February 10, 2018

Misery and good company

A Christian in one of my social media groups just admitted to being dissatisfied with the Lord! While appreciating the gift of eternal life he’s been given, he feels his present life has mainly brought misery and suffering with no end in sight.

If we're honest, most of God's people have had similar feelings at one hard time or another. Perhaps we then discovered how the Bible offers many, many, many examples of complaints and laments!

With that certainty in mind, I looked up “Joy,” “Misery,” and “Suffering" on my "go-to" site, Bible Gateway.

Misery may be a warning.

When the Prophet Jeremiah realized the inevitability of war, his whole body experienced the misery of that knowledge, so he could not keep quiet about it! He had to speak and warn the people:

“My anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain!
Oh the walls of my heart!
My heart is beating wildly;
I cannot keep silent,
for I hear the sound of the trumpet,
the alarm of war,
Jeremiah 4:19, English Standard Version (ESV.)

Misery might also be warning us to let go of old habits and grudges at war with our new nature in Christ.

Misery loves the company of Prophets.

In Jeremiah 20:18, the Prophet asked:

“Why did I come forth from the womb,
to see sorrow and pain,
to end my days in shame?”

New American Bible (Revised Edition), NABRE

Misery might come to sensitive people who not only “see” the sorrow and pain around them but feel it too.

Similarly, Micah 7 begins with these sad words as translated in the Common English Bible (CEB):

“I’m doomed!
I’ve become like one who,
even after the summer fruit has been gathered,
after the ripened fruits have been collected,
has no cluster of grapes to eat,
no ripe fig that I might desire.”

This ability to perceive the plights of others and readily empathize can be a mark of a prophet, then and now. If so, we can follow the example of the Prophet in Micah 7:7 as he resolves to get beyond the misery by trusting and focusing on the Lord.

“But me! I will keep watch for the Lord;
I will wait for the God of my salvation;
my God will hear me.”

Misery loves the company of prayer.

“Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective,”
James 5:13-16, New International Version, NIV.

Misery eventually ends with joy to follow.

As James reminds us:

“Brothers and sisters, take the prophets who spoke in the Lord’s name as an example of suffering and patience. See, we count as blessed those who have endured. You have heard of Job’s endurance and have seen the outcome that the Lord brought about—the Lord is compassionate and merciful,” James 5:10-11, Christian Standard Bible (CSB.)

And, as my favorite Bible verse strongly declares:

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose,” Romans 8:28, New American Standard Bible (NASB.)

Again and again, the Bible lets us know to expect suffering but encourages us to keep faith in God and the promises He gives in Christ Jesus - The One Who Suffered and died for us but then was raised from the dead!

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed,” Romans 8:18-19, New International Version (NIV.)

Misery can draw us closer to God and one another as we recognize, believe in, and accept the Lord’s loving hand in our lives.

Let it be so! So be it. Amen.

Mary Harwell Sayler, ©2018

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