Last month, we jump-started a new series of articles by asking the question: "Have you ever experienced a time where you became so confused, so discouraged and so disheartened in your Christian walk that you just wanted to let go, give in and give up?"
If we are honest with ourselves, all of us at one time or another would have to say, "Yes, we have felt this way and it's devastating." As Christians, hope in God and His promises are the anchors of our soul. Therefore, it's imperative we have complete confidence that the Lord will do all He promises to do in His Word. That's the basis of our faith.
However, how do we avoid the feeling of wanting to let go, give in and give up in light of some of the trials and tragedies God allows in our lives? How do we refrain from being angry, bitter and blaming Him?
The Biblical answer is by learning longsuffering. Longsuffering is a fruit of the Spirit and is listed as number four on Galatians' list of ten! Longsuffering is a part of God's character, a part of His image and a part of His nature. Therefore it's something He wants us all to learn experientially.
Longsuffering speaks of a person who doesn't give in to dismay, confusion and discouragement when difficult circumstances occur, but patiently endures them without complaint, "seeing Him who is invisible" in the midst of the trial. (Hebrews 11:27)
An Example: Christine
A stunning example of one who hasn't given in to dismay or confusion in her trial but has patiently endured it without complaint is my dear friend, Christine. Married to a pastor and mother of five children, Christine is desperately trying to hold on to her failing marriage. She has every Biblical right to leave, but more than anything else, she wants the Lord's will. Listen to what she writes:
"Many of us face hardships in our marriages, but we must never give up on God! Although the valleys seem dark and it does appear that `we are troubled on every side, distressed, persecuted and cast down,' but in the eyes of our faithful God, `we are not distressed, not in despair, not forsaken and not destroyed.' (2 Corinthians 4:8-9) We are loved by God and He desires that we live the abundant life. His abundant life only comes from a dying to self and a living for Christ. He is a God that loves to have His children bear fruit. It's not the same fruit that the world bears; that of financial wealth and material things, but the wealth that never rusts and never passes away - the fruit of the spirit. Through the many trials of my life and the one I am currently in, I know that all is Father-filtered. He is pruning me and I am beginning to bring forth that precious fruit. The fruit of longsuffering has been the most painful to birth and I have resisted the process many days. But, I am beginning to see the blossom and one day this fruit will be evident for all to see."
The following poem is one that Christine wrote only two weeks ago. She wrote it, as you will hear, from her heart. I know you will agree, after reading it, that God is not only in and all around this beautiful sister in the Lord, but that He has a special future planned for her. Listen:
As the sun sets each day the night brings despair, somewhere in the darkness my knight has disappeared. The road and the battle have been long and tough, only those in the darkness begin to enjoy the lack of trust.
The knight that once rode upon a valiant white horse is lost somewhere in the darkness and appears so distraught.
The one to whom he wed searches for the one that was so true, only to find the shadows of them she once knew.
Her heart is broken and her head begins to spin, as she feels the enemy approach, appearing to win.
The maiden has turned older and a bit worn. Wisdom has crept by, her loved one has gone.
She sees his shiny armor only in her dreams as she dances there with the man that used to call her queen.
The younger maiden in the land has caught her husband's eye, and the screams you hear are that of a dream that wants to live but only seems to die. The screams are silent many times as she sees him look at her, for that was her valiant knight who has drifted far from her.
The old maiden used to feel that love was worth her while and that she would sail off with him and never ever cry.
Time has passed and seasons change, the night won't last forever. One day the old maiden will awake with hope bound in her heart, looking from the past to a brand new start.
The days grow cold and the screams seem to linger, but the maiden knows that it will not always be December.
The winter will pass and the screams will go away, and the maiden will arise with the promise of a new day. As God's promise is bigger than the pain and her latter dreams become true, God's promises will erase the trials and tribulations that caused her disgrace.
The trials and tribulations will have made her strong, and her screams will turn into laughter as the pain turns into song.
Morning comes alive with the promise of a new day, weeping has turned to joy in a more excellent way. God's Love has overcome and the birds begin to fly, the wind begins to whisper a familiar lullaby; "Never Give Up" will be the words that the Holy Spirit imparts and that darkness now has turned to day as the promises embark.
Longsuffering has blossomed, a new beginning is made, God's promises are certain and this is a new day!!!
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In her letter, Christine went on to write a few thoughts to those experiencing similar trials. This is what she had to say:
"Stay on the vine - the pruning process may make you scream, but the fruit that results is the sweetest in the land. I pray that if you are in the season of pruning that you would allow the fruit of longsuffering to come forth. I pray that in some way this writing will give you a hope of a new tomorrow. God will wipe away all the tears and you will break forth into song. Stronger for the experience, richer in your walk with God. My prayer is that this writing will give you hope. Again, as 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 says, `We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed.'"
This series of articles will be chocked-full of examples like Christine's. Men and women who, in spite of their horrific circumstances, have chosen to never let go, never give in and never give up. We'll explore their situations and learn "how" they were able to hang on. How they avoided becoming overwhelmed and dismayed in their trials. How they persevered through them rather than falling apart in them. And, how they took a negative situation and turned it around into a positive one.
Isaiah 41:10 tells us: "Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you. I will uphold you..." This is our promise and this is our hope! But, in order to take advantage of this promise and hope, we must first learn to do our part of the bargain: we must learn how not to be dismayed and how never to give up!
Hebrews 6:12 is another interesting Scripture about longsuffering. It tells us that we are to be followers of them who through faith and patience (i.e., longsuffering) inherit the promises of God. Well, let me ask you a question: Could the reverse also be true? That if we don't learn longsuffering, we won't inherit God's promises. Wow! Read that again! Could this Scripture be telling us that only as we learn to patiently endure will the Lord's promises be fulfilled in our lives? It's just a question for you to think about, but it certainly tells me that longsuffering is an essential "fruit" and that it must be learned in order to embrace all of God's promises.
Definition of Suffering
The definition for the word "suffering" is probably quite different from what you might imagine. Suffering simply means "barring ourselves from following sin and self." In other words, when we choose to bar ourselves from following what we want, what we feel and what we desire, and choose, instead, to follow what Jesus has asked, we often do suffer. It's often very difficult to say "no" to self and "yes" to God; and, difficult to put another's interests and needs before our own.
"Long" suffering is simply a means of un-selfing us. It's a means by which we unlearn all that we have learned so far by the flesh and relearn everything all over again by the Spirit. This in-between learning time is often called "longsuffering."
The root of the word "longsuffering" in the Greek is thumos, which means anger, wrath or indignation. Longsuffering means "holding back or restraining" what we really feel (anger, wrath or indignation) and what we really want to do; and instead, doing what God wants us to do. The way we hold back or restrain our natural response is by choosing to give our anger, wrath and bitterness, etc., to God, rather than acting upon them. Again, it's "barring ourselves from following what we would really like to do" and, instead, doing what God wants us to do. God, then, promises to be our champion, our defender and our vindicator.
When we learn to respond in this way, Romans 5:3-5 tells us we'll be able to "glory in [our] tribulations...knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope; and, hope maketh not ashamed, because the Love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given to us." Note, by the way, the order of spiritual growth here: hope and love are apprehended only after patient enduring and experience. Not before!
I believe the Lord is telling us here that the fruit of longsuffering is absolutely critical to experience, imperative to implement and essential to display. There seems to be eternal consequences!
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