Okay, I’m going to take a stab at this one, although our class was rowdy and got started late, so they were still going when I left. Also, the leader of the day had a long list of scriptures on the board, many of which were not in the book, so I kept getting lost until I figured out they were up on the wall. Unfortunately, I did not write them down, so that is another difficulty. Anyway, the principle is, “Adversity is a bridge to a deeper relationship with God.” That was based on Philippians 3:10-11.
Now the commentary part started out with the idea that people tend to gather around us and enjoy celebrating when life is all about prosperity. But suffering feels lonely, as if no one understands what we are going through. Grief can be particularly difficult. Our friends may try to comfort us, but fail to get through the emotional fog of grief. Often we feel distant from God as well, even though there are plenty of verses that assure us, like Psalm 34:18, that He is near and He cares.
Here we got some additional perspective as our leader has led grief support groups. She acknowledged that people often either back off, not knowing what to say, or say the wrong things. Once she went to a training seminar, where papers were passed around noting what not to say to a grieving person. But even the professionals often break those rules when they themselves are grieving a serious loss, such as that of a child. In addition, many people expect you to simply be over it in a year or so, when often the second year is worse than the first. One member shared how hurtful it was to hear someone say she should be over her miscarriage, just when she was most aware that it was the date the child would have been born. Well, we had a couple of other examples of thoughtlessness of people, but we were looking for where to find God when we are suffering.
So we moved on to 2Co. 11, where Paul talks about all the things he has suffered for the cause of Christ, particularly verse 23, where he talks about how his sufferings qualify him in ways that being an Israelite or a Pharisee do not. We had some discussion about wealth, since apparently the Pharisees, as the educated class, would have had more than say, the fishermen, such as Peter. And wealth led to more than simply status, in that time, but people assumed that if you were wealthy it was because your religious observances had led to blessings from God. Of course, He can bless us with prosperity, but as someone else pointed out, whether you see it as coming from God and how you use that wealth for God’s kingdom, or merely for your own comfort, would appear to make a difference here. And yet Paul gave up those creature comforts and put himself in a position where he was flogged, stoned and given up for dead, shipwrecked, etc. And he said he would rather glory in his sufferings for Christ and the church. Wow! I can’t see many of us being ready to make such a trade-off.
We were then asked to think of what we have given up for the sake of Christ. One person gave up her marriage and oldest child. That’s harsh, but she has no regrets, since God has continued to lead her. Most of us simply pondered that question. I suspect most have given up something, perhaps the dream of the perfect marriage or the perfect job. Many have dealt with our imperfect children and struggled our way through raising and educating them. Some have given up good jobs to take ones at lesser pay.
Anyway, it was somewhere around this point when I slid out to go to the late service. Life lessons from the book were, “When adversity strikes we should immediately turn to God.” That’s based on Ps. 40:1-3. The other one was this, “Adversity is a tool which God uses to shape His servant for service,” from 1Pet. 1:6-7. That’s somewhat comforting, although with all sorts of folks searching for jobs and not finding them, many losing homes, I’m not sure they would find it very comforting. Fortunately, on the prayer front, we had mainly good news in the jobs category this week, but I do have a good friend in serious need of employment at present, and I want to be careful about how I respond to her. God may be working on her character, or getting ready to do some healing, but right now I think she feels abandoned by Him.