There are a lot of promises given in Scripture to those who follow Christ.
I enjoy reading those promises. Well, I don’t enjoy all of them. One promise reminds those who follow Christ that life is hard. John 16:33 states, “I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.”
Did you catch the imperative in the verse? Christians will suffer in this world.
I found John 16:33 to be true in February 2011. My wife, Rachel, and I had recently joined a church planting team in Hendersonville, Tenn.. We were celebrating so much in life, like this new position in ministry that God had called us to. We were excited as I was ending my seminary education. God had blessed us with an energetic two-year old named Canon. And our second son, Will, would soon be born.
But that excitement soon turned to grief. On February 6, 2011, we found out that our soon-to-be-born son was going to be delivered and that he wouldn’t live long after his birth. William Thomas Rainer lived for 60 minutes.
Our world came crashing down.
My story is one of many. You may have that same moment when your world came crashing down. You may have friends or family that have walked through a time of loss. We all go through loss: loss of a child, loss of a job, loss of a dream, loss of a spouse, loss of a friend, loss of community, loss of something held so dear.
Too often, we deal with hard times and suffering reactively. I learned a few lessons when my son died, but I learned them reactively. My hope is that these brief words will help you proactively deal with suffering, and that, specifically, you will be prepared to live a life of generosity in hard times.
- Lead your family generously.
Shortly after Will died, I put on my work blinders. I had just taken a new ministry position and I hid my grief in my work. My emotional and spiritual availability to my family became minimal. I made the mistake of not leading my family generously. When you go through a loss, stop and listen to your family. Answer the hard questions as best you can. Show an abundance of love and grace. Help them start to uncover God’s big picture. Point your family to Scripture. Lead your family generously.
- Let God use you generously.
Allow me to preface my comments: it’s healthy and appropriate to grieve during (and beyond) a time of loss. Allow others to serve you. It takes time and people pouring into you to make it through a time of loss.
At the same time, God still has a plan for you. God will allow your faith in Him to shine bright. Your response during a difficult time has the opportunity to make a huge impact. You don’t have to act like a superhero. Just keep praising God and give Him His due glory.
For me, it was a simple tweet that said, “I praise the Lord for the life and death of my son, William Thomas.”
After time, God will use your story. God will connect you with others who are walking through the same loss as you. Let God use you generously.
- Generously fall in love with God.
We won’t have all of our questions answered about why things happen the way they do in life until we are face-to-face with our Savior. Not having all the answers is part of us being finite and God being infinite. If we hold to that truth, it produces a vulnerability about who we are as humans. During a time of loss, that vulnerability becomes very evident. Here’s some advice: run to that vulnerability, but don’t stay there. Seek God’s face. Turn to Scripture. Get on your knees and pray. Sing songs of praise as loud as you can. Your vulnerability will turn to an unfiltered awareness of just how awe inspiring God is. And that will lead you to generously fall in love with God.
As I recently drove to my son’s grave, I was captured in the thought that Christians will suffer. Then my thoughts quickly turned to Christ’s empty grave. While my son’s grave will remain until Christ’s return, I can generously tell others that Christ suffered the unfathomable for us, conquered death, and gave us the most generous gift through His resurrection: eternal life with Him.
And that makes me want to live generously for Him.