Could there be a more unpalatable idea to us than this? We don’t WANT to suffer – EVER! And we certainly cannot begin to fathom REJOICING in suffering! We only want comfort, ease, health and material wealth. And we have plenty of preachers who are glad to tell us that it’s God’s will for us to be “healthy, wealthy and wise.”
Well – I have to stand up and say emphatically that the prosperity gospel is false teaching! That is not what the Bible tells us to expect as believers. In fact, if the prosperity gospel were true, then Jesus should have been born in human luxury, lived in mansions, had servants and never suffered – certainly He should have never been flogged and crucified as an innocent man!
God sent Jesus here to live in poverty, to suffer for what was right, to receive horrific abuse from us- His enemies at the time, to crush Him so that His wrath could be satisfied and so that we might be free from the punishment we deserve for our sin. If Jesus – Who obviously lived in the very center of God’s will all the time – suffered as part of God’s divine will – we can and should expect to suffer, too.
Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush Him and cause Him to suffer, and though the Lord makes His life a guilt offering, He will see His offspring and prolong His days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in His hand. After the suffering of His soul, He will see the light of life and be satisfied; by His knowledge My righteous Servant will justify many, and He will bear their iniquities.” Isaiah 53:10-11
THE UNFORTUNATE TRUTH ABOUT SINFUL HUMAN NATURE
In the Old Testament, I read it over and over and over again:
“When I fed them, they were satisfied; when they were satisfied, they became proud, then they forgot Me.” Hosea 13:6
God’s blessings of material wealth and prosperity >> our pride >> our self-indulgence >> we think we don’t need God/idolatry
Poverty and suffering >> our humility >> turns our hearts to God in dependence (we see the depths of our need for Him) >> our increased faith in God
Over and over again, prosperity in Israel created stubborn, rebellious, ungrateful hearts. And it was only after God brought disaster and punishment that the people turned to Him and cried out for Him to save them. Prosperity makes us spoiled, selfish and ungodly most of the time. It happens to our children when they get everything they want, and it happens to us as adults, too.
SUFFERING HAS A HOLY PURPOSE
I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and so, somehow, to attain the resurrection from the dead. Philippians 2:10-11
I am the true Vine, and My Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit HE PRUNES so that it will be even more fruitful. John 1:1-2
The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Acts 5:41
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4
(speaking to slaves) If you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in His mouth.” When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats. Instead, He entrusted Himself to Him Who judges justly. He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by His wounds you have been healed. I Peter 2:20-24
Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. I Peter 3:13
Since Christ suffered in His body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. I Peter 4:1-2
Do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the Name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you… If you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that Name. I Peter 4:12-14,16
So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good. I Peter 4:19
Just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. II Corinthians 1:5
Suffering is God’s tool to mold us into the image of Christ. Certain suffering is God’s will for us. (Not for us to suffer for doing wrong, but to suffer for doing right). My temporary happiness is not God’s goal! God uses suffering as discipline to train us in holiness – as a father disciplines the son in whom he delights. Holiness is a vastly more important priority to God for my life than my happiness. He used suffering to keep Paul humble (his thorn in the flesh). He uses suffering to refine our faith, to bring the sin (dross) to the top and skim it off and to purify our faith and make it more valuable and beautiful.
When I know God more and more – how loving, kind and good He is – I don’t have to fear suffering anymore! When I understand His sovereignty and how He will use suffering for my benefit – what would I fear? The only thing to fear is being outside of the will of God. If I am in the will of God, even if that includes suffering, I am safe in His arms. And I can have a gentle and peaceful spirit that does not give way to fear that is of great beauty in the sight of God and my husband. (I Peter 3:6)
WHAT KINDS OF SUFFERINGS MIGHT GOD ALLOW?
- Satanic/demonic attack
- mental strain
- emotional (depression, anxiety – sometimes these can be because of medical conditions, and sometimes they are a result of us cherishing sin – a red flag that it is time to do a sweeping soul search with God’s Word and His light to show us if we are holding on to any sin)
- marital problems
- family issues/problems
- death of a loved one
- suffering because of my sin or because of someone else’s sin or just because of the curse of sin on the world
- health problems
- government oppression
- persecution because of our faith
God tailors and uses the sufferings and trials we experience to accomplish His purposes in our lives.
We are not to seek out suffering or inflict suffering on ourselves. God determines the trials we will face.
I hear SO MANY wives say:
- I don’t want to get hurt. If I show respect, he’ll make decisions to purposely hurt me and our children.
- I don’t want to be taken advantage of. I need to protect myself.
- My husband doesn’t deserve my respect. I don’t want to obey God’s commands for me as a wife.
- My husband has hurt me too much, I can’t obey God.
- My husband isn’t a believer, so I can’t respect him and I can’t submit to him.
- I want to feel loved first by my husband, then I will obey God. God needs to change my husband first.
Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. Matthew 10:39
To live with Jesus as Lord, I must lay down my will, my dreams, my rights, my plans, my wisdom, my expectations, my agenda, my needs, my weakness, my sin and my desires. I sacrifice them to Jesus and I pick up my cross (of sharing in His suffering and death) and follow Him. I die to myself and my flesh and sin. And I live for Christ. So now, I pick up His will, His dreams, His goals, His plans, His wisdom, His power, His righteousness, His holiness and His desires. He plants within me the mind and heart of Christ. He gives me His holy desires.
Thankfully – God wired men to respond to respect and submission with a desire to serve. Most of the time, the more respectful and cooperative a wife is, the more loving, kind, thoughtful and protective a husband will be. But even if our husbands don’t seem to “respond well” to our obedience to God – we are still accountable before God to obey Him. He will rewards us in heaven for how we treat our husbands here – regardless of their response to us.
(If there is physical abuse, drug addiction or infidelity – a wife may not be able to trust her husband or cooperate with his sin during that time – please seek godly, experienced help if this is your current situation!)
There will be emotional and spiritual suffering in marriage as we mature, learn and grow. God will use marriage to expose our own selfishness, pride, idolatry, unforgiveness and sin. He uses all of this to refine us and to bring us to greater maturity.
OUR GOD IS HUGE!
A big part of how we submit and yield ourselves to Jesus on a daily basis and pick up our cross is that we will submit to our husbands’ leadership (unless he is asking us to sin or condone sin). Even if we disagree. Even if we don’t get our way. Even if it doesn’t look like things will work out the way we think they should.
In my view, this is one of a woman’s biggest tests of her faith in Christ.
I have been AMAZED at the ways God has worked things out in my personal life when I submitted to my husband – even when I disagreed – how God caused things to happen that were so much better than anything I could have asked for or imagined. God’s wisdom is INFINITELY HIGHER than my own! It doesn’t matter if I get “my way” – I want God’s will! He is the only one Who knows how to get me there – so I have to trust Him to lead me through my husband.
Our God is big enough and “sovereign enough” that He is able to lead us through our sinful husbands when we have a heart to love and obey Him above all else!
Our husbands DON’T deserve our respect. But God commands us to respect them. And if God commands it, I need to do it even if I don’t understand or agree. Now – I can see that God is commanding us to give our husbands what they NEED to thrive and become more godly – not what they deserve. But even if I can’t see why God commands me to do something, it is my duty before Him to obey Him.
We don’t deserve our husbands’ unconditional love and godly leadership. We can be REALLY unlovable sometimes! I know that I sure can! But we NEED it. That is why God commands husbands to do those things.
This is not about giving our husbands what we think they deserve. What all people deserve is punishment from a holy God. We don’t want what we deserve!
This journey of faith is about obeying God, seeking His will and His way and His glory. It is about bringing healing, God’s power and strength and unity to marriage for God’s glory. It is about keeping the gospel of Christ shining brightly without tarnishing it by our rebelliousness. Titus 2:5 says that wives are to be subject to their husbands so that the word of God will not be maligned. When I take control in my marriage – the very gospel of Christ is injured! MAY IT NEVER BE! Our obedience to God’s Word is SO MUCH BIGGER than our own marriages! Our obedience to Him in our marriages draws others to Christ – and our disobedience will repel them.
If my husband is doing wrong, God says that it is His to avenge, He will repay. We can trust Him to handle revenge and justice in His time and His way for His glory. I must respectfully and cautiously confront sin at times (keeping my eyes constantly on my own motives and pride – making sure I am not in sin myself) – but God’s Spirit is plenty capable of changing my husbands’ heart and convicting him in His time and His way. He does not need my help! I would only get in the way and stall things and make it hard for my husband to hear God’s voice! In fact, I have done that many times – and it did not work!
I pray that You might help us to embrace suffering that is in Your will for us! Help us to see that there will be pain and suffering in marriage and that You use that to make us holy and more like Jesus and that suffering is a HUGE blessing when we embrace it as Your tool to refine our faith and test our character and make us more spiritually mature. Help us be willing to sacrifice ourselves in order to obey You in our marriages. Help us be willing to suffer for what is right if necessary. Use us to repay evil with good and cursing with blessing. Use us to show Your kindness to our husbands – even when they don’t deserve it. Let us lay down our sin – our unforgiveness, bitterness, idolatry, wanting to control things ourselves, anxiety, lust, gossip, jealousy, hatred, malice, rebelliousness and every sin that displeases You. Fill us with Your Spirit and Your power to become the godly wives You desire us to be. Use us to greatly bless our husbands and children. We can’t do this in our own strength. Help us to abide in You daily, praise You constantly, sing songs of praise and gratitude to You in our hearts all day long, pray fervently without ceasing and seek You above all else in our lives. Let us love You wholeheartedly and let us give ourselves fully to You without any reservation. Use us to be Your faithful servants and to bring You honor and praise.
In the Name and power of Christ,