#10.3 – The Wisdom of Suffering [James 1:1-18]: Wisdom

And so, we come to the end of this series. Thank you for journeying with me into a greater understanding of The Wisdom of Suffering. I can really say that I have enjoyed the various topics, the comments, discussions, and even the unanswered questions. The Lord has been so faithful to share of Himself and give us perspective of something so real in every person’s life: Suffering.

I would like to end off this series with an introduction into a future one:The Community of Suffering. One that will only find itself penned once I have had more real life experience of what it means to suffer as a community.


Because we all own our own bibles today, we read the New Testament letters and apply them to our lives individually. But in reality, they were written to a group of people, a church; not individuals. And so, when James was writing to these churches, he was telling the whole church that if there was any of them deficient in wisdom, the whole church should “let him ask of the giving God, who gives liberally to everyone, and it will be given to him.”

This is a very important thing that I do not think we fully understand in our culture of western individuality. When a church lives together by the life of Christ, knows each member intrinsically, and makes all decisions together, life looks very different. And when James says that the church should “Let him ask” he is saying that the whole group should allow and encourage those believers with a lack of wisdom, (recognised clearly by those freaking out when suffering comes their way) to seek the Lord for Wisdom. To really press in for wisdom and trust God to give it to them.

The greek dictionary for “let him ask” says:

{Let him ask} (aiteit“). Present active imperative of aite“, “let him keep on asking.”

This means that as communities of suffering we make it possible for individuals to position themselves to receive wisdom from God. And to continue to receive from Him until they have been filled to the brim with it. Whatever that might mean. (For instance, I remember experiencing great suffering in my life and at the same time needed not to attend church services for a while, while I was seeking the Lord for wisdom regarding what church actually is. It was interesting to note who the people were in my life that supported my pursuit of truth and took the time to hear my heart, and those who rejected and judged me based on not fulfilling their prescribed set of rules for Christian life.)

“Let him ask” does not refer to a prayer, but to a lifestyle. A disposition of humility before the Lord. And it is the recognising of one another’s needs and the supporting of each person’s process that is so important. We must LET one another. Not Force. Not Rebuke. Not Judge. But LET.

Hence, we must be active in one another’s process. We must not just pray for brothers and sisters, but actually suffer with them. We must allow them to fully experience the suffering and fully engage in the process of being formed and shaped by it. We must let them experience the pain. We must let them position themselves to ask God for wisdom. Whatever that might mean. We must love them unconditionally and trust them, and our Lord, even when we do not understand. For that is the love that surpasses knowledge.The Love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. The Love that never ends. The Love of Christ.

I pray that we all may experience this Love. That we all may one day live in a community of true grace, of true and complete acceptance, and of true humility. A community that will suffer with us. A community that embraces the cross, and allows each member to be crucified according to the Father’s will. A community of supernatural Love. A community  in Christ!


9 thoughts on “#10.3 – The Wisdom of Suffering [James 1:1-18]: Wisdom

  1. Hey guy… its been a great series. Are you going to take a break for a bit? Maybe pick up a different topic in the meantime while you think through Suffering in Community? Glad to see your heart for community.

    I’ve been reading a book titled, A Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster. Written over 30 years ago, its rated as one of the great books on Christian devotion and deals with spiritual disciplines – all the obvious ones, plus others like Simplicity, Solitude, Celebration. Its been interesting reading and has really helped me understand my own spiritual journey a bit better in the last week. In the chapter on solitude, it speaks of things like, “The dark night” (or something like that) in a believers life that is necessary in bringing spiritual depth and substance. I hadn’t heard such things before and its reassured me about some feelings I’ve had over the years and made me feel like what I’m going through is normal. If that appeals to you, have a look for it. God Bless, Pete

    1. Thanks Peter. Your support throughout this series has been invaluable. I really appreciate you.

      I will probably take a break for a bit. Have a masters thesis to work on. Nic Thakwary has been working on a series for I call you Friend that I’m thinking of posting during this time, but we will see. I am working on a different topic that I hope to blog about in the new year: The Wilderness. Little is known and taught about it, yet it is one of the main instruments the Lord uses in our lives to disconnect us from the world and its systems, and reconnect us to Him, the source of life itself. But firstly need to get stuck into the scriptures and seek the Lord for wisdom and revelation about it before I begin writing. If you know of any books or resources on he topic, be sure to pass them on.

      Thanks for the book recommendation. If you have a copy, I’d like to lend it. Would like to start doing book reviews as well. Would be cool if we did it together on the same books. Give our readers different perspectives. What you think? I have a few books on my shelf that I’d like to get your perspective on as well.

      Chat soon. Have a great day.

      1. 🙂

        Ja, I’d be keen for co-labing on some book reviews. May depend on the book and how busy I am (the last month has been and next month will be manic moving, buying furniture, working, planning a wedding, taking care of my wife). But I am definitely interested.

        I’m going to be working through CoDiscipline with two guys in the next few months (1 chapter every 2 weeks) so unfortunately my copy will be in use for a while.

        The wilderness sounds cool. I’d definitely have a look at the chapter on solitude in CoD.

        Thanks bro, see ya

  2. Hey Dylan

    Could not help but notice your reference about The Wilderness: ” …little is known and taught about it.” You are so right. I suspect the reason has to do with the wilderness experience itself and the main principle behind it (which happens to also be the most ignored one). It is simply this: You can never define, describe or capture the Wilderness experience, because suffering, like happiness, is a highly subjective experience. There are many people who love living in the desert as they have learned how to survive there, and to them suffering would be to adapt themselves to city life (like the little guy in The Gods Must be Crazy). Which means even the Biblical metaphor of the desert as a place of suffering has its limits. And so the idea of creating your own desert to enhance spiritual growth is doomed from the start, as you will create it according to your own understanding of what suffering is, and ultimately your successful season of self-induced suffering will give you a sense of accomplishment (and spiritual pride), which will undermine exactly what the Wilderness is supposed to effect in you. A bit like seeking humility, finding it, feeling like an accomplished Christian… oops. You know the story. Ultimately the closest we can come to a generic definition of “The Wilderness” is to say that it is the frustration of the human will, which means the guy who prepares for a 40 day fast in a Kalahari cave would suffer more if his wife falls sick on the morning of his departure, and he has to cancel his trip to look after her and the kids, than he would have done in his cave . God has no interest in making us suffer as though there is something intrinsically noble about suffering, and so the gnostics and ascetics were wrong. He cares about us turning from self worship to true worship, and for that to happen our narcissistic obsession with ourselves must be eradicated. Hence the constant frustration of the ego as a necessity for real spiritual growth.

    Of course that includes (especially) the religious ego. One of the most painful forms of suffering in a Christian’s life is the cursed inability to live like the spiritual giants we believe we are called to be. We rebuke the devil, not knowing it is God who allows us to fail morally (which happens to be the lesson of Romans 7). When we finally give up the egotistical drive to become the holiest Christian in our suburb, we inadvertently stumble upon the first step to true holiness: Forgetting about ourselves.

    Sorry, I’m getting carried away here, but you’ve touched on something that is so rarely mentioned (as you’ve pointed out) that it calls for commentary and discussion. I’ll be looking forward to your posts. There is much to be said about the Wilderness experience without having to package it like we do nowadays with the rest of the gospel.

    1. Tobie

      Thanks for your comment.

      I hear what you are saying in terms of suffering being subjective and thus difficult to define. However, I would not go as far as to say “never.” And I would also not liken suffering, to a wilderness experience. I can definitely see similar characteristics in all the different wilderness experiences in scripture. (Joseph, the Exodus, Jesus, Paul, etc) And these are the one’s that I would like to understand. Just the fact that it is referred to as “The Wilderness” already gives it an implied definition.

      I do agree with you that living in the dessert (as some have adapted to doing) and having a wilderness experience (initiated by God) are different. I am not so much interested in the former. What I would like to gain revelation on, is the latter. It is a very clear theme in scripture, yet little is known about it. Thus, when God sovereignly does initiate a wilderness experience in a believers life, people have no frame of reference for it and misjudge it as “back-sliding” or other uninformed things, and end up rejecting people in the time that they need their unconditional love and support the most.

      Not only that, but most believers end up either leaving the wilderness prematurely or completely loose sight of the Lord and his Love for them because their lives turn upside down, and they have no concrete, biblical idea why. In fact, considering most of the prosperity-gospel teaching going around, no wonder they think God doesn’t love them when their lives look so completely miserable. Yet, His love is shown to them in the fact that he has lead them into the wilderness. They should count themselves highly blessed and favoured. Not rejected or hated.

      I like what you said about the guy who decides to go for a 40 day fast and then has to stay home to care for his wife instead. I can see your point. The Lord is the master of “frustrating the will” – Ironically, He knows exactly what will make us suffer; but more importantly, what will chisel at our pride and develop humility within us. And that he can do at any time in our lives and does do on a continual basis. However, The Wilderness experience that I am referring to is a specific time that God initiates to disconnect one, or even a group of his beloveds from the world or some form of worldly system, (very often religion) and connect them to His Life, and His Life alone. It is an intense season that results in complete change. It happened to all those I mentioned above, and it still happens to believers today. And I have a slight suspicion that it is going to start happening more in more in the days to come. Hence my enthusiasm to wrestle with this topic.

      Thanks for subscribing to the blog. I look forward to getting your feedback and enjoying the immeasurable greatness and inconceivable mysteries of our Lord together.

      Be blessed brother


      1. I hear you, and I agree. It is a fascinating topic and I’m looking forward to further discussions. I bought the collected works of St John of the Cross some years ago, especially with the aim of exploring his much quoted “dark night of the soul” theme firsthand. But I have not done so yet. This may be a good time for that. BTW – Any suggestions for finding an organic fellowship in Cape Town/Sea Point over December?

        1. Tobie

          Unfortunately most of us in the Rondebosch area will be away over the holiday season. But there are a few people I could connect you with. Are you on Facebook? I searched for Tobie van der Westhuizen but it looks like there is more than one of you. Are you aware that some other crazy people have stolen your name!? You better check it out… 🙂

          1. Hey Dylan

            I’ve noticed. The facebook chap is indeed someone else. I’m just glad the Lord knows who I am.

            My wife’s on FB – Revien van der Westhuizen. You’re most welcome to send some info to her.

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