Posted by: rhenderson8110 | March 16, 2014

Long Suffering: Building a Relationship With God Through it All

Recently I was asked to speak at a Women’s Weekend in Cincinnati on the fruit of the Spirit, long suffering. Unfortunately I was too ill to present but a friend stepped in a presented parts of my speech. I thought I’d share the complete version below. My task was to give a personal example and then elaborate. Hope you enjoy it!

It’s tough to give a personal example of long suffering when you’re only 25 and haven’t had a ‘long’ time to ‘suffer.’ However, trials often seem never-ending when you’re in them and enduring a phase that is not pleasant allows anyone to feel like they’re suffering for a long time. So, I wanted to share with you the experience of suffering through a job that is not a good fit. Specifically I wanted to talk about my husband’s experience with that and how it I’ve seen him exhibit the fruit of long suffering through it.

Alex was blessed with the opportunity to work for his company about 2 years ago. He was hired in at an entry level position and was quickly promoted up the chain within 3 months to a much more demanding and high-pressure job. Which we thought was great… until it wasn’t. The new job was a sales role and if you know anything about sales- you’re either made for it or you’re not. Well, it turns out Alex just wasn’t designed to do that role and it led to 1 ½ years of ‘suffering.’ To us, it definitely seemed like ‘long-suffering.’ He would go through cycles of doubt and depression to be followed by a momentary hope and belief that he could do it. And then it would start all over again. The answer was never clear about what to do- he felt strongly that God had given him the role to provide so he strongly disliked the notion of quitting as he had never quit anything in his life. But, his physical, spiritual and emotional lives were all taking a bit hit. So we prayed and fasted and counseled. And we talked it through about a million times. And it went on like this for a year and a half. Boy was it draining. But, through it all I saw him do a couple things that I wanted to specifically share with you today.

  1. He sought God diligently- even when he didn’t ‘feel’ close to Him, even when he didn’t know what to say, even when he felt lost and forsaken. I think this is a key to exhibiting the fruit of long suffering- we have to be willing to suffer for a long time and maintain our relationship with God. We have to take Him with us or it will never work. So, he forced himself to bible study and he forced himself to fast and he forced himself to pray.  It was a powerful way for me to learn that long suffering is rarely about ‘feeling’ close to God but is about obeying Him and drawing near to Him anyways. There is an image that comes to mind when I think of that season of long suffering- it’s the image I woke up to many times- that of Alex on his knees in our bedroom seeking God in the middle of the night. I won’t forget that- like an illustration on a page it emblazoned in me what long suffering looks like. I believe this is the foundation of being able to show the fruit of long suffering- we’ve got to take Him with us. If we do so we will be able to relate with what David said in Psalm 119:71- It is good for me that I have been afflicted, That I may learn Your statutes.
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  2. He also showed me to value the periods of waiting. I’m coming to see that those periods of waiting that we find ourselves in are designed to be times of seeking. Intense seeking- of God and of His will. I believe that we cannot master long suffering until we learn to value the notion of waiting. Right? Because long suffering implies that we are suffering for a long time- waiting on God to help, heal or remove us from a situation. I’ve been reading this book called Deeper Places by Matthew Jacoby- the lead singer/songwriter of Sons of Korah a group that put the Psalms to music. His book challenges us to use the Psalms as a roadmap of how to deepen our relationship with God through all seasons of life. I wanted to share this quote with you from the book: “What the Psalms highlight is the fact that there is significant value in the process of waiting itself before any response from God is considered.” (p.95) Do we believe that? Or are we scrambling to remove ourselves from uncomfortable situations?
  3. He was honest with God about what he was going through. I believe it is true that we cannot truly reconcile with God until we reconcile with our reality. Many times in our Christian walks we come to a point where there is a tension between all God promises to us and what our lives really look like. Right? These are crucial junctures of decision. It is at these points that we decide if we are going to face the reality of where we are, open up to God and walk through it with Him. Or if we are going to ignore the problem, act like we’re okay and attempt to bolster ourselves on our own apart from God. Or worse- abandon Him altogether believing He has forsaken us. This decision is intimately tied to whether or not we are able to show the fruit of long suffering. Sometimes life is really hard. Sometimes it’s painful and confusing and exhausting- and we must admit that to ourselves and to God. Remember what it says there in Hebrews 4:16– Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Sometimes we glaze over that- but I believe Christianity is about being honest with God not just about the blessings but also about the disappointments, heartbreaks and blunders. You see, I believe in order to show long suffering- in able to get through it in a godly way- we must be honest with Him about how we feel. Another quote from Deeper Places,
     “Relationships are built on communication, and communication is possible only when feelings are freely expressed, heard and validated. This is what we see in the psalms. The psalms are deeply relational expressions of how people felt; and they were directed to a person, the person of God.” (P. 94)
     If we try to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and take on our sufferings alone we will fail. We must recognize our poverty without God; we must recognize that we need Him to guide us through times when we suffer for a long time. We show the fruit of long suffering not by muscling our way through- but by letting go of the notion that we can do so, getting down on our knees and pouring our hearts out in honesty and real-ness before our Creator. Then we get up, and thank Him for taking us each step of the way. That is long suffering.

In conclusion, I believe our ability to show long suffering is ultimately tied to one thing: relationship. More specifically, the depth of our relationship with our Father in heaven and Jesus Christ. And the more I think about it I believe this is one area that we as women can be shining examples to others. I mean isn’t that typically our forte- building and nurturing relationships? Let’s use those natural God given traits to build and nurture our relationship with God so that we can courageously and graciously exhibit the fruit of long suffering.

Again, buy this book!

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Responses

  1. What a wonderful speech;; & example of “the fruit of long suffering”. I can relate to this topic, and I think what I learned most from my experience (& you mentioned) is to “value the periods of waiting”.

    It’s not something I heard from many of my friends who are more earthly focused. (That’s not a judgement, I just was not sure how to describe/tease out the opposing ideas & did not know if “non-Christian” was worse, but I digress) The common wisdom was “to be happy” or “if you don’t like your situation, change it”, and a slew of other chipper mantras. & Honestly, that is the sort of happy-go-lucky language I live off of, however, this time was different.

    I was un-happy, and it was hard, and I just needed to be patient. & I realized that was o.k. This made a lot of people uncomfortable, but I decided that this situation was hard. It was not enjoyable. I could try my best to be happy, but sometimes, life is suffering. Usually, working hard warded this off, but this time, I just had to stop fighting it.

    I think in society, we have a need to believe that we can conquer any situation with the right mindset. & it’s a nice notion (it feels comforting). But, there is more comfort in learning that a period of suffering will not break your spirit to pieces. It’s hard to sit still in suffering, but I found when I was able to stop struggling, there was a lot to learn.

    I’m not sure if that’s the exact idea you were communicating, but that’s how I related to your story. Thanks for sharing, your writing is always so accessible, digestible, and enlightening. : )

    • Hi Jenny,

      So glad you enjoyed this- and yes that is what I was trying to convey! I think the only thing that will allow us to get through the realities and real struggles in life is being honest- open and real with God about where we are. I think it isn’t always about escaping the ‘uncomfortableness’ of life but rather being wherever we are with Him.
      Really appreciated your comment and hope you’re doing well!


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