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  • Julie Woodley, MA

To Suffer Well


Through the 60 years of my life I have suffered, you have suffered. But one thing that I have prayed over and over is “Lord, teach me how to suffer well.” I have begged God (often on my knees) in the middle of being abused in every way, hungry, poor, an orphan, cancer, brain surgeries, people stealing from our ministry, betrayals too many to list, pain, the death of MANY family members (over 40 now that I was never able to say good-bye to). I have learned to cling to Jesus in the middle of suffering. I was and am wholly committed to let NOTHING separate me from Jesus. The worst part of suffering is the damage it can do to our view of God. Satan’s grand tactic is separating our heart from our Father through fears and wounds we have received from life’s arrows. The fear and feelings of abandonment creep in: Why did He let this happen? Why didn’t He stop this suffering?


In the eye of the storm we let go of the one who is our greatest anchor. If we want to not just survive in the storm but thrive, we need to keep our eyes on God’s love EVEN in the eye of the storm. Instead of clinging to Him we live in the smaller stories we construct in one way or another. We abandon ourselves to feeling forsaken, losing hope, anger, mistrust. At the very time we need Him the most we feel the most compelled to pull away from Jesus or feel He has abandoned us. The Evil one is working hard reinterpreting our own individual stories. He is a master at weaving in the “message of the arrows” where we will count on our own vanity and blindness to believe we can control our lives by living in the smaller stories.

The Evil one is a liar! Call it for what it is. Liar! He accuses us through the wounds, words of parents and friends that have hurt us. He calls good evil and evil good. He steals our innocence as children and replaces it with cynicism and blind naiveté as adults. I know this! I have been there! He has us question whether God really has anything good for us! Satan tries to convince us that God is our enemy. He is at work dismantling the Sacred Romance—the larger Love story God wants to tell through you! At times I have felt like I have put on my shield of faith again and again. The arrows come so fast I can barely catch my breath between them. I have learned to take a BIG deep breath and say “Jesus, come!” He comes EVERY TIME! He takes my heart that is shattered into a thousand pieces and mends/restores it. I am whole again!


Hang onto His hope that won’t let go of life. Love will grow inside of you! I know this sounds funny but I feel like the life and joy inside of me is like a chia pet, just water it a little and it grows and grows and takes over ALL of who I am! Last night I was feeling like I wanted to have a party – just pull some people together and have a party! I asked my friend James to join me for dinner. Her certainly wasn’t in a party mood. He spent the whole dinner complaining and whining…woe is me…I left the dinner with a BIG party still in me with no one to celebrate. When I drove home in my little green jeep, God said “Julie, I want to party with you! Did you forget about me! I am ALWAYS the life of the party!” So, God and I had a great party as I went to sleep. I woke up feeling like I and God had an all-night party and the great thing is, there was no hang over—only a joy.


I’m saddened that Christians have lost the larger story. We often replace the love affair with religious systems of do’s and don’ts. Have we lost the beauty and vision of God that takes our breath away? Our experience of Christianity deteriorates from a passionate grand love affair to an endless series of committees, chores that separates us from God, one another and even from our own thirstiness. There is a popular theology that says Christians should avoid suffering. We can understand why it’s easy to adopt it – pain hurts! You may have embraced it without even knowing it. Simply notice your reaction when life turns on you. But the truth is, it’s a devastating heresy—suffering will come! It’s inevitable! What will you do when the ground underneath you heaves, shaking your faith? It can level you for a long time if you thought you couldn’t escape it and are not prepared for it. It can send us scrambling.

Be very careful how you interpret your suffering. Interpretation is critical when the storms hit us. Have you made agreements with the enemy? God has abandoned me. It’s my fault? If I wasn’t such a loser this would never have happened, and an endless stream of other self-proclaimed assaults we adopt. This interpretation can allow a chasm to form between you and Jesus.


Rise up! Seek a breakthrough. I see so many Christians folding under hardship---they give into feeling abandoned. Pray against it NOW! This is an attack from the enemy. If you pray, God will shut it down. Healing is available! Hope is ahead of you! There is a greater possibility, choose LOVE! By choosing love we become witnesses not only to human resiliency but also to divine love that transcends ALL human love. If we choose to love, even in a small scale to love in the midst of hatred and fear we offer true hope to our broken world. Remember just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. (2 Corinthians 1:5). So today instead of living at a “fever pitch” serving, living in anxiety and performance, lets “Abide in Christ” NOW and bring every thought captive to abiding in Him. It’s not a matter of doing more, but of loving more.

So now, I arise, get on a plane to California! The party with God continues. If you see me in the airport come join the party!

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