“Do not let your hearts be troubled…” —John 14:1, NIV
Bring up suffering with a group of Christians and you’re almost guaranteed to push people’s theological hot buttons. The questions will go something like this:
Does God cause my suffering or does He simply allow me to experience life in a sin-filled world? Does He want to use my circumstances to mold my character? Is there something I need to learn or do to escape the emotional or physical agony of being trapped in moments of trauma and crisis? Does He cause me pain on purpose or is this situation some kind of cosmic accident that I need to survive?
Those are all good questions. Important questions. But today, I’m struggling with a different question.
How much suffering do I cause myself?
What a sobering thought because why would I want to suffer? I’m the wimpiest of wimps. If I know pain waits for me around the corner, my first thought is to run the other direction, whether it takes me miles out of my way or not.
But if I’m honest, I have invited pain into my life. Many times.
I’ve allowed myself to fall into a place of worry by default. I what if my circumstances to death, building up scenarios that may never come, while I work out ways to tackle demons that may not even exist.
When faced with obstacles, I tend to embrace the fight part of flight or fight. I have internal emotional claustrophobia. I can’t stand that feeling of my chest squeezing in on itself and so my first reflex is to grab my metaphorical sword and start slashing my way out of my circumstances.
But what if confinement is where I’m supposed to rest?
What if, when it comes to the battle I’m facing, I’m supposed to drop my sword and let God fight for me?
What if I’m supposed to do nothing?
Do nothing. What a backwards, upside-down thought. A contradictory thought that goes against every instinct I have for survival.
I rediscovered Ephesians 6:13-18 the other day in a completely new way.
Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
Think about this verse for a minute.
Therefore put on the full armor of God …
God’s armor. Not mine. Without Him, I am nothing. I have no protection.
… so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then …
I’m instructed to stand, not fight. Just stand.
… with the belt of truth buckled around your waist …
I see this belt as solid around my core, keeping my back straight. I’m not bending over in agony. I’m standing tall. But never on my strength.
… with the breastplate of righteousness in place …
A breastplate covers the heart, right where I need the most protection, because in the midst of a storm, my heart aches.
… and with your feet fitted with the readiness …
Readiness. To move when He tells me. No need to spin through hours or days of what if’s. He’s in control. I don’t have to prepare. He’s preparing me.
… that comes from the Gospel of peace.
Peace as armor. I always seem to forget that one. Peace that passes understanding. I won’t even try to figure out how. I’ll just close my eyes and accept this gift.
In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
Those what if’s? They’re arrows. But I have a shield.
Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.
No matter what the outcome of my current storm, I am His and He is mine. That is guaranteed in His Word.
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
I am supposed to pray and let Him be my champion. Sometimes it’s easier to pray for someone else. That’s the body of Christ. Praying for each other in times of strife. I will forget myself and lift up others in their time of need.
As I think back through all the difficulties I’ve faced, one question remains. How much suffering have I brought upon myself when God’s command was simply to wait?
Relax. Breathe. No matter what circumstances you’re facing. We’re in this together, with Him, and He’s not going anywhere.
*This article was originally written/published by the author under the title “Suffering by Default.”