BIG IDEA: In Christ my suffering is redeemed and purposeful; therefore, my suffering can make me better and not bitter!

Have you ever said, “Things will never be the same again”?  Maybe you were let go from your dream job.  Perhaps your boyfriend or girlfriend broke up with you.  Maybe you were the victim of sexual abuse by a family member, or perhaps you heartbreakingly witnessed your parents’ divorce.  These events can be paralyzing, but is it alright to wonder if we'll ever be able to go on?  Yes.  Absolutely.  These things are not simply a bad cold that will go away over time; they are devastating; however, past events do not need to paralyze our future. 

The big question is how do we avoid being negatively shaped by our past experiences?  The answer is by choosing our response to them.  If we respond in bitterness, we create a sinful identity out of those horrible things.  Look at Hebrews 12:15.  This verse says the root of bitterness yields the fruit of sinful response.  What does this look like? Being bitter about a breakup yields the fruit of fear and anxiety.  Being bitter over being fired causes paranoia.  Being bitter over sexual abuse causes hatred or mistrust, and being bitter over your parents’ divorce causes anger and resentment.

If you are responding sinfully to your suffering, it has bested you; you have let your past define who you are.  The truth is that you may never get over the experience, but in Christ, you can get through it.  In Christ we can deal with the root of bitterness.  The big idea from this sermon is, “In Christ, my suffering is redeemed and purposeful; therefore, my suffering can make me better and not bitter.”

So how do we put this into practice?  

1.)  Remember the Garden of Eden. According to Genesis 3, the world was cursed by sin because we are in Adam; therefore, it should not be a surprise that we experience trouble.  God told us we would have suffering because we are sinners.  Christians even more so will experience difficulty because we are trying live in a godly manner.

2.)  When sufferings do come, don’t ask God why something terrible is happening.  Tap into Hisgrace by replacing the “why” with the “who.”  Hebrews 12:15 tells us that the root of bitterness is the result of not apprehending the grace of God.  In other words, tapping into God’s grace keeps you from being bitter.  Instead, ask God who He wants you to be.

An example of this is found in 1 Timothy 1:12-17.  If there was anyone who should have been scarred by his past, it was Paul.  He was a violent aggressor, murderer, and blasphemer, and then he was targeted and imprisoned after his conversion.  However, he never claimed that his sufferings were unjust.  He understood that his sin has contributed to the suffering in the world just as much as anyone else’s (including those of his persecutors).  

Friends, no suffering is unjust.  If we complain about it, we are self-righteously saying we don’t deserve to go through it and are therefore claiming we didn’t contribute to the sin of the world.  Instead cling to the grace of God and realize it can keep you from being bitter against your trials.

3)  Root your suffering in the gospel.  As a believer in Jesus Christ, you are a part of how God is furthering the Great Commission; whatever your story, it is fitting into God’s big narrative of what He is doing in the world.  1 Timothy 1:16 says that the purpose of Paul’s suffering is to glorify Jesus and push forward the gospel, and ours does the same.  Notice Paul doesn’t give us three “how to” ways to make us feel better.  He doesn’t even say that God has something better for you (because, in reality, God might have something worse), but he does tell us to embrace our past sufferings.  As someone once said, “Afflictions cost us so much, they are too precious to waste.”  Cash in those afflictions for a greater relationship with your Savior.

4.)  Remain engaged with God’s people.  Sometimes believers that are suffering will pull away from God, and when that happens, that shows they are making their suffering about themselves and possibly trying to get attention.  If you do that, you will distance yourself from God and His people, and you need God’s people the most in times of trial.

Are you rooting your suffering in who God is?  Can you look up to heaven and say to the King of the Ages, “Be glory forever and ever, amen” as Paul did?  Or have your trials pushed you away from God?  Remember the sufferings of Jesus.  Things were never the same for Him either after He became man and was crucified.  But, praise the Lord, He went through it, and now you have a Savior.  You might think you will never get over something, and that might be true.  But instead of being bitter, ask yourself, “What can I do now for God’s glory because of my suffering that I was unable to do before my suffering?”  You will always be afflicted, but because of God’s grace, you do not have to be affected.

Tweetable Quotes:

Past events do not need to paralyze our future.  #identityrescripted

What can you do now for God’s glory because of your suffering that you were unable to do before your suffering?  #identityrescripted

You will always be afflicted, but because of God’s grace, you do not have to be affected. #identityrescripted

Listen to Sunday's sermon here: