From Suffering to Renewal
“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts to us in our pain.” –CS Lewis
Suffering is a painful, but universal fact of life. We all have or will experience suffering – Christ affirms this truth plainly: “In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33).
“Why open this letter on such a depressing note?” you might ask. Because it is helpful, not to overly dwell on the past, but to remember and learn from it; because suffering is a daily companion to the people we have been called to minister to at Bethesda Mission; and because it is often only when one embraces the depth of suffering that one can truly cling to the hope found in Christ and experience renewal of soul, mind, and body.
“Suffering plants the flag of truth within the fortress of a rebel soul.” –Timothy Keller
No one knows so acutely the pain of suffering than the man who first walks into our shelter having hit rock bottom: enslaved to addiction, his friends and family driven away, he finds himself with no other options but to live out of his car. His health has been neglected for years, he’s angry at both himself and the injustices he’s faced, and he feels abandoned by God and society.
This man has two choices. He can allow the suffering to move him away from God in anger and bitterness, or he can let it draw him closer to God in trust and confidence.
“When I hear suffering I think of the bag of “trash” that the men carry with them up our steps (i.e. guilt, shame, failure); yet the bag of trash is kept, seeing it is a familiar companion. When I hear renewal I think of the One who takes our trash out – never to come back; giving us a life that does not burden us down with that bag of trash. New Beginning…having the trash taken out. Helmsman…knowing it needs not be carried again.” – Bill Christian, Men’s Mission Director
Our guests at the Mission – from the child who feels abandoned at every turn, to the abused woman trying to numb her pain with drugs, to the man drowning his feelings of failure in alcohol – have all endured heavy doses of suffering in their lives. For some it was due to their own bad decisions and for others the circumstances were out of their control. But the deeper the suffering, the greater the opportunities for God to intervene. Our consistent message of hope to each one of these individuals is, “There is a creator who loves you and became man to experience suffering with you and for you.” This is how we are redeemed and renewed.
“And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast. To Him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.” -1 Peter 5:10
If you are planning to attend our upcoming annual banquet on September 21 – and I hope you are – this theme will be repeated throughout the night as we listen to real people share their stories of suffering, hope, and renewal. I trust that everyone there will experience a sense of renewal themselves, identifying with the way God is working in others and clinging to His desire to work in each of our lives as well. Please RSVP by clicking here or calling 717-257-4442.
Will you consider a gift to help us continue spreading this message of hope to those who are suffering in Harrisburg? Your support allows us to remain a refuge for the homeless, a respite for the hurting, and a place of renewal for the hopeless. Every day we see lives changed by the power of God’s love, and you have been an essential part of that process. Thank you for all that you have done and continue to do to support the men, women, and children at Bethesda Mission. Click here to donate.
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”
-2 Corinthians 4:16-17
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