As a long-time physician with a private family practice, my dad had several paperback books he repeatedly ordered in bulk and gave out to patients.

 

“The Sugar Blues,” for one, detailed the ill-effects of consuming sugar. “Super-nutrition” was a guide promoting the value of vitamin and mineral supplements. “Psycho-cybernetics,” written in 1960 by a famous plastic surgeon, Maxwell Maltz, offered self-help advice.

 

Yesterday, in looking for a Bible commentary from my bookshelf, I came across Maltz’ book and felt sentimental enough that I pulled it out for old time’s sake. It’s a book I’ve read at least three times, thoroughly marking it up with pen underlinings and stars and magic-marker highlightings in pink, turquoise and lavender. Little notes to myself in the margins include my ever-popular “This is it!” or “Don’t forget!”

 

So, for the sake of sharing some really good information like my dad tried, here are just a few excerpts I’ve found particularly helpful in my own struggles:  

 

1. “It is not knowledge of actual inferiority in skill or knowledge which gives us an inferiority complex and interferes with our living. It is the feeling of inferiority that does this . . .  ‘You’ as a personality are not in competition with any other personality simply because there is not another person on the face of the earth like you, or in your particular class. You are an individual. You are unique. You are not ‘like’ any other person and can never become ‘like’ any other person . . . God did not create a standard person and in some way label that person by saying ‘this is it.’ He made every snowflake individual and unique . . . Once you see this simple, rather self-evident truth, accept it and believe it, your inferior feelings will vanish . . . self-realization is gained by ‘a simple belief in one’s own uniqueness as a human being, a sense of deep and wide awareness of all people and all things and a feeling of constructive influencing of others through one’s own personality.’ ”

 

2. “Often the difference between a successful man and a failure is not one’s better abilities or ideas, but the courage that one has to bet on his ideas, to take a calculated risk—and to act.”

 

3. “Because modern man does depend almost entirely upon his forebrain he becomes too careful, too anxious, and to fearful of ‘results,’ and the advice of Jesus to ‘take no thought for the morrow,’ or of St. Paul to be ‘careful in nothing,’ is regarded as impractical nonsense.

 

“Yet, this is precisely the advice that William James, dean of American psychologists, gave us years ago, if we would have only listened to him. In his little essay, ‘The Gospel of Relaxation,’ he said that modern man was too tense, too concerned for results, too anxious (this was in 1899), and that there was a better and easier way. ‘If we wish our trains of ideation and volition to be copious and varied and effective, we must form the habit of freeing them from the inhibitive influence of reflection upon them, of egoistic preoccupation about their results. Such a habit, like other habits, can be formed . . . When once a decision is reached and execution is the order of the day, dismiss absolutely all responsibility and care about the outcome. Unclamp, in a word, your intellectual and practical machinery, and let it run free; and the service it will do you will be twice as good.’ ”

 

4. “Above all, keep in mind, and hammer it home to yourself, that the key to the matter of whether you are disturbed or tranquil, fearful or composed, is not the external stimulus, whatever it may be, but your own response and reaction. Your own response is what ‘makes’ you feel fearful, anxious, insecure. If you do not respond at all, but ‘just let the telephone ring,’ it is impossible for you to feel disturbed, regardless or what is happening around you. ‘Be like the promontory against which the waves continually break, but it stands firm and tames the fury of the water around it,’ said Marcus Aurelius.

 

“The ninety-first Psalm is a vivid picture of a man who experiences feelings of safety and security in the very midst of terrors of the night, arrows that fly by day, plagues, intrigues, snares of enemies, danger (10,000 fall at his side), because he has found the ‘secret place’ within in his own soul and is unmoved—that is, he does not emotionally react or respond to the scare ‘bells’ in his environment.”

 

 

*****

 

The Apostle Paul spends a great deal of time in his epistles trying to help Believers put their troubles, difficulties, physical/emotional sufferings, etc., in the proper context.

 

One of the great passages preachers use to convey Paul’s overall message on the subject is II Corinthians 4: 15-17:  “For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God.
[16] For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.
[17] For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;
[18] While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

 

*****

 

Just a few Sundays ago, as attention was still glued to the unfolding disaster in Haiti, Jordan pulled out II Cor. 4 for a thorough, hour-long examination.

 

He started, though, by reminding us how Paul also admonishes, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

 

The idea is no matter what trouble comes, while the flesh might say, ‘Oh, it’s killing me!’, if you’re ‘renewed in the spirit of your mind’ with the truth of God’s Word about it, you’ll realize, ‘Well, it’s really not that bad.’

 

Jordan explains, “The flesh cries, ‘I don’t think this will ever get over! I see nothing in the future but misery, pain, agony, despair, deep dark depression,’ and the renewed mind says, ‘No, it’s just for a moment. What’s 70, 80, 90 years compared to eternity?’ For our light affliction, which is but for a moment—notice the next word, WORKS for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.

 

“You see, the whole perspective on trouble, on suffering, on difficulty—its meaning has been radically altered. Instead of destroying me, it’s working for me. Did you ever get fired or laid off from a job? You know what they do to you? They take you in, they tell you your services are no longer needed and that the security person will follow you to your work station. ‘Gather up your personal belongings, put them in a box and take them to the curb.’

 

“You know why they do that? They don’t want you going back and sabotaging the company and the work station. There’s a difference between workers and destroyers.

 

“ ‘Now,’ Paul says, ‘Here’s a new perspective. A renewed mind says this has come into my life, not to destroy me, but to be productive. It works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.’

 

“Boy, when you see that you saw ‘Wow!’ You know what God’s done? When God took away the healing program of divine intervention (in Israel’s Old Testament economy) and replaced it with the dispensation of grace, He really replaced the healing program with something BETTER!

 

“Not just to take it away, but to use the suffering; give some meaning to it, give me something that might let it do something for me NOW and work for me a far more exceeding eternal weight of glory. That’s talking about eternity being brighter and better because of the (current) suffering.

 

“As opposed to something that comes and steals, it brings gain. It brings the ability for you to KNOW Him in a way you could never know Him. Trust Him in a way you could never trust Him. Grow in a way you could never grow without it. And they begin to work!”

 

*****

 

Another huge passage of Paul’s focused on getting people to see the same reality is Romans 8:18-28:

 

 [18] For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
[19] For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.
[20] For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope,
[21] Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
[22] For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.
[23] 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.
[24] For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?
[25] But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.
[26] Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
[27] And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
[28] And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

 

Jordan says, “You see, we’re not here in despair, we’re here in hope. Verse 21 says we’re ‘delivered from the bondage of corruption.’ The whole creation’s gonna be freed from its misery. First, He’s going to deliver us, then He’s going to deliver all of creation. He’s gonna make a new world for us to live in.  By the way, the world was made for you, not you for the world.

 

“When verse 22 says, ‘For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now,’ travail is a special word in the Bible. Consistently in Scripture with that word ‘travaileth,’ you’re reading about the pains of childbirth.

 

“There’s a big difference between the cry in the oncology wing at the hospital and the agonizing cry in the birth unit. One is the cry of death; the other’s the cry of life. One is the pain that takes away; one is the pain that gives. You follow that?

 

“That’s the way we groan today. The type of pain we experience is, ‘He’s doing something in this! He’s gonna bring life! He’s giving birth to something!’ Ultimately it’s a new heaven and a new earth and a new body for you, but it’s also ‘a far more exceeding weight of eternal glory’ for your inner man to live in that body.

 

“Thoughtless people sometimes mock the idea of ‘groanings which cannot be uttered’ (Romans 8:26), but you live long enough and you’ll know about pain that comes into your life that’s so agonizing, and so paralyzing, and so traumatizing that you can’t even express it in human terms.

 

“All you can do is just, ‘Aagh-ugh,’ and groan, and Paul says one of the things the Spirit of God does is He enters in right down to the depths of your human suffering—right down to the depths of your human need and He groans together with you.

 

“That’s the ‘fellowship of his sufferings’ Paul said in Philippians that he wanted to know about it! It’s possible because He’s entered into our sufferings. When you’ve bought into that kind of hope; when you’re really sold on the kind of future that this passage says, you know you don’t have anything to lose.

 

“It won’t be hard for you to be a humble, sacrificing (person who) goes to the hardest places and lives in the hardest relationships. You got nothing else to lose; just throw yourself into this mess of a world for service because you’ve got an inheritance coming! That’s what motivates you.

 

“If you don’t believe in that kind of a future, all you got is right now. All you got is your retirement, or your IPOD, or your big-screen TV, or your new car, or your buffed-up, fixed-up body.”

 

*****

 

Biblically, there are three sources of suffering: One, we live in a fallen creation. Two, we make bad decisions called sin that have consequences. Three, as Paul says, ‘All that live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.’

Jordan says, “Every problem you have comes from one of those three things. There’s some of us who are in Christ by His grace and we abuse it and we don’t know much about the sufferings that come because of the work of Christ—we know a lot about the sufferings that come because of our own stupidity.

 

“But there’s something God has done for you in His grace that’s so marvelous that I don’t know how it couldn’t reach out and get a hold of your heart and captivate it.

 

“That, in spite of the fact you may know nothing about the sufferings of Christ, but you know a lot about the sufferings because of your sin, there are also going to be sufferings in your life that come simply because God left you here to be an ambassador for Jesus Christ.

 

“When you got saved, He could have taken you to glory just that quickly but then there wouldn’t be anybody left here to do the work of the ministry. So to leave you here, He guarantees you’re going to have some physical sufferings just because He left you here in a sin-cursed world—just because He knew there’s the capacity for you to do some dumb, bone-headed things with your life, and there’s the capacity for you to have the offense of the Cross work in your life.

 

“And He’s fixed it so that no matter where those sufferings come from, even if it’s simply because He left you here and you’ve abused His grace, yet He’s provided simply because He’s left you here with the dare of faith and the dare of His grace to cause even those sufferings to work in eternal glory.

 

“God is so interested in the well-being of your future, He’s willing to totally disregard you—your efforts and your lack of efforts—to reward you. You know what that is? That’s the grace of God!”

 

*****

 

Jordan continues, “There’s an old saying, ‘When in trouble, remember your eights.’ The Book of Romans ought to be the most important single book in your life. You ought to master this book. If you haven’t, you need to start today. Romans 8 is sort of the high point of the book and when you come to verse 18-25, this is the single most important passage in the Bible about suffering.

 

“You need to have this passage in your mind and in your heart—you need to understand it inside and out. Because when difficulties come in life, you need some help in going through the suffering and this is the passage that does it. Whatever the suffering is going to be, this passage orients you to the meaning—what it means in your life.

 

“Romans 8:17 says, ‘And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.’ Do you realize you’re a joint heir with the Lord Jesus Christ?! When you embrace Him as your treasure, a treasure above all the treasures of the world (‘for me to live is Christ’) you’re going to inherit everything He inherits!

 

“You know what He’s going to inherit? The whole thing! The universe! People argue, ‘Well, do we come back to the earth in the Millennium or do we reign in the heavens?’ Has it dawned on you that the earth is IN the heavens?! I mean, that’s a distinction without a distinction! Because He’s going to get it all!

 

“He’s the son of David; He gets Jerusalem. He’s the son of Abraham; He gets the land. He’s the son of Adam; He gets the earth. He’s the son of God; He gets the whole she-bang! And I’m gonna inherit it with Him! He’s my big brother! Joint heirs!

 

“Then it says, ‘If so be that we suffer with Him that we may be also glorified together.’ Understand, the pathway to glory beyond this life is suffering now and when it says, ‘If we suffer with Him,’ you can’t go back to Calvary and suffer with Him physically or even spiritually.

 

“He’s talking about if we have the same attitude about sufferings that He had about sufferings—if we think about it like Him and we join with Him in His thinking about suffering, and we suffer with Him, then there’s going to be some glory. There’s going to be some beauty.”