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The Battle's Won, the Crying Done.
"Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat.  For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes." Rev. 7:16-17, NIV
Suffering in this life as a child of God has always vexed both the sufferer and the theologian. Yes, we may offer sanctimonious "words of comfort," but unless the believer who is in the midst of the suffering has received the comfort from God Himself, these words really do little to relieve the tension that comes from circumstances where pain, or anxiety from mental pain assail the believer. In this final lesson on the Lamb of God, Jesus as the Lamb of God has, indeed, perfected the redemptive plan of the Father. Now as our Shepherd is going to provide relief from all the suffering.
I wish to make it clear that this passage is referring specifically to the saints who came out of the tribulation. I can confidently say, however, that all the saints who have ever suffered for the sake of Christ will receive the same comfort. So in this final lesson I wish to address this subject thoughtfully and, I trust, with some sensitivity having endured chronic pain from two separate medical conditions myself.
Suffering Is a Part of Living in this Age While under the Curse of Sin.
For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.  And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. (Romans 8:22-23)
We all must suffer as the result of this curse, but when we repented and turned to God this meaninglessness of sin's curse now can be addressed from His Word. God does not include in His redemption relief from disease be it the flue, which might be temporary in it's effect or from a chronic disease which we might suffer through for the rest of our lives. He does not shield us from the aging process. What God does promise is that whatever suffering comes into our lives will bring glory to God and will be the source of blessing to us now and in Eternity.
A Brief Look at Christ's Comforting His Disciples.
Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. (John 14:1).
The disciples had been under the wrong impression that Jesus Christ, as Messiah, was going to set up His kingdom very soon. What they overlooked was that Jesus had to suffer Himself on the cross. Peter tried to dissuade him from that course and Jesus replied to him, calling him the one who opposes, Satan, that he did not "savor" the things of God. Interesting English word from the original it referred to one's mind set one's attitude clearly Peter in Christ's rebuke did not have the correct attitude towards the redemptive plan of God. The cognate in its usage in the LXX used the word in the sense of a noble thought a thought or attitude that was to be commended.
Nevertheless Jesus felt compassion for his friends and thus we have this timeless passage of John 14. He had talked of going away this is the last thing the disciples wanted to hear from Him. I can sense the honest anxiety in Thomas when he in a clearly confused state of mind said that he did not know where Jesus was going. I try not to be too judgmental on the disciples I can see in this passages that they did not want Jesus to leave them. They had left their families their former lives and now He is telling them that He was going to leave them. That's a good reason to be afraid and worried! So He felt compassion and began to comfort them even as He, the Lamb of God was going to suffer terribly on the cross. He spoke with great patience and compassion as He revealed to them an intimacy that they would experience even in their suffering.
So in this passage we have the teaching of Christ of an intimacy that the disciples and we would have because of His suffering as the Lamb of God and regardless of their circumstances. In fact, Jesus promises that they will do even greater things for the Father than He did, knowing that they all would be going through great suffering and trial. A truth emerges from this and other passages that I fear we all would rather push in the backs of our minds and that is this God intends to bless us both in our prosperity and our pain, and He intends to to that in the intimacy of our innermost thoughts.
Jesus Christ the Great Vinedresser.
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.  He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful." John 15:1-2
Nobody enjoys suffering. It would be irrational to do so. We must understand, however, that Jesus has not left us alone this was the fear of the disciples this does mean that He has a claim on our lives as the Vinedresser. I have a problem with this. We are told to trim back our plants so that they might become more profuse in flowering, but I find it hard to reach down the pinch off that healthy green sprig. But every gardener will tell you if you do not do it you will have a spindly, dull and perhaps a plant with little fruit. So He prunes and you know what? We do not get to tell Him what to cut what loss to suffer or what pain we should endure no we must accept His sovereignty as the Vinedresser what is the right thing to do.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, James 1:2, NIV.
As far as I am concerned it is not enough to know intellectually that I mght be making brownie points with God because I am suffering silently, not complaining but always putting on a bright, smiling face in my suffering. And I do not for a minute believe that is what God intended. James knew that his friends were going to suffer nevertheless, he told them to "...consider it pure joy..." !!! Wait a minute! Pure? The original for the NIV's translated "pure" is not an easy word to translate into English. But I like the way the NIV does it over the other translations. I cannot even come close to describing this "pure joy" attitude apart from the comfort that God can give us in our suffering. The one thing we have over the unbeliever is that every event that comes into our lives is through the sovereignty of our Heavenly Father. That's the first thing for us to consider. The other thing to consider is this: for most of our lives our innermost thoughts are ours and ours alone. Now along comes Christ and He says this:
Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. (John 14:23, NIV )
What Jesus is saying is that for the first time in our lives we must share our innermost thoughts with Him! Jesus doesn't want just our testimony (our spoken words) but he wants our thoughts too - that is He and our Heavenly Father want to be a part of our thought-life and that's probably going to be hard for us to swallow. I think that is one reason why he allows suffering to come into our lives.
Joy is not being happy. Jesus was not wearing a smile while He was under the shadow of the cross. But He considered the joy that was set before him not the joy of the cross but the prospect that as he looked down into the future He knew what the end result of his suffering would be the gathering unto himself countless of saints and his exaltation. So He assumed an attitude. First, the negative part of the attitude. He did not refrain from despising the shame - and shame it was - his attitude was an honest one - he despised the shame but turned from that and looked ahead and considered the end result of this suffering. But what went on with Jesus while he was under the pressure of facing the cross? He prayed - he communed with His Father - and I think this is an important part of this joy in suffering. A very important principle - if we want to have joy in suffering we must include our Heavenly Father in our suffering. If fact, I believe that a very important part of this supernatural joy is the fact that we have included our Heavenly Father even in our complaining about our circumstances.
The Purpose of the Imprecatory and other
Prayers Found in the Psalms.
The Psalms are filled with prayers that would hardly be uttered by today's "Spiritual" person. Psalm ten is a good example of the imprecatory prayer - a prayer that is usually framed in the psalmist complaining about his enemies or some other difficulty. Psalm ten is a good example of this type of prayer. It would seem strange to many that the Holy Spirit would allow such language appear in the Holy Writ but it is with purpose, I think. Note his complaint before the Lord:
"Why, O LORD, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?  In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak, who are caught in the schemes he devises." (Psalm 10:1-2, NIV)
This may come as a shock to many of us but the psalmist is worshiping the LORD. What if he had never approached the LORD with this petition? No Psalm 10? What about the book of Job? While is it true that the Lord rebuked Job for his arrogance for assuming that he knew better how to manage the events in his life than the Lord - He did not rebuke him for bringing his petition in all of it's despair before Him. In fact, the very fact that the Lord answered Job and then restored him to his former prosperity was testimony that He had accepted Job's entire response to his dire circumstances. Yes, some rebuke, but equally true with the comfort that the Lord had seen him in his despair and was still regarding him as His own. But let's go back to Psalm 10 for a moment as our example of what I propose to be an unusual form worshiping the Lord.
" Arise, LORD! Lift up your hand, O God. Do not forget the helpless." (Psalm 10:12, NIV)
Of course, we knew that he was complaining - the previous verses were clear to that point - the important point is that he was including the Lord in his innermost thoughts - he was "presenting his case before the Lord." Job did this - his relationship with the Lord was such that he knew that he could plead with the Lord:
But I desire to speak to the Almighty and to argue my case with God. (Job 13:3, NIV).
Job knew that this was the right thing to do for he had done it right along - even in
his prosperity he presented his joys and fears to the Lord. I fear that many
of us "close the door" on the Lord when we wish to go over our worries, our
anxieties, in our minds. Perhaps we might be ashamed that we are even thinking
about these things. Isn't the Lord supposed to take care of us? So why are we
worrying like this. It may be resentment because of a chronic illness that we have
that will not dissipate. Surely the Lord would chastise us severely for thinking
this way - so we close the door. The fact is that the Lord wants us to invite Him
into our private thoughts - this is where our God of all conforts does the spiritual
healing. Peter knew that his friends were going to experience terrible suffering and
that there were going to be plenty to be anxious about. His advise was this: "Casting
all your care upon him; for he careth for you." (1 Peter 5:7)
Peter was literally telling his friends to "roll" their worries off their backs
onto the Lord, for He was very concerned for them. You cannot do that if you
"shut the door" on Him!
The LORD is King for ever and ever; the nations will perish from his land.  You hear, O LORD, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,  defending the fatherless and the oppressed, in order that man, who is of the earth, may terrify no more. (Psalm 10:16-18, NIV)
The fact is the believers throughout the ages have suffered - God does not shield us from that - equally true is that He expects us to bring our hearts to Him unashamed in all our anxieties, hurts and to present them before Him. Then and only then can He comfort us. This passage expresses a confidence in the Lord in spite of the fact that there was a sorrow about the wrong that had been committed against the helpless - I'm sure that David, when he was running for his life from Saul - virtually homeless felt the pain of injustice - but he never questioned that the Lord was in control and would make things right.
God Will Wipe Away All Tears.
"For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes." (Rev. 7:17, NIV)
"He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." (Rev. 21:4, NIV)
God will write the final chapter in this saga of suffering in the lives of the saints throughout the ages. This comfort does not just include the saints who are to suffer in the tribulation. No. The "former things" of chapter 21 verse 4 refers to the effect that sin has in the lives of every saint - the fact that God allows them into the life the saint and then turns that suffering into good for him and Glory for Him is now and will forever be a secret that only the Lord and the saint will understand.