“Charity suffereth long, and is kind;” 1 Corinthians 13:4
To suffer is to endure something unpleasant or to be subjected to something bad.
Suffering comes in many different forms:
Loss of a loved one
We have all suffered one or more of these to varying degrees. Some of us survive and learn patience, while others become bitter because of it. One person can believe God allowed the suffering so they could grow and overcome, becoming a stronger person. Yet, another person will shake their fist at God with anger and wonder why.
When I think of suffering long, I think of when I had my nerve injury. The pain was so constant. I would lay awake all day and night, rocking back and forth as I cried loudly. I had a bed pan beside me, dozens of pills, the cold dark corners of the room to comfort me all the day long. My husband would walk past with his hands over his ears because it killed him to hear my cries of pain. My children were scared to come near me for fear of hurting me. I threw up a lot, and laid there beside my dirty bed pan. I would beg God to give me mercy and grace for each passing minute. I lived minute by minute, for I could not bear to know that pain another second. And the pain went on for nine months like that. Yet, all I could fathom was that the burning in my foot could not compare to what hell would be like. It did feel like an eternity, as I look back. Every minute seemed to be like an hour, my days like years. I patiently endured each minute that I was given. When people would ask, I could not bear to complain, I would utter these few words “I am better than I deserve.” I know there are so many worse situations than that. To keep my mind pure, I would sit there and thank God for the things I did have, counting my blessings one by one. I knew that I could endure the intense pain if it was only temporary-temporary in an eternal sense. I held fast to my heavenly home where I would one day walk on streets of gold.
When you are out of intense suffering, you appreciate the breaks you have all the more. It prepares your heart for even more disappoints that may come in life. I have a friend that buried two of her children at a young age. I can’t imagine the suffering of that loss she has to endure on a daily basis. You begin to see that things could always be worse. That suffering of pain I endured was actually nothing compared to real suffering that is unjust.
Christ suffered death on the cross for our sins. He patiently endured the cross of shame to give us new life. He did not defend himself. Instead he showed charity towards us when we were yet sinners.
Enduring People Patiently...
To suffereth long in charity means something different than enduring patiently pain in life. It is patiently enduring others with unlimited love and kindness. After all, there is a plug of the word kind after suffereth. Some people are very hard to be around, so much so, that you feel you actually suffer them. God calls us to be different than the rest of society. Normal human love will love those that are good to them. Even an evil murderous person is good to his buddies and will lay his life down for them. The trick comes when you love someone who is not so nice to you. You return good for evil when nature temps us to return evil for evil.
In our own homes, we sometimes have difficult people to live with. Do we patiently endure them? Do we practice the law of unlimited love and kindness when we are treated badly by our spouse or children? Instead, we snap back or shrink in disappointment. We become indignant or we ignore. To be longsuffering we must not be quick in getting angry and frustrated. We must not be quick to offer the cold shoulder. I know I fail here. I do get quickly frustrated when the kids are acting foolish or disobedient. I am not always kind to them as I should be. The bible says… A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger. Proverbs 15:1
Mom bucks have helped me curb my lack of long suffering. I can softly answer, “That’s 2 mom bucks,” Instead of losing my patience.
If we have charity, that is, a unlimited amount of love and kindness towards others, we are happy for them when they excel. We will not envy their wealth, beauty, or success. When all the while you are sitting on the other side of the fence, in pain or in need. You longingly look at their joyous smiles and you envy. You see they have a better husband who lets them do the things they desire, while you are stuck with Mr. No. How many people can say this about themselves? If our lives are a mess because of choices we made, we must love others enough to rejoice in their good fortune, not comparing ourselves among ourselves. We should only compare ourselves to Christ.
And when we do rightly and experience some blessings, out of charity we do not flash our success like a braggart. If we have charity, we do not vaunt ourselves which means to brag about ourselves or exalt ourselves above others. Like a mother who has 12 children and vaunteth about her growing number of children to the barren woman who has no children, it is not showing charity. We ought to be sensitive to others around us if we are to love fully. If our husband is wrong on some matter, we do not have charity toward him if we say “I told you so.”
Charity is not puffed up. A puff is a short, explosive burst of wind and when driven into something, that thing expands. In short, it puffs up. I like to think of the puffer fish. As a protective instinct, the puffer fish puffs its body up until it becomes a prickly ball of spines. Any creature that would try to eat it will be sorry they tried after they have spines sticking into the roof of their mouth. When we puff up we protect our pride. We build walls instead of tying strings of trust with those we love. It is a stubborn pride that will not give in and let the other person be right. Many marriages are ruined because of puffing up. People have a tendency to protect themselves. They do not want to be hurt or taken advantage of. It is to risk something sacred to them to be transparent. It is hard to say to your spouse after you make a fool of yourself by having a childish fit, that you were out of line. I have sat for hours in silence on a car ride staring out the window because I was puffed up. Pouting and prideful, I inch my way as close to the window as possible. When I bring my thoughts back into the captivity of Christ, I see how foolish I was being. What if we got into a car wreck and the last thing I saw was my pouting face staring back at myself? What a pitiful sight! That would be a foolish way to end my days. Quickly I unpuff and look to my husband. I let my guard down and smile, telling him how much he means to me. How foolish I was to be so puffed up and bitter. How I know it is wrong to waste my minutes staring out that window separating myself from his steadfast, unwavering charity towards me. Instead of clinging to my pride, I hold his hand. He is ready to forgive his prodigal wife every time. What a blessing.
The light of truth shines into my heart today exposing the areas that are dark and full of cobwebs. I want to display this kind of unlimited love that is always kind, always patiently enduring. My days will be sweeter the more I practice. And the days of my husband and children will be sweeter if I can walk in charity toward them. Today I choose charity.
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