Fellowship with God in Suffering
Romans 8:35-39 (ESV)
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
It seems like it was so long ago, but there was a time when I used to suffer from anxiety. I never got diagnosed, but I had a strong feeling that I had Generalized Anxiety Disorder. It peaked during my first few years in college. I remember the times when I felt like I could not do anything: When I would constantly think of the worst outcomes, and when I felt helpless and utterly hopeless as I thought about school, my future, and my family’s financial state. Even if my circumstances were not substantial, they would hit me like a wave. It felt miserable to wake up in the morning and despise life. I did not want to get out of bed, and instead, I wanted to stay under my sheets and wished to escape from my troubles. That is how I remember myself as, always wanting to escape reality.
During this struggle, I constantly asked God why I was suffering from anxiety. I was desperate to know, foolishly thinking that it would help. God graciously revealed to me how my anxiety stemmed from childhood. He was gracious, not that this knowledge of my anxiety helped me, but because He made me realize I needed something else. What I truly needed was to be in the Father’s arms and in His embrace.
I listened to many sermons about feeling anxious and even read countless verses about worrying, but they would not help. But that is not to say that God’s Word was insufficient. I failed to use what I learned to grow deeper in Him; knowledge about God didn’t lead me to have greater fellowship with Him. But when God made me know that what I truly needed was simply Himself and to have fellowship with Him, I sought after Him with an even greater heart. Anxiety, though it would cripple me at times, fueled me to turn to God and long for Him. And through these moments I grew in my relationship with God. Eventually, God healed me from my anxiety issues. I still worry from time to time, but it never felt like how it used to.
To be honest and frank, however, I sometimes miss feeling anxious like in the past. I miss turning to God in tears with a burden of worries too heavy to carry on my own and then experiencing a gush of sweetness that would overwhelm me and flush out my worries. Though I admit that it has been a while since I experienced unbearable hardships, God reminds me of what I have. I may have “lost” my struggles of anxiety, but I still have a burning desire to know God more personally and intimately. It was through my experience of feeling anxious that led me to have a greater desire for God.
When I think about God and His characteristics, His love stands out the most. I believe that His love is the very core of who He is. All of His other characteristics are rooted in His love and find their expression through it. If it is one thing that I want to know more about God, it is His love. I firmly believe that to truly know God is to really know what love is about.
I may have saving knowledge about God’s love and how He continually shows His love to us through Christ’s death (Rom. 5:8), but the challenge for me — and I believe for us all — is to know God’s love even more. Whether we are going through tough times or not, we should seek Him wholeheartedly. I learned that theology is for doxology; knowledge of God should always inspire heartfelt praise — to adore Him and to glorify all of who He is. And I believe that worshiping God is not just limited to verbal liturgies. God continually teaches and reminds me to worship Him by how I live, to love God in all that I do and to love my neighbor as myself. That this is heaven on earth, to genuinely know God’s love. I am forever grateful to have experienced fellowship with God through my sufferings, and I long to have more fellowship with Him. There is no greater joy than simply being in God’s presence.
For Your Reflection
So let us seek to learn more about God and His love by reading the Bible. And after learning more about Him, let us turn to Him in prayer and worship. When we grow in deeper knowledge of God, we can have a greater relationship with Him. Let us taste that the Lord is good, even during our sufferings.