Claudine Phillips

Living in the suffering

The IF:Gathering has become an old friend to me….. and she’s only three years old. She’s an old friend who is loyal and deep, who I love to be around and love me when I am around her. We can laugh together, cry the ugly cry, and mostly just be together. She comes with no judgement, expectations, or agenda. She just arrives. Front and center. Smack in the middle of my heart every February for the past three years. I welcome her. She welcomes me. It’s a good thing.

This year’s IF has been no different. When she saw me across the room she dropped everything and ran towards me with a ridiculous smile and outstretched arms ready to hold me tight. And, as usual, she has not let go.

As my days after IF unfold, I am caught breathless with the instances God places before me that can be mistaken as coincidence, yet {knowing full and well} it is God tapping in His light into my world one moment at a time. Re-occuring themes that stop me in my tracks, conversations that seem to happen above me, and the Word screaming at me saying “Journal this! Journal this!” have me spinning.

As I was driving away from dropping my girl off to her areal silks class the other day, my thoughts rumbled through my mind.  I confessed to God, “I just am overwhelmed with the amount of information, clarity, and the messages you have placed on my heart. I want to share ALL NOW, but have this pull in my soul that says ‘Wait’. Help me Lord, help me discern your truth in my words.”

So here I sit, a few days later, feeling like its time to talk . I pray, as I am pounding out my heart-thoughts on this keypad, I share His message.  That this is for you, my friend. Or maybe it is for your friend, or neighbor, or sister. I pray it is a message that God wants to be heard through ‘this little blog of mine.’

The interview Rebekah Lyons led, which she mentioned that there is “Living in the Suffering”, is the story that seems to float to the top today. It is no coincidence that a special time with some of my favorite women during our Christ-centered yoga-book study last night dripped with ‘leaning into suffering’ with one of the women, or that my time in the Word since IF has embraced comfort in the suffering or that I am in my own season of being on the other side of a storm and crave to “be” with those that have suffered similarly.

The other night, a friend of mine jumped feet first in her despair. She stepped into the grace and love of her people and revealed her pain. Without even telling us all the details of her suffering, she called out questions like “How did you…?” to those that she knew has experienced the same pain. She voiced “I am so afraid of…..” to the group, and she sobbed openly. She was groping for understanding in the suffering. We sat there, in awe of her courage, grieving for her season, and stood in the communion of comfort through our stories and prayer. As each one of us shared our own storms and how God saw us through, I watched community unfold. I watched what living in the suffering looked like. I was moved to tears by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Some of us shared details of her similar suffering as others empathized through their own stories of their storm and redemption. We can give compassion even if we have not experienced the same pain. Just to step in and live in the suffering with them empowers, encourages, and comforts the hurting.

“Why does God allow suffering?” was asked in a group conversation yesterday at lunch. There is a reason for our suffering ladies. Romans 5:3-5 NIV says “…we know that suffering produces perseverance;  perseverance, character; and character, hope.” and James 1: 4 says “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” I hate to break this to you, but God desires for us to grow continually, never stopping. This growth brings us closer to Him, empowers us to tell about our redemption through Him; saving lives. Our suffering actually brings God the glory.

With suffering brings comfort. If I had not had my people during my storm, I have no idea how it would have unfolded. I am so glad I didn’t have to find that out. It took courage for my friends to stand in the discomfort of my mess, as well as bravery on my part, to face the mess. It took me, trusting a God who was silent at that time, yet still delivers, to reach out to my people and ask questions when I doubted His presence, to sob with and talk about my pain, and it took me to lean into my own suffering and stand in the truth of the mess. Paul points out to the people of Corinth that sharing in others’ suffering actually brings you and them comfort.”Your hard times are also our hard times. When we see that you’re just as willing to endure the hard times as to enjoy the good times, we know you’re going to make it, no doubt about it.” 2 Corinthians 1:7 MSG When you see others suffering, you can extend love in sharing your story, a meal, or even a hug because you know what pain is. You have suffered before. You know what she is looking for. Share in her pain and see the comfort you feel and the comfort you can give.

Suffering draws us near, brings comfort, and creates dependence.  Paul continues to share with his people that His suffering created dependence on his God.  “Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God,who raises the dead.” Have you ever felt like you were going to die, the pain was so unbearable? I have and its a pain I will never forget. I remember the pain, not because of the magnitude and depths of it, but because of the deliverance, only God could give, that came after. Not one person could have taken the pain of loosing a child in miscarriage, but one person can make a meal or share her story and help while the Healer begins His work.

God is at work in us through our sufferings, friends.  Never doubt this. It’s not to punish you or make our life hard because we did something dishonorable. We live in a fallen world and he uses evil for good. {Genesis 50:20}  It’s to draw us near. It’s to show and receive comfort through fellowship, and it’s to create dependence on Him that grows us up and day by day.

Lean into the suffering. Don’t run away from an opportunity to make heaven more crowded!

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Genesis 50:20

There are more stories God has placed on my heart and has not given me the “go” just yet; however, He continues to stir as He always does after the IF:Gathering. I/m looking forward to sharing those stories with you as they unfold. If you missed IF for some reason , I am sure, beyond your control {smirk}, there is an opportunity to download it here: IF:Gathering 2016 

I had an opportunity to vlog IF:Gathering 2016 this year while it was unfolding! Each video recaps a few speakers at a time. Check out the link here to see the vlog series!

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