Matt. 16:24).

I cried. Hard. I haven’t been able to really cry for about three or four years. Not for myself. I know this is my own issue of deeply rooted pain, the kind so deep it can’t quite make its way out. Occasionally, I’ve shed a few heartfelt tears for someone else’s pain, but not for my own. However, the news about the amputation broke something deep inside of me. It was as if a dam broke deep inside of my mind, where tears build up behind boulders of the heart. This was personal. This trial was happening to someone near and dear to my heart; someone I love, who showed me I was worth love; someone who took the time to show me just how much Jesus loves me. In fact, in my grief over this sorrowful news, I forgot my own trial I’d been dealing with, which had been weighing heavily on my heart and is still unresolved. But perspective puts things into different places. Once the tears came, I heaved great sobs, finding it difficult to stop. If this was my reaction, then surely as my pastor admitted, he’d also had a “couple moments” himself. But why God? Why?

God reminded me that Jesus himself wept in the garden. He was in such great agony, that he sweat blood. He even asked God if there was any possibility of avoiding the trial of unimaginable pain which stood before him. If so, he requested that God take it away. Yet, he loved us more than himself; for he submitted to His Father’s will:

” ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.’ An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground” (Luke 22:42-44).

All these years, my Pastor could have been self-centered, by selfishly, and only, taking care of himself. He could have gone home early, put up his tired legs in his recliner, and rested his painfully sore, swollen, and achy feet. But no. Instead, he was out late hours, even after his regular working hours. He was working an extra job to feed his family and help with school and other needs. He was preaching, counseling, witnessing, visiting the sick and broken in their homes, and telling the lost and confused about God’s plan through His Son, Jesus Christ; which allows for their suffering to one day be finished. He put others above himself. And now, in spite of losing part of his leg, he is still planning to do the work of His Father, our Holy God in Heaven. He is trusting Jesus through adversity, knowing that one day he will live in glory up in Heaven. Surely God is proudly smiling down on Him with such favor! God must be excited to bring him Home! But the work isn’t yet finished.

Jesus continued to do the work of His Father, even as he was suffering and dying for the sins of the world. He even led a repentant criminal to Christ the same day he died on the cross!

“Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ Jesus answered him, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise’ ” (Luke 23:42-43).

God took all the pain and suffering away and turned it into something amazing! He will do the same for us, even as we still yet live here on the earth. In the Bible, God promises His children:

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28).

This includes all the difficult trials we go through; even something as disconcerting as a leg amputation. Even in our imminent deaths, this promise remains. For not even death can take away the gift of eternal life Jesus gives to us. He trusted God through it all, and now he reigns victorious in Heaven!

Won’t you trust him even now? How to Invite Jesus into Your Heart and Receive Eternal Life! For God will never let us down!

Jesus is a living example of this truth. I’m so glad His Father is my pastor’s Father, and I have the same Holy Father too! No matter what our trials, God’s will is to take it, and bring about His good and perfect plan from it all. It will be for our own personal benefit, as well as bringing glory to the Kingdom of God. Christians will be healed, and lost souls will come to know Jesus and be saved!

As I drove back home yesterday, through the Blue Ridge Mountains at sunset, I could see the beauty of new growth underneath the cold, white blanket from the unexpected, sudden snow squall. As I saw the silver lining shining through the storm clouds, I remembered that though the ground may be covered and frozen, there is always new growth underneath it waiting to be discovered… and we can be part of it too.

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18).

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