Dear Friends in Yeshua,
Suffering: Today’s Reality
As I prayed, I sensed that the topic for this month’s newsletter was obvious and inescapable: SUFFERING. Our world is suffering. All creation groans (Rom. 8:22). While suffering is part of the universal human condition, as we draw closer to the return of Messiah, suffering is increasing—both in frequency and intensity. No one escapes this suffering, whether it comes in the form of sickness, poverty, heartache, homelessness, natural disasters, racism, abuse, war, or death.
If you read your local newspapers, open your cell phone, or turn on your television, suffering assaults you. You also encounter suffering if you open your Bible. (Both God and men suffer throughout its pages. Suffering and sacrifice were very much a part of the early church.)
Due to technology, human suffering today is in our face—whether it is the churches in Northern China that have been blown up with congregants suffering at the hands of Communist authorities, or the tragedies occurring in the Ukraine with horrific deaths and mass displacement, or nineteen children and two teachers gunned down in an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, or Christians in Nigeria being abducted, gunned down, and murdered execution-style, or the mass shooting of ten black people and three others injured in a Buffalo, NY supermarket.
The U.S.A., as a country, is suffering this month, even as we celebrate Independence Day on July 4th. Many are still suffering from terrible loss due to Covid-19, weather disasters have devastated communities; there is racial discord, infanticide, economic meltdown, an assault on biblical values and freedoms, a mental health crisis among our youth, a spirit of violence and murder unleashed from coast to coast, and much suffering in many areas due to the cumulative effect of SIN. The wages of sin is still death (Rom. 6:23). We have brought much of the suffering upon ourselves by turning away from God and His Word. His judgment is upon us.
Suffering: Revealing Love
To my knowledge, I have never written on suffering in my 42 years of writing monthly newsletters. My recent second bout with breast cancer quickened this topic to my spirit and gave me a new perspective on, and experience with, suffering. I could write a book on the amazing time that I have had with the Lord in the past eight to nine months. I am a widow, I live alone, but the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) has taken up residence in my condominium in a very beautiful, concrete way. Before, during, and after major surgery, the joy of the Lord has been my portion. There is an “open heaven” in my home. I believe that suffering and joy are not mutually exclusive. Neither are suffering and love.
From 2/11/22 (pre-surgery) until 4/26/22 (surgery), my walk with Messiah might be summarized as follows: “I can’t keep up with the Goodness of God.” (There is a song about this). Many of you also sent me comforting and encouraging verses from the Bible, such as, “And the LORD, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed” (Deut. 31:8). I felt as if you were with me in my “suffering,” sharing in my mental and emotional trial (I experienced relatively little physical pain).
On the day before surgery, I was re-editing my book, Kiss Me Again, following the detailed proofing done by one of our ministry partners who is incarcerated in Kingman, AZ. (He found all the typos and errors.) As I reached Day 39, the Lord spoke to me—through me! I began to laugh and cry at the same time. I mention in that day’s devotional that as a result of the cancer episode of 2012, I learned that I don’t love God enough! I then wrote: “I believe that there is a place in God where we have such confidence in His love for us that we don’t question Him at all. We are so hidden in the Beloved, that the trials of this life don’t move us. We have a deep knowledge that our God is holding us in His loving arms just as a mother holds her infant child. This kind of faith and trust only works through love. That is why I need more love. I want my first response in any trial to be: ‘I love You, Abba, and You know what is best for me. I choose to praise You, trust You, and abide in Your perfect love.'” It took me ten years to get to that place, but by the grace of God, I did.
Your love and prayers also availed much. Thank you. Our response to suffering does reveal our love and trust in God. And His love for us can be sublimely manifested in the midst of suffering. Consider Joseph. God’s love was with him in Pharaoh’s prison. His suffering was redemptive. (Gen. 50:20) And Daniel in a den of lions! (Dan. 6:22) And David on the run, hiding from King Saul. (I Sam. 21-23; Psalm 63)
These men of God experienced God’s love and favor in the midst of their darkest hours. We can as well—if God is at the center of our universe. Is He Sovereign? Is He Good? Is He Love? I listened to an amazing message by Joni Eareckson Tada on YouTube titled: “Emotions in the Face of Suffering.” She very candidly speaks of her struggle with pain from quadriplegia followed by a diagnosis of third stage breast cancer in 2010. My suffering has been nothing compared to hers! After an intense emotional struggle, Joni received a new revelation of Hebrews 4:15, and concluded that pain had riveted her focus on herself—that she needed to refocus on the Messiah (her High Priest), and that she needed to let suffering work in her further death to self. She began to reach out to others in her suffering. It greatly helped.
A quote from The Well-Watered Woman by Gretchen Saffles best sums up the connection between God’s love and suffering: “When your roots run deep in God’s goodness and steadfast love, nothing can shake you or break you forever. His goodness and unfailing love hold us together when life is falling apart. When we’re not okay, we remember that our attitudes of praise are dependent not on the ease of our circumstance but on the fact that God is good—period (see Psalm 136).” “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28).
Suffering: Related to Glory
There is a book in the Brit Hadashah (New Covenant) that has a lot to say about suffering. In fact, every chapter in I Peter has a reference to suffering: 1:6-9; 2:19-25; 3:8-22; 4:1-2, 12-19; and 5:1,9. The Apostle Peter was writing to believers who were suffering, even dying, for their faith. The word “glory” often appears in connection with suffering. An odd combination? Not biblically. “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Messiah’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy” (I Peter 4:12-13). Present suffering and future glory are also connected in Romans 8:18, “For I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”
While the sufferings spoken of in reference to the early church often referred to persecution, I believe we can also apply these verses to various types of suffering. For example, physical suffering. We know that I could have avoided major cancer surgery if God had healed me supernaturally. Many of you had faith for that. But God had another plan. The revelation of His glory included another path to healing. There were lives to be touched and lessons to be learned. My life is not all about me, but about God’s glory being revealed through me—and you! “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory…” (II Cor. 4:17; see also 4:18).
The Bible is clear. Glory follows suffering. Our light affliction works something of eternal value in us. Our present darkness, trials, afflictions are not an end in themselves. B.H. Clendennen once said, “Blessed is the hour when the sun goes down and it grows dark, for then we see the glory of heaven’s stars.” Our Messiah said, “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Trials and testing come. We are not saved from suffering, but through suffering. God’s power is made perfect in weakness. (II Cor. 12:9) The Well-Watered Woman says succinctly: “God never promised me a pain-free life—in fact, the challenges are the places where He reveals His glory best.”
Suffering: Identification and Compassion
Suffering helps us identify with the pain of others. It engenders compassion: com (with) passion (suffering). People are suffering all around us, believers and unbelievers alike. I Peter 5:9 alludes to this when he tells us to resist the enemy in the midst of our suffering, “Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.” “And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it…” (I Cor. 12:26). We see the Apostle Paul encouraging the believers in the Book of II Thessalonians as they were being persecuted for their faith in the Messiah Yeshua. Note that they were not suffering because they did something wrong, but because they did something right.
A passion for lost souls is identifying with Yeshua—part of the “fellowship of His sufferings” in Philippians 3:10. His burden should be our burden. I asked the Lord to make my cancer trial fruitful—to save souls in the midst of it. He did! God is always Faithful. I have said before that I consider Uber or Lyft to be mission fields on wheels. Our first Lyft driver from the Houston airport to the medical center was looking to begin a new season of life. Ripe fruit. He prayed with me in front of our hotel to receive the Lord, and said, “I feel better already.” When a dear rebbetzin friend relayed this salvation story to her daughter, the principal of a local Christian school, the Holy Spirit convicted her of not sharing Jesus with parents who come for interviews. She stepped out in faith and asked a couple if they had a personal relationship with the Lord (she had assumed they did!). They did not. She then led them to the Lord and was grateful for the example of the Lyft driver.
I love what happened in the Physical Therapy department of MD Anderson. The receptionist overhead me talking on the phone, saying that I was very cold. She left her desk to bring me a warm blanket. I knew that God had a plan for her. The warm blanket ended up bringing her into the warm embrace of Yeshua. After she prayed with me to receive the Lord, another woman behind us at a desk shouted, “Halleluyah!”—a believer probably praying for her co-worker to receive the Lord. A mini revival followed. JOY.
Please pray for me as I embrace the suffering of Yeshua for the 8,000 people here in my condominium community. The word “passion” (e.g. Passion of the Christ) means to suffer, bear, or endure. We get the words patience and patient from this. Pray for my patience with our “Know the Bible Club,” that my pre-believing neighbors will be drawn to the Islamorada Room in the clubhouse to hear the Word of God, on the 2nd and 4th Mondays of the month from 7-9 PM. May they be saved!
Suffering: Preceding Redemption
There is a concept in traditional Judaism called Chevlei Mashiach חבלי משיח (KHEV-lay mah-SHEE-akh), the birth pangs of Messiah. This refers to the time of great suffering which must be endured prior to Mashiach’s coming. A similar thought is found in Romans 8:22, “For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.” Both are in agreement. Suffering will precede redemption. But for us, as Messianic believers, the Messiah is coming a second time, not the first. He came the first time as the Passover Lamb. He is returning as the King of kings and Lord of lords.
What are our present birth pangs? It seems to me that the ones about whom the Messiah said, “Suffer [permit] the little children to come unto Me…” (Matt. 19:14 KJV) are perhaps suffering the most. They are being murdered in the womb through abortion, subjected to ungodly instruction concerning gender identity, gunned down in their classrooms, persecuted for their faith in schools, starving and dying due to war, and separated from parental protection due to various circumstances. Children! Suffering. The enemy is targeting the most vulnerable among us.
Of course, there is suffering due to plagues, persecution, earthquakes, famine, hatred, violence, and war. We should expect these to increase before the return of our Messiah. This period is called Yemot HaMashiach ימות המשיח(yeh-MOHT ha-mah-SHEE-akh), the Days of Mashiach or Messianic Era, and is the period when Mashiach is becoming revealed in the world.
During the middle of May, our temple secretary was driving near a local Chabad (Orthodox synagogue) here in Fort Lauderdale. The street was filled with cars, people, and even a band. They were chanting a Hebrew word and were very excited. Wanda stopped and asked one of the Jewish young men what was going on. He said that they were celebrating because Mashiach was coming. (They know this because a well-known rabbi had just died and his death was supposedly connected with Yemot HaMashiach). The word they were shouting was geulah גאולה (geh-oo-LAH)—redemption. (Yeshua is our Goel גואל [go-EL], our Redeemer.) “Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near” (Luke 21:28).
Suffering: The Jewish Messiah
So much could be written about our Suffering Messiah. Isaiah prophesied over 700 years before He was born that He would suffer and die for the sin of His people. “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted” (Isa. 53:4). Yeshua came down to earth to meet us where we are—in our suffering. He became human to experience first-hand what it means to be alone, to grieve, to have pain and disease, disappointment, fear, and anxiety. Yeshua suffered rejection, betrayal, and even abandonment by His Father on the tree of sacrifice. He suffered the torture of crucifixion for our sake. (Heb. 2:9) He suffered greatly to make our suffering light. (Matt. 11:28-30).
Yeshua is with us in our suffering, longing to make our suffering redemptive, just as His suffering was. When is our suffering redemptive? When it results in spiritual growth, godly character, fruit, increased consecration, and a closer walk with our Messiah. An English preacher of the 1800s, F.W. Robertson, once said, “Life is not done, and our Christian character is not won, so long as God has anything left for us to suffer, or anything left for us to do.”
Suffering: Bridal Preparation
Suffering, in the life of Yeshua’s bride, is never an end in itself. The end of any baptism of trials is a higher place in God, if we yield to the work of His Spirit within us, always keeping an ETERNAL PERSPECTIVE. Concerning God’s plan in preparing a bride for His Son, Paul Keith Davis says, “God is presently operating like a blacksmith, using the pressures of this world and personal circumstances to forge for Himself a weapon for its work that is to bring to ruin the destroyer. Once complete, no weapon will be successful in its attempt to overcome this community of champions (Isa. 54:16-17).”
Pray with me: “Abba, thank You that You have made me part of an overcoming bride. I know that whatever suffering I may endure, You are with me as You promised. Nothing or no one can ever separate Me from Your love. I trust in Your Goodness and know that You will not allow more suffering than I can handle. Help me to yield to Your Holy Spirit as He perfects me to be able to carry Your anointing in these Last Days, that You may be glorified in my life and Your kingdom increased. In the Name of Yeshua, Amen.”
“But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Messiah Yeshua, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you” (I Peter 5:10),