Welcome to week 5, the final installment, of my attempt to put into writing the material I recently taught at a women 's Bible study. I wish you could have been there, because there is no way to adequately cover in a blog post all of the Scripture studied, the stories told or the rich insights shared by the women who attended. That said, I pray you will be encouraged by the snippet of lessons taught through this series.


In my last four posts, I wrote about God 's desire for us to renew our minds, thus transforming our lives so that we might experience all the freedom and fullness available to God 's children through His Son Jesus. Paul explained it so beautifully in Romans 12:2, Don 't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God 's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

I don 't know about you, but one of the most difficult questions I wrestle with is, Why? Why does a good God allow so much pain and suffering in this world? When tragedies occur like the recent Connecticut school shootings, or divorce, or premature death, or devastating accidents and illnesses, I am tempted to cry out with the rest of the world, What a waste.   

Now, I confess, I am no theologian. And, I don 't claim to have all the answers, but one of the ways God has changed my thinking, the past few years, is by giving me a new view of joy, suffering and hope. And, just as a caterpillar is transformed from it's limited view on the ground into a butterfly with a view from way up in the sky, my mind is being renewed from a lowly human perspective to God's higher, heavenly one.

1) A New View of Joy
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 1 Peter 1:6-7

For most of my Christian walk, I thought this passage meant I should rejoice in the trials that came my way, because it meant my faith was being refined and proved genuine. While this is true, one day, while meditating on this passage, I suddenly understood that Peter was not telling me to rejoice in my trials. No, what he was referring to were the passages preceding, In this you greatly rejoice. 

The THIS Peter was referring to is, That the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, in his great mercy...has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God 's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. I Peter 1:3-6

2) A New View of Suffering
Since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God 's glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering. Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. Romans 8:17-18

Several years ago, after I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis, I memorized the verse above, as well as the passages in I Peter and many other scriptures. In them, I found great comfort as I began to see how God is able to use the pain and suffering in our lives. And, for the past four years, I have needed and clung to those promises more than ever as I have walked alongside family and friends through unbearable pain and unthinkable loss.

One on the passages I hung on to through dark days and fearful nights, was in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

3) A New View of Hope
We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. Romans 5:2-5

Before my bout with Rheumatoid Arthritis, and my long walk through the valley of the shadow of death beside loved and dear ones, it was easy to fix my eyes on what was seen and on what was temporary. Until then, I hoped for normal things. As a girl, I hoped to one day get married and have children. Then once I became a wife and mommy, I hoped for worldly possessions like a big house or a nice car. Of course, I also hoped and prayed for the Lord 's provision and His protection as well as health and happiness.

The last few years, after experiencing pain and suffering more deeply than ever before, my hope is no longer anchored in the wish for the temporal things of this world; the things seen and coveted by my human eye and fleshly heart. Instead, more and more, I am beginning to understand that God has eternal purposes for our temporal pain. My hope is becoming deeply rooted in the promises and truths in the Word of God; for the things that are eternal and unseen.

Isaiah 55:8-9 says, My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
This is so true! The longer I abide in Jesus, the more I learn the truths in my Bible and cling the promises of God, the more certain I am that somehow NO TRAGEDY IS A WASTE when entrusted into the loving, powerful, and redemptive hand of God! And, I am so thankful as God renews my mind, teaching me His higher thoughts and showing me His higher ways, that I am gaining a new and glorious view of joy, suffering and hope.

Dear reader, as we come to the end of this series, I am praying that like a beautiful butterfly, you will soar to new heights, and see a new view of joy, suffering and hope. I encourage you to look at the Word of God through fresh eyes. Look for truths to replace the lies that have held you captive. Discover and claim the promises that are part of your new identity as God's precious child. And, ask the Lord to give you a growing appetite for His Word that will nourish your soul, renew your mind and transform your life in order that you might enjoy all the freedom and fullness that is yours in Christ Jesus our Lord!

Scriptures for Further Study:

I Peter 1:3-7; I Peter 2:20-24; I Peter 3:13-17; I Peter 4:1-2, 12-13; I Peter 5:6-12

Ephesians 1:17-19; Romans 5:2-9; Romans 8:16-25; 2 Corinthians 1:3-11

2 Corinthians 4: 16-18; Titus 1:1-7