When we experience problems or pain, suffering or stress, rejection or persecution, illness or weariness, depression or death, poverty or treachery, hardship or hate … or anything else that’s unexpected, unwanted, unplanned … we tend to feel that for some reason God is not pleased with us. That we are not as blessed as those who have none of the above.
Yet, actually, the opposite may be true. Some of the richest blessings come out of the most severe brokenness. There are four blessings in particular that are uniquely reserved for those whose hearts and lives have been trampled in some way. Abraham’s great-grandson Joseph perhaps said it best when he named his second son Ephraim … because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering (Genesis 41:52).
One year ago this August, my husband of 49 years moved to our Father’s House. He left suddenly … without saying goodbye. The shock was horrific. But even during the days that followed, I knew that God had not been caught by surprise. Danny’s move was not an accident—at least from Heaven’s perspective. So I began to look for God’s blessings. They were easy to find because He showered them down in abundance, and is still doing so today. But I have had to choose to open my eyes and focus on the blessings instead of on the pain and grief.
If you are broken for whatever reason, be encouraged. Maybe you, too, need to adjust your focus. Could it be that God has also singled you out for His blessings?
The Blessing of Confidence in Faith
- What was one primary reason Jesus allowed Lazarus to die, according to John 11:15? Give the phrase.
- How was this same reason applied to Lazarus’ sister, Martha? Read John 11:21-27, 36-44.
- In 1 Peter 1:6-7, what does Peter say is one purpose of our suffering?
- How should this affect our attitude, according to 1 Peter 1:6?
- Give phrases from the following verses that refute the idea that God wants everyone to be happy, healthy, wealthy and problem free: 1 Peter 4:19; Isaiah 48:10; Luke 24:25-26.
- How did the Apostle Paul’s personal experience also refute the idea that a blessed life is a problem-free life? Consider 2 Corinthians 11:23-33; 12:7-10.
- How did hardship affect the faith of Habakkuk? See Habakkuk 3:16-19.
- How did hardship affect the faith of Job? See Job 23:10-12.
- According to Hebrews 12:2-3, what was our Lord’s attitude when He suffered the ultimate humiliation, rejection and pain of the cross?
- How does the writer to the Hebrews encourage us to handle hardship, in Hebrews 10:32-36?
- How have hardships affected your faith?
The Blessing of Compassion for Others
- What is one compelling reason God allows followers of Jesus to suffer? Consider 2 Corinthians 1:3-7.
- How is this reason also evident as a result of the suffering of Jesus Himself? Read Hebrews 4:15-16.
- When we suffer, especially at the hands of others, what attitude are we not to have? See Ephesians 4:29-32; Hebrews 12:14-15.
- When we suffer at the hands of others, what attitude should we have? See 1 Peter 3:8-9.
- What encouragement do you receive from 1 Peter 4:19? 5:10-11?
The Blessing of Companionship with God
- What phrase indicates that triumphant suffering underscores your identity with God? See 1 Peter 4:16; Zechariah 13:9.
- As Paul reflected on his experience of facing the Roman emperor Nero and an arena of hungry lions, what dominated his memory, in 2 Timothy 4:16-18?
- What goals had Paul set for himself previously that would have carried him through the horrific persecution he experienced? See Philippians 3:7-11.
- What do you think the “fellowship of His suffering” means? Put it in your own words.
- How is the fellowship of His suffering reflected in Holy Communion? Compare Matthew 20:20-22 with Matthew 26:26-28.
- Next time you take Communion, would you take a moment to thank God for His sweet companionship and the blessed privilege of being identified with Him in His death … and in His life?
The Blessing of Christlike Character
- How has Jesus set the example for us? Read Hebrews 5:7-8; 1 Peter 2:20-22.
- In 1 Peter 1:7-9; 4:12-14, what does Peter say suffering reveals?
- What was revealed in the suffering of Paul in Galatians 6:17-18? Of John in Revelation 1:9?
- Apply Malachi 3:3-4, 17 to the effects of suffering in a believer’s life. Write out the example in your own words. See 1 John 3:2-3.
- When you are in pain or under pressure or being persecuted, what do your close friends and family see in you?
The next time you experience something unpleasant or unjust or unkind or undeserved, “consider it pure joy” because you know that there are blessings in store for you (James 1:2-3). ©2016 Anne Graham Lotz
Anne Graham Lotz has proclaimed God’s Word worldwide for more than 30 years. Her latest book, The Daniel Prayer, is available from major booksellers.