Picked On

We want to remind you brethren of the afflictions we endured….The burdens laid on us were great—so overwhelming, we despaired of life itself. (2 Cor 1:8).

Have you ever felt picked on? I mean have you ever come to the point where you believed life or God or the universe had it in for you? After surviving Stage IV cancer and a serious heart attack all in the same year, Matt, a good brother from church approached me.

“Wade,” he said, “Don’t feel you’re being picked on. It’s not so unusual for someone with cancer to then suffer a heart attack.” I felt comfort from Matt’s concern but also remembered Tevye’s comment when he felt picked on. In Fiddler on the Roof, he was complaining to God about all the troubles he and his fellow Jews suffered, “I know, I know. We are your chosen people. But, once in a while, can’t you just choose someone else?”

I don’t remember exactly how I answered Matt, but it was something like this, “I do feel picked on, Matt, just not quite the way you might think. ‘Picked’ also means chosen and in a strange way I believe I’ve been picked to face these trials for a reason—a positive reason.”

Paul understood one important reason. ”We felt the sentence of death on us so that we should not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. (2 Cor. 1:9) His faith echos the psalmist’s joyful cry, “Thou hast delivered my soul from death!” (Psalm 116:8). Being helpless can be a great thing, because we are forced to rely completely on God’s amazing grace.

In his second letter to Corinth, Paul catalogued his many near-death disasters. “I have been whipped thirty-nine stripes by the Jews five times, beaten with rods three times, stoned, ship-wrecked, endured perils of storm, flood, desert heat, attacks by bandits, pagans and false Christians—knowing exhaustion, pain, hunger, thirst, and cold,”(2 Corinthians 11:25-26) He doesn’t even mention the time he was bitten by a poisonous snake.

Paul developed an unshakeable faith in God as He witnessed first-hand God’s power to literally raise him from the dead. So here’s another reason we suffer. To increase our faith as we experience God’s power to deliver us from evil and the evil one.

Chosen to Suffer? It’s hard to say this in a culture where suffering and pain is often viewed as worse than death. Yet say them we must, remembering Jesus was also chosen to suffer, and not just on the cross. Living in this world, just and true as he was, had to be a source of constant suffering. And in his trials we find yet another reason God allows it: “Though he was God’s Son, it was necessary for him to learn obedience through suffering.” (Hebrews 5:8).

Trust and Obey. Picked on? Yes, and what a privilege to be so attacked by the Enemy since it shows we are viewed as a threat. But, like Paul, we have been chosen by God to undergo these trials from disciplining hand of God to learn to trust him but also to obey him.

When and if you are so chosen remember you are in good company and also recall Paul’s exhortation: “Be patient in time of trouble and never stop praying.” (Romans 12:12).

11 thoughts on “Picked On

  1. This is an incredibly timely and encouraging post. So many people (myself included) seem to be going through the wringer these days. Perhaps God is trying to toughen us up for harder times to come. At any rate, this is a post I will read and reread when I need a dose of God’s reality. Thanks brother!

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  2. Great blog post. We simply gloss over the many many passages in the New Testament about suffering because it is so foreign to us.

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    • C.S. Lewis was so on target with his great book, The Problem of Pain.
      I need to read it again. My first reading was when I was in Taiwan. My introduction to the great man.

      My thoughts and prayers are with you.

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  3. Wade…this is a great post. However, I would like to add another possible perspective. I think sometimes, our trials and/or sufferings can be due to two other reasons – consequences of our own foolishness as well as results of living in a damaged, fallen world. This does not mean we rely on the Lord any less, or that He won’t use the situation to teach use more about Himself.

    To me, it otherwise sounds as if the Lord sits and waits to pound us with calamity in order to mature us.

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    • Yes, John, thank you for balancing this post with other causes of suffering. Of course we don’t blame God for our suffering. He doesn’t pound us with calamity. He didn’t pound the nails into his son’s hands and feet. There is plenty of blame to go around. We blame Adam for failing to follow through on his mission to obey God. We blame the world, the flesh and the devil. We do not blame God. But we do believe in his creative, redemptive power to turn evil into good. If we take Joseph’s testimony seriously, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good….if we accept Corrie Ten Boom’s witness who saw evil at its worse, “there is nothing that touches us that does not first touch him…if we believe Paul’s confession “all things work together for good to those who love God..” if we believe the witness of the many martyrs who died, often terrible deaths, yet believing in God’s goodness, we can believe that God can and will and does work in and through our suffering. We can believe that our suffering, all our suffering, can be redemptive. Even the suffering the consequence of our sin can be a part of the eternal story that in the end will be glory. Many who have failed, as I have, take comfort in Peter’s moral collapse at Jesus’ trial. I take comfort that the chief apostle’s failure worked for good–in Peter’s life and in the life of the many other believers who failed. The key is to believe in God’s goodness against all odds. (Hebrews 11) “Trust and Obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey. The alternative is to curse the darkness or live in shame of our failures.

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