Avoidable Vs. Unavoidable Suffering

We’ve all done it. An idea sparks in our brain, and we take off after it, forgetting to pause long enough to consider all the important elements we should. Things like what it will cost (financially, emotionally, mentally, physically, relationally….). Things like the long-range effects it will have on our lives, our dreams, and our resources. Things like the honest evaluation (which is NOT meant to be only a self-evaluation) of whether or not the idea is within God’s will and plans and timing for us.

Oops. I’m sure we all have blips on the screens of our lives where we detoured onto a path that ended up marking our journey with some consequences we later realized we could have probably avoided. (Now might be a good time to confess those honestly and humbly before God).

We tend, for comfort’s sake, to chalk these up to life experiences that have shaped us, and we’ve (unfortunately) grown adept at crediting such detours with making us stronger and wiser. It’s good that we are resilient and able to learn from mistakes, I agree. This is a human trait we can definitely celebrate.

But what if we learned to take an honest look at our plans and decisions BEFORE we made them? What if, even before we began to make plans and build on the sparks of ideas that come to our minds, we firmly decided where our feet would and would not ever travel? What if, on the road of our life here on Earth, it would be possible to avoid some of the suffering we’ve just learned to embrace as part of the path?

Before I explain what I mean, let me clarify that I believe there is real value in suffering – in necessary suffering, that is. I don’t believe we can or are supposed to move through our lives without encountering pain and trouble, and I do believe that pain and trouble – when they are appointed – are beautiful tools through which God shapes and molds us.

Jesus never promised a trouble-free life. In fact, He promised the opposite (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+16%3A33&version=NLT). But for that trouble-laden path, He also promised His presence and His power and His comfort and His strength. So we know that we can endure through whatever may come because we are not alone, and because He promised to use the difficult things in this life to grow us up and to prepare us for our eternal life of ruling and reigning with Him in Heaven.

I am not, however, much of a fan of undue or unnecessary suffering. If academic rewards were given for life experience (sidenote: I think they should be), I could have a Ph.D. in the trauma of drama. This is not to boast, but to emphatically state that, in the abundance of my suffering, I’ve noted that there is much which could and should have been avoided.

Quite thankfully, I am able to say this without bitterness or resentment, by the incredible grace of God. Rather than being trapped by the debris of a traumatic life, I have been empowered to glean wisdom and share it with others, so they won’t have to fall into the same pits that I did. This is the beauty of testimony, and the gift of God’s ways as He works in our lives. We can help one other to move away from bondage and toward breakthrough.

So, today, I come bearing wisdom that some might say has been mined from the trenches we have often stumbled our way into. Instead, I attribute the wisdom to its true source: the God Who desires and Who is able to keep us from stumbling into those trenches in the first place. Just as He made it clear in the Garden, in the beginning, so it remains true today: we don’t have to taste life outside of His will to learn how devastating it is. We can, and should actually learn it by avoiding what He does not will, and embracing what He does.

(Sidenote: it is food for thought that we tend to say people have to hit rock bottom before they learn…while this may be human tendency without and before God’s Spirit takes leadership in our lives, it should not be what we expect or accept once someone becomes a follower of Christ. There is a new power and a new expectation available for them as children of God. I say this to challenge my own, often unconscious assessment of people in constant cycles of crisis as I do to challenge yours. May we learn to let our thoughts and assumptions and beliefs be truly informed by the life-giving Word of God, and not our repeated observations and fleshly conclusions.)

In my time with God last week, a Scripture I love came freshly alive to me. Psalm 119:165 says: “Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble.” (NIV)

And yesterday another passage of Scripture joined forces with it, stirring up a revelation I couldn’t wait to share with you today. John 10:3-4 says: “…the sheep recognize the voice of the true Shepherd, for he calls his own by name and leads them out, for they belong to him. And when he has brought out all his sheep, he walks ahead of them and they will follow him, for they are familiar with his voice.” (The Passion Translation)

Together, these Scriptures make it unavoidably clear that God is able to keep His promise in Jude 1:24 (https://biblehub.com/jude/1-24.htm), which says that He is the God Who is able to keep us from stumbling!

Let me put this equation together for us: Following Jesus = Listening to and loving His voice (His Word and instruction) = great peace and no stumbling.

There is not, in this equation, the absence of suffering. But there is the absence of undue, or unnecessary suffering, because Jesus will NEVER lead us out of the will of Father God, nor will He ever lead us into a situation we are not fully equipped to walk through. So, as we truly follow Him (not listening to any other voice and following it – be it the enemy, a worldly distraction, or own heart’s wayward desire), we are assured that we will stand, and not stumble, in whatever path He leads us on.

God promises, for those who follow Him, an abundant and thriving life (John 10:10). This does not mean a life without trouble. It means a life that overcomes all trouble. A life that overflows with peace, joy, strength and hope, even amid the difficulties. It doesn’t mean there isn’t loss and mourning. It does mean that, even in the presence of loss and grief, we are never abandoned, never so overwhelmed by the opposition and the pain that we stumble into greater devastation and destruction.

Instead, by determining that we will follow Jesus, and planting our feet firmly in the path He treads out before us, we are assured that we will break through the difficult places and into the fullness of all that’s been promised for us.

We don’t have to fall into sin! We don’t have to drift into idolatry! We don’t have to backtrack into confusion and despair! We don’t have to stumble into a mess that will distract us from our pursuit of all that God has called us to, and put our destinies on hold yet again.

Dear Woman of Breakthrough, don’t you see that God has given us the secret to the path of the abundant life?! By devoting ourselves completely to following Him, to loving His Word and His ways and firmly clinging to His leadership, we will find ourselves walking through wildernesses and valleys full of shadows, and never getting lost in them. We will walk through them, and into the glory which He has promised will always be found in the midst of and on the other side of them.

I hope this is good news for you! If you are tired of stumbling through season after season, I want to share an empowering truth with you: God has promised that we are fully prepared with all we need to thrive, as we follow Him. And following Him looks like loving His Word, feeding on it daily, and finding His presence there waiting to envelop and empower us.

As we seek Him with our whole hearts, His love will move us into a rooted place, from which our hearts will begin to desire what He desires. And as we take instruction from His Word, and cherish His leadership, we will discover the incredible promise of fullness and abundant life found in Him.

Detours are avoidable. We will be able to embrace the sufferings we encounter in the path of His will because we will know that He has led us there, and we therefore have all we need to see them turned into something glorious. And we will be empowered to shut down any idea sparked in our minds that does not agree with His leadership, that might lead us out of His will and into a path full of stumbling and painful, unnecessary repercussions. We will be able to avoid the kind of suffering we were never intended to know.

How I pray this has enlightened your path today, Beloved One. Our God’s plans for us are worth following. And in His will, we will never lack any good thing.

One final thought I want to leave you with. We like to say that God wastes nothing, and can redeem everything. I believe this is true, and I’ve been a blessed recipient of this truth. But rather than rejoicing in the things God had to redeem because I stepped outside of His will, I wonder what it might be like to celebrate the lack of waste in my life? What might it be like to give God no bloody elbows, and instead be all in and fully available to carry with strong hands the original plans He has reserved for me?

I believe this is a reality we can come to know as we draw near to Jesus with all of our hearts, asking Him to teach us to trust His love, and to love His Word and follow Him as we read and obey it.

I’m excited to see what a life rooted and immovable in the truth looks like! I pray that in the coming season you will experience less stumbling and more of what it’s like to become firmly established in the will of God for your life. There is nothing like being sure-footed in His abundant grace!

{Photo images courtesy of http://www.pixabay.com}

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