How to Respond to Heartbreak

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It is undeniably and unmistakably true that Christians suffer and experience all of the same pains, hardships, and difficulties that non-believers experience. And often, as those who belong to Jesus, we face even greater suffering because of our connection to God through Jesus.

And knowing how to respond to our trials and sufferings is critically important, especially in the days and times we are living in. We live in an increasingly hostile environment toward Christian faith and values. We are painfully reminded it seems about every six months of the awful evil humans can bring upon others when another mass shooting takes place. Recently one person who attends NCC and really struggles with life’s challenges said to me, ‘Somedays I just don’t want to get out of bed.”

Paul wrote in Romans 8:18-21 (Condensed for Clarity) For I am sure that what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory God will reveal to us later. For we wait with eager hope, for that future day when we will join all God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay.

This text is Paul’s playbook for handling heartbreak, trouble and suffering.

What enables a person in the midst of great suffering and disappointment to say, “I am sure that the suffering and disappointments I am experiencing is not even worth comparing to the glory God will reveal to us later.”  What gave Paul his sense of triumph over the heartbreaks of life? What allowed Paul to say later in this great chapter that children of God are more than conquerors?

First, Paul had a correct view of time and of his life in this world.

Notice in verse 18 he says, “what we suffer now- compared to what will be revealed to us.”

For a non-believer, this present life and world is it. “You only go around once.”  “You only have one life, make it count.” There is no division of time at all.  So when things go wrong in the non-believer’s life there is nothing to fall back on. But this is not the view of a Christian and it is because of this that a Christian is able to put suffering and hardships in perspective. The non-believer has nothing to look forward to. All he can do is hope things get better and improve while he is still here. And if life doesn’t get better the non-believer is entirely without comfort.

In Eph. 2:12, Paul reminds his readers of that letter that previous to their conversion, you were living in this world apart from Christ, without God and without hope.

A mature Christian is very much aware of the division of time.  We talk about “this present time” and then something which follows in the future.  When Paul wrote, what we suffer now- he isn’t referring to the immediate moment as opposed to a few weeks, months and years. He is talking about the time prior to the end of time, the age we are presently living in between the resurrection of Jesus and His second coming.

So when Paul then refers to the glory God will reveal to us later, he is referring to that which is to come, to that great event that the whole Bible points to. This is the great promise of the Bible, the hope of those who belong to Jesus. We live knowing that this life isn’t where we belong. There is an event out in the future which of course is the second coming of Jesus, which will signal the ultimate restoration of creation and humanity. The groaning, the suffering, the pains of sin, death and decay will instantly be replaced by a glory that will be revealed to us. That is our hope.

This is such an important part of the NT teaching and such a vital, essential part of the comfort that only a Christian can know, experience, and enjoy.

A second reason a Christian is able to deal with his sufferings and be more than a conqueror is:

We look at our present troubles in light of the glory to be revealed to us at the Second Coming of Jesus.

Last summer my wife and I went to Observation Deck of the new Freedom Tower in lower Manhattan. After ascending 101 floors the elevator door opens and you enter a theater room where a video of the development of the NYC skyline is shown. Then without any warning, the screen disappears and you instantly have this uninhibited view of NYC right before you. It’s amazing. It’s like- wow that is so cool.  And then you are released to the observation deck where you can walk around to take in the breath taking views of New York City, New Jersey and beyond.

NY 5This is the idea behind the glory that he will reveal to us later.  One translation phrases it this way: the glory which is in store for us.  We are not going to be mere spectators of this glory. We won’t just be ‘on lookers.’ We are going to be participants and involved in it.

Glorification is the ultimate destiny of our salvation. We think salvation is all about being forgiven and saved from hell. I don’t want to minimize the forgiveness aspect of salvation. We can never thank God enough for delivering us from death, hell and eternal punishment.  But forgiveness is just the first step, the mere beginning.  The destiny is glorification.

Glorification means full and entire deliverance from sin and evil in all of its effects and in every respect- body, soul and mind. All of creation, physical and living, will be completely and entirely delivered from every harmful, tarnishing, polluting effect of sin. We will finally become completely like Jesus Christ.

Our salvation in Christ is not just about getting forgiven from our sins so we don’t spend forever in hell.  The destiny of salvation is glorification where all of creation along with those who belong to Jesus will be restored to what we were prior to the Fall, to what it was like the moment after God created Adam and then Eve and said it was very good- it is glorious.

So how do we face the sufferings and troubles of this life so we can be more than conquerors?

Be realistic, face the trouble as it is and at its worst. And when you feel that you are so beat down that you can’t stand it any longer, look at the other side, look at the glory that God will later reveal to you. And if you really look at this glory you will come to one conclusion: that whatever you are suffering now is not worth comparing to the glory that God will reveal to you later.

 

2 thoughts on “How to Respond to Heartbreak

  1. Thanks Michael. For the first time in my life I have been dealing with some serious health issues, for which numerous doctors have not had a solution. I am reminded that scripture tells me to “take joy in the suffering” and I struggle with that greatly. There is little joy in the pain I have been going through. But then I remember “the rest of the story.” We studied this passage in my men’s group a couple of years ago and it is a great reminder. I have also been reading Tim Keller’s devotional on the Psalms, which also gives us a great reminder of how to deal with suffering. Praise God that when we need it most, he points us to the right place in scripture.

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  2. Thank you for this encouraging and inspirational blog post! The Promises series has blessed me tremendously.

    Focusing on our glorious future with Jesus motivates us to run the race of faith and fight the good fight. Jesus himself overcame his trials by focusing on his heavenly rewards: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). Jesus looked ahead to the joy set before him – i.e., his future with his Father and his redeemed children. We should imitate Jesus’ forward-looking mentality (Ephesians 5:1).

    While I was in Juneau with CRU, the men’s project memorized an acronym that reminded us to look ahead to glorification. The acronym was R.A.C.E.S.: Reject passivity; Accept responsibility; Courageously lead; EXPECT GOD’S GREATER REWARDS; and Sacrificially love. The deceitful sinful pleasures of this life pale in comparison with the eternal pleasures that God has in store for us. Similarly, the ephemeral pains and trials we experience will soon be forgotten when we see God in his fullness.

    And when we see God, we will be made like him. As you said, “Glorification means… [w]e will finally become completely like Jesus Christ.” The apostle John knew this fact full well. He says, “Beloved, we are now children of God, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when Christ appears, we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:2-3). Clearly the apostles fixed their eyes on their future with the Lord.

    Yes, suffering should be viewed in light of our future glory. As the band King and Country says, “The things of earth are dimming in the light of Your glory and grace. I’ll set my sights upon heaven. I’m fixing my eyes on You” (Fix my eyes – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yd2we03Sy4I). Additionally, suffering should be viewed as discipline that brings us to maturity (Hebrews 12:7 + James 1:2-4). When suffering is viewed through the correct perspective it can be successfully endured through Christ.

    Furthermore, what athlete runs a race without thinking about the finish line? Paul did no such thing:

    “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way as to take the prize. Everyone who competes in the games trains with strict discipline. They do it for a crown that is perishable, but we do it for a crown that is imperishable. Therefore I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight like I am beating the air. No, I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”

    Paul ran with purpose. His eyes were fixed on his reward – his imperishable crown, and crowns symbolize regal glory. Throughout the NT, Paul continually draws strength from God by meditating on glorification. And we are called to imitate him as he imitated Christ (1 Corinthians 4:16).

    Therefore, hallelujah! Perfection is coming! The Day is near!

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