Twelve years ago I had a breakdown. Shattered dreams, unmet expectations and loss made me question if God even cared about what was happening to my heart.
I felt panic, depression and confusion about the direction of my life.
If you’ve ever been there, if your heart has ever been shattered, and your recollection of the pain is still fresh, you know what I’m talking about.
Suffering can do one of two things in our lives: propel us toward hope, or lead us to despair. Thankfully, I chose the former, not because I’m such a great Christian, but because I wanted answers for the pain. So God gave. No secrets. No quick fix or speedy formula for recovery. The answer to suffering, or as I’ve come to call it, being “sifted as wheat” is found in Luke 22:31-32:
“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat, but I have prayed for you Simon that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
What does Jesus want us to know about suffering? Three things that will change our lives and our perspective on suffering. First:
Be on guard.
“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat.”
How is wheat sifted? In Biblical times, the first step was to beat it on a threshing floor to separate it from the chaff. Tossing and shaking the wheat in the air then blew the loosened chaff away. What remained was then placed in a sieve along with all its debris where it was ground up. The sifting was designed to cleanse and purify it so it would be suitable for grinding into flour.
Get the picture?
That means all the events of life that have beaten you down, rocked your world, and caused you pain, have waged an assault on your heart.
The warning Jesus gives here to Peter (and all of us) concerns the intentions of the enemy of our soul. He willed to have the disciples fall away. He desired to challenge them, to prove them hypocrites, expressing faith but walking in fear. He wanted to show them to be chaff, not wheat.
How does he accomplish his purpose? By relentless assault. Making us hard-pressed on every side. Beaten down. Broken by the vicissitudes of life. Ready to give up, embrace despair, and reject the goodness of Almighty God.
How do we proceed? With the encouragement Jesus gave to Simon Peter:
“I have prayed for you Simon, that your faith may not fail.”
The assault on our hearts will be as brutal as the sifting process. But we cannot give up. We must fight the battle for our hearts because they matter to God. He, Jesus, is interceding on our behalf so that the utter most fabric of our faith will survive in tact. Jesus has considered our plight and cares so deeply for our hearts that he has given himself unto the task of intercession so that you and I will not grow weary and lose heart.
The third life changing truth in Luke is found in the final segment of the verse:
“….And (Simon), when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
How do we heal after being sifted?
By investing ourselves in the lives of others, and using what we’ve learned from our trials to spur them on.
When our faith has been tried and confirmed, and God himself has comforted us through our affliction, we can reach back and comfort others with the mercy and grace granted to us.
“Blessed be the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort; who comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
The sifting process is difficult; those that make it through go on to spiritual maturity, those who don’t forfeit their souls for a cheap substitute. If your being sifted, don’t think it’s strange, remember Jesus’s words to Simon Peter and decide today to join him in battle for your heart.