In observance of my Benedictine Monastic practices, on the last Friday of each month in 2019 we’re walking Saint Benedict’s 12 Steps of Humility. With each step we come closer to our spiritual transformation and the perfect love of God.
The fourth step of humility is that in obedience, under difficult, unfavorable or even unjust condition, our hearts quietly embrace suffering and endure it without weakening or seeking escape. ~ The Rule of Benedict
Be brave of heart and rely on God. ~ Psalm 27:14
Obedience often brings pain.
Last month in Humility Step Three we learned about obedience. Saint Benedict wants us to submit to our authority figures for the love of God imitating Christ who became obedient even to death. In other words, there are times our obedience may bring difficult or painful circumstances, that may be hard but yet they are in our best interest.
Be faithful to the end and you will experience life and deliverance. ~ Matthew 10:22 (TPT)
Living a pain-free life.
Benedict links obedience with patience. Something not taught much today. When facing difficult situations most of us don’t embrace the suffering quietly or without weakening. The minute there is any sort of stress we’re seeking an escape. Our escapes come in many forms: food, sex, drugs, alcohol, work, social media, shopping, gambling… Anything that can take our mind off our troubles can serve as an escape.
Persevere to the end.
By your steadfastness and patient endurance you shall win the true life of your souls. ~ Luke 21:19 (TPT)
Scripture tells us there will be challenges and struggles. But Jesus encourages us no matter what we’re experiencing, if we will endure, if we are faithful to the end, we will experience deliverance in this lifetime and certainly in the next.
Quietly embrace patience in your life situation as you enjoy this beautiful song by Kari Jobe.
With most written words, the emotional inflection is up to the reader. The title of this article could be read several ways, with different meanings depending on the inflection. The sentences have the same words but when you read them aloud with emphasis on a different word, you get a different type of question, which in turn expects a different answer.
WHAT are you waiting for? (What you wait for.)
What ARE you waiting for? (More emphatically and specifically what are you waiting for.
What are YOU waiting for? (Why are you waiting when others aren’t waiting?)
What are you WAITING for? (Hurry up, stop waiting.)
What are you waiting FOR? (The reason you wait.)
When God prompted me to write this, I was thinking about how we live out the waiting process.
Are we wasting our time, passively sitting back just waiting for something to happen?
Can we find purpose in the midst of the waiting?
I’ve been doing a lot of waiting the last few years; so I’ve had time to think about this concept. During my waiting I’ve been reading Waiting On God by Andrew Murray. One of the most important points Murray makes is that waiting is really working for God. In other words, waiting is our job. As Believers we are expected to wait.
We’ll always be waiting for something. The thing we’re waiting for now, may eventually come. And when it does we’ll have victory in that area. But almost immediately we begin waiting for something new. Sure, there are the normal, daily routine things we wait for:
Waiting in line at the grocery…
Waiting for the stoplight to change…
Waiting for your child to grow out of this phase…
Waiting on a loved one to trust in Christ…
Waiting on your marriage to normalize…
Life is really just a series of waiting events processing out.
Whether we realize it or not, we are being watched by others as we wait. It’s important to keep good attitudes and walk in love especially during the longest wait. I believe God honors that more that we know.
I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits, and in His Word I put my hope. ~ Psalm 130:5
Question: What are you waiting for?Are you finding purpose in your waiting?
suffer: to undergo, be subjected to, or endure pain, distress, injury, loss, or anything unpleasant
It’s true there is much suffering brought on us in the world today; by the economy, accidents, disease, natural disasters, etc… Sometimes the consequences of our own poor choices, behaviors and decisions result in our own suffering, maybe even that of our loved ones.
How can we live out these consequences without suffering?
Is it possible to take each day’s discipline with a good attitude?
To accept our life as it is without complaining, be grateful for the freedoms and benefits we still enjoy?
To be thankful that we have another chance at life, love and potential happiness?
Yes. But it’s not always easy. We think we’re suffering with our shrinking paychecks, expanding waistline, unexpected car repairs, never-ending family dramas, inconvenient court appointments, outrageous medical expenses, etc,
Instead of complaining about how bad we think everything is, maybe we can look at our suffering with new eyes and see real purpose.
Why do we suffer?Sometimes even when we do everything right we will still suffer. The enemy tries to steal our joy & blessing before we can receive it by giving us problems. We need to see the bigger picture, maybe the purpose is to make us stronger.
How should we react in times of suffering? How we react reveals who we are and what we believe. Knowing why we are suffering can teach us to avoid the cause, but it’s more important to know how to respond. Rather than sit back passively accept suffering, we can step up, stand in faith and believe God to bring change.
What can we learn from suffering? If we listen, we can hear God speak to us in the midst of our struggles. Just as drought drive the roots of a tree deeper for water–so suffering can drive us from superficial acceptance to dependence on God for hope and life.
Is your suffering affecting change for you that is good or bad?
Suffering is harmful when:
We become hardened and reject God.
We refuse to ask questions and miss lessons that might be good for us.
We allow it to make us self-centered and selfish.
We withdraw from the help of others.
We reject that God can bring good out of calamity.
We accuse God of being unjust and perhaps lead others to reject Him.
We refuse to be open to any changes in our lives.
Suffering is helpful when:
We turn to God for understanding, endurance and deliverance.
We ask important questions we might not ask in a normal routine.
We are prepared by it to identify with and comfort others who suffer.
We are open to being helped by others.
We are sensitized to the amount of suffering in the world.
We are ready to learn from a trustworthy God.
We can identify with what Christ suffered on the cross for us.
Questions to ask in times of suffering; what to do if the answer is yes:
Am I being punished by God for sin?Is Satan attacking me for being a Christian?
Confess the sin and call on God for strength. Am I being prepared for a special service, learning compassion?
Resist self-pity. Ask God to open doors of opportunity to help others.
Am I being tested?
Recognize in this sinful world both good and evil people will suffer. Remember, as Christians we have a promise that our suffering will one day come to an end. Is my suffering for and unknown reason?
Don’t turn inward from the pain. Stand in faith. Know that God cares and wait patiently on His timing.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. – James 1:2-3 NIV
EACH MONTH IN THE 12 STEPS OF HUMILITY WE ARE CLIMBING SAINT BENEDICT’S LADDER OF HUMILITY. WITH EACH RUNG WE COME CLOSER TO THE PERFECT LOVE OF GOD.
The ladder is our life on earth, if we humble our hearts God will raise it to heaven. ~ St Benedict
Step 4 of Humility: In this obedience under difficult, unfavorable, or even unjust conditions, [her] heart quietly embraces suffering and endures it without weakening or seeking escape.
If you remain faithful to the end you will be saved.~ Matthew 10:22
In our world today we want any trial we are facing to be corrected yesterday. We don’t have time, nor are we willing to persevere through the crisis. This leaves us living as spiritual infants. According to Saint Benedict in our obedience, we are to hold fast when things aren’t going our way. And the only way to do that is to stay centered on God! We must take our eyes off the circumstances and how we want things to be and remember everything in life can be a learning opportunity if we allow it. I love this Webster 1828 definition:
perseverance: continuance in a state of grace to a state of glory.
When we are walking in God’s grace we are more likely to give Him glory. But we can’t be walking in His grace with our eyes on the ground, or on the circumstances or the rearview mirror, or on ourself.
God will only get the glory if we keep Him in the center minute by minute.
RESOURCES: The Rule of Saint Benedict by Saint Benedict,Edited by Timothy Fry, O.S.B. Twelve Steps to Inner Freedom: Humility Revisited by Joan D. Chittister** The Twelve Steps of Humility and Pride by Bernard of Clairvaux Living in the Truth: Saint Benedict’s Teaching on Humility by Michael Casey
Those of you who know me or have been following my blog also know that my family has been in one transition after another for the last few years. Job changes with moves from city to city, state to state with the last move taking us across the country from the Gulf Coast to the Pacific Coast. From employers who made bad investments causing layoffs, to employers committing fraud and bringing the whole company down with them, we’ve seen it all in recent years. Today we find ourselves again waiting on another job change. Yet through all the drama, uncertainty, sorting, packing, moving, storing and waiting, there can be peace. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t necessarily feel the peace every day or even walk in that peace but it is there for me if I choose to have it.
Not too many days ago, my teenage nephew Blaine, was giving me some encouragement on Facebook. (Isn’t it wonderful, God can even use Facebook to speak to us!) But seriously, Blaine responded to my comments about our next ‘faith adventure’ — the uncertainty of where we are going and the aching back that goes along with moving. Then something sweet just came up from inside him… He wrote, “God is only tuning the harp, sometimes things need to get tight to make music.”His comment literally struck a chord in me! I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind for days.
At the age of five I started taking piano lessons. In my elementary years I continued with piano but also joined the orchestra and began playing the cello. By Jr. High I had learned the viola, and eventually played the string bass. So there’s no wonder Blaine’s comment spoke so strongly to me. Even though I don’t play an instrument on a regular basis these days, I still see myself as a musician because that was formed so solidly in me at a very young age.
Every kind of musical instrument: percussion, woodwind or stringed, all have to be tuned in some fashion. Whether stretched, blown or tightened, change must take place for the instrument to be tuned. OK, some instruments can be played and even make music out of tune, but it won’t be pretty. Tuning an instrument requires that you adjust the tuning mechanisms on it to an accepted standard. If a guitar string is not tightened enough the string will be too loose and produces a dull flat sound; too tight and the string may snap. A drum not tightened enough will be loose and have a flat sound; too tight will cause a broken head.
As instruments in God’s hands we are constantly being fine tuned — changed, stretched or tightened– brought to the place of acceptance as we participate in God’s Great Symphony. In these last few weeks I feel like I have been stretched clearly to the point of having a broken head. But alas, my head did not break! Of course, God knew He had not reached my breaking point, but this drum must surely be ready to play!
In what is commonly believed to be his last letter, the Apostle Paul writes to his protégé Timothy:
“… Be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.” – II Timothy 2:21
And in the book of Romans, Paul again encourages us:
“Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God.” –Romans 6:13
I want more than anything to be used by God, to bring glory to Him with my life. It helps me to know I am in the Master’s hands. He’s gently holding me, carefully polishing and tightening so that I will be a beautiful instrument. It’s by nothing I do except continue to walk in obedience, with humility and a reverential fear for The Lord; staying available and willing to be tuned. Making every effort to endure all circumstances with a good temper; pressing on to the prize that waits ahead; fighting the good fight holding on to faith and a clear conscience.
You may be saying, ” Tamara what does that look like? How does that translate into everyday life?” Well, for me it comes down to one thing really and that is keeping God’s Word in my head and in my heart almost every minute of every day if at all possible. At my job, I have my bible open on my desk. In between calls to customers throughout the day, I will glance over and quietly read out loud a verse that spoke to me that morning in my meditation time. Keeping 3×5 cards handy with scriptures rewritten in first person as a confession to speak over myself and my family through the day. This keeps my focus on God and His promises and not what’s going on in the natural world around me.
My family may be living in a temporary uncertain situation today, but you know what, we are happy and have such peace because we know that we are children of The Most High God and that with God ALL things are possible to them that believe and we are believers not doubters. We are expecting something good to happen any minute. As we continue to walk in that expectancy we keep a grateful heart which will make way for the next blessing just around the corner.
I want to encourage you today, put your focus on God and in His Word. Call out to Him. Let Him be your Master. Allow Him to take you gently and lovingly in His hands. Before you know it you will be in tune and ready to make beautiful music in God’s Symphony.