And he said to her, "Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace. Your suffering is over." - Mark 5: 34 (NLT)
Despite what false preachers might say, suffering is a part of this life beloved. We live in a fallen world, in a sinful state, trapped in mortal bodies. Jesus Himself warned us of the tribulation we would face in this life. Don't listen to the hucksters who sell you on the notion that God wants you comfortable all your life. He allowed His only Son to die a criminal's death on an old wooden cross in order to be reconciled unto us. Do you think He is more concerned about our character or our comfort? Our character is not refined during periods of comfort.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. - James 1: 2-4 (NIV)
God wants us to be mature and complete, not lacking anything. The road that leads there however is marked with suffering. James here says we should consider it as pure joy when these trials come into our lives because they serve a greater purpose within us. Now, I do not know anyone who wakes up hoping for some suffering. It is just not in our human nature to gravitate towards pain. But given the inevitability of suffering, we should thank God Almighty that He gives us examples in the Bible we can learn from. Remember beloved, the Bible is not some collection of stories. It is our owners manual for the human condition and a road map guiding us to our eternal position. When I think about Biblical characters of suffering, I often think about the woman with the issue of blood. What lessons can we learn today for our own times of suffering?
The first thing we should take heed of is the length and extent of her suffering. The Bible says that she suffered from this condition for twelve years. That is twelve long years without hope in sight. Twelve long years being ostracized from her people and community as being unclean. Twelve years of what may have appeared as unanswered prayers! Yet she persevered in her suffering. Too often we can give up too easily. We can think the heavens are brass and God is an absentee landlord. Nonsense! One of the side effects of listening to the false preaching of the bless me theologies is that we become trained to believe that God is there for our whims. That He is some kind of cosmic waiter to serve us and galactic bus boy to clean up after our messes. The sad reality is that we often spend so much time trying to figure out how to get out of the valley that we neglect to figure out what God wants us to learn while we are in it. The valley experience is simple to navigate. There are only three directions. Backwards, which is never an option. Behind us is everything God has already saved us from. We cannot be like dogs who return to their vomit. The second option is to try and scale the walls. This is like fighting against the suffering. Try as we might however, we cannot scale the walls because we were not meant to. The only direction is to walk straight ahead. God will lead us out and refine us along the way. The second lesson I see in this story is what not to do:
She had suffered a great deal from many doctors, and over the years she had spent everything she had to pay them, but she had gotten no better. In fact, she had gotten worse. - Mark 5: 26 (NLT)
Like the world, Christians love the medical model. Christians love their pharmacotherapy. This is not a statement against medicine. God uses people all of the time to accomplish His will and doctors are included in that. That does not mean however, that we have to employ the six degrees of separation argument every time. Just because God made "A" and "A" made "B" - that does not mean God made or condones "B." The issue is not about turning to the world for answers but whether we even tried to turn to God. This woman suffered for twelve years. The Gospel accounts make it a point to let us know that she not only sought the solutions of the medical world but that she suffered even more from them. She even spent everything she had over these twelve long years trying to see if the world could cure her. Now, I know some will balk and say, "But preacher, that was 2000 years ago, "medicine is so much more advanced today." True, but what will the medicine of today look like to the doctors of two thousand years from now? Or even 200 years from now? How medieval will it look to them. Medicine used to employ leeches to treat people. This woman tried for 12 years to turn to the world for her deliverance and healing and she only grew worse. It wasn't until she turned to Jesus that she was finally and completely healed. There is a lesson in there beloved. Not to ignore medicine - more importantly - to not ignore God!
King Asa of Judah was the great-grandson of King Solomon. He was one of the few kings who sought the Lord. He rooted out the idolatry that existed when he came to power. He ruled for 41 years yet his story records the following regarding his end: