Our church family dove into the text of John 10 yesterday and understood what Jesus meant when He said He was the Good Shepherd (John 10:1-18). There were a few things that I personally took away from that message. A common assumption about sheep is that their actually pretty stupid; I’ve heard several times before about if one sheep decides to go jump off the side of a cliff, the other 99 also think that’s a great idea. If that’s true of them I do not know, but there are some pretty remarkable things about them too. Jason mentioned yesterday that they actually learn the specific voice of their shepherd from an early age (Jesus says “the sheep hear my voice”). Apparently they also build friendships, stick up for one another in sheep-fights, and express sadness when another sheep is sent to the slaughter.
But the big thing that stood out to me this weekend was the idea of how every sheep needs to be sheared. It’s a process that is uncomfortable, perhaps painful, but necessary. In some instances it is crucial to their survival, but in all cases it is a part of their life.
The Good Shepherd also understands that His children will go through a similar shearing process in life. It is for our good and for His glory. I just so happened to be speaking on the topic of suffering in my youth service yesterday as well (I serve as the Youth Pastor here and teach to 7-12 graders every Sunday). Allow me to take us to the book of 1 Peter for a second and I hope these truths resonate. Peter is writing to Christians who are under a heavy fire of persecution during the time. Literally. Most historians believe that the Christians were the scapegoat for the massive fires that destroyed Rome, and so to say they are being persecuted is a massive understatement. Peter writes a powerful letter of strength, hope, and perseverance.
In chapter 4 we read, “12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” Here are a few truths:
Expect suffering at some point - “do not be surprised when the fiery trial comes upon you…”. Notice that the ESV translation uses the term “when” here and not “if”. The world is broken. Life is messy. Suffering of some kind will be something that we all encounter. Sometimes it is because of our own sin. Sometimes it is because we are unfortunately the victim of someone else’s sin. And then other times we just do not know. But here is what we do know…
Suffering always has a purpose - “...as if something strange were happening to you.”. The Good Shepherd never watches as His children go through trials on accident. This is one of the most amazing things about surrendering our lives to an all-powerful and good God. Our lives have a purpose and that purpose is to be conformed into the image of Jesus (Rom. 8:29). Therefore we must trust that we have not been abandoned or that our trial is outside of the control of God. May we cling to the cross of Jesus where the ultimate suffering was endured, and where the ultimate purpose was accomplished. Understanding that means…
Find joy in suffering, because of the purpose - “rejoice… be glad when the glory is revealed…”. Finding joy in the depths of a valley can seem impossible. I know this is the hardest part. That at times we feel like giving up. But may we draw upon Him who is the only one who can give us the strength and hope we need in this time! Joy is only possible in suffering as we gaze upon the Good Shepherd. We put our trust in His control, His protection, His plan. As we truly come to understand that all things in this life - both mountains and valleys - are meant for our good, which is His glory and our sanctification.
Illuminate Family, I encourage you to use a time of suffering in your life to comfort those who are also hurting (2 Cor. 1:4). Perhaps there is no greater way to be a light to those around you then to brag about God’s goodness and grace when things are worst. Sure, people expect you to say, “God is awesome” and “life is great” in the same sentence. A life filled with more joy, peace, assurance, and blessings is when it’s easy to say that. But to say “God is awesome” and “life is hard” in the same sentence will grab attention. It could be a powerful witnessing opportunity to tell someone about how your trust is unwavering when it comes to your Good Shepherd.
If you need prayer or have questions, please reach out to us. We’d love to come alongside you in this time. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll reach out.