Tag Archives: suffering

God’s Love Doesn’t Negate the Possibility of Suffering

I’m currently teaching my way through the book of Mark in the New Testament  at my church. I want to pass along something about God’s love that many people seem to miss.

When Jesus was baptized, his Father revealed a big part of his heart by what he said. If I  had to imagine what God might say to Jesus in that moment, it would be something like, “I have called you to save the world. It will require all that you have, but I send you forth!” That’s a very functional message and it shows a bit of who I am: task oriented.

But to the contrary, Jesus’ Father wasn’t task oriented at all. He was very relational and affirming, saying:

“You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” 

Can God’s Love Allow Suffering?

What’s striking to me is what follows:

 At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him. Mark 1:12,13

​God immediately put Jesus in a place of suffering, isolation, and temptation. The mention of the wild animals just added to the scary and unpredictable nature of being in the wilderness.

It’s hard for many people to grasp that God allows suffering. In their mind, suffering negates the possibility of God’s love for them. They are convinced that if God loves them he will never allow them to suffer. When bad things happen they are quick to question and doubt God’s love, if not his very existence. Their faith rises and falls on their circumstances. They feel close to God when things are good. They feel far from God when things are bad.

​What we have to remember is that we live in a broken world. Someday God will set all things right. He will judge the wicked and reward the righteous. There will be no more death or sickness. All suffering will cease. Until then, his only promise is to be WITH US in our suffering, not rescue us from all suffering.

God’s Love Does Not Guarantee We Will Not Suffer

When Jesus walked the earth his healings and miracles were not guarantees that all believers would experience these things on earth. They were only a promise of the hope Jesus offered his believers who followed him to the end of time. His miracles were a snapshot of heaven to come.

It’s in these hard times that we see the reality of God the most. God wants to prove his faithfulness to us and have us prove to ourselves that, with his help, we can face anything.

Notice how the text above ends by saying that angels attended Jesus. That means they served him or supported him during his temptations so he could overcome the temptations.

It’s in these hard times that we see the reality of God the most. God wants to prove his faithfulness to us and have us prove to ourselves that, with his help, we can face anything.

If you are going through a hard time, trust that Jesus is with you to comfort you, guide you, and sustain you through it. He has even sent his angels to support you. ​


Free Forty Day Devotional for Lent 2017

I’d like to give you a free devotional for Lent 2017.

I’ve always enjoyed following a devotional for the season of Advent and Lent. Short daily meditations help keep me centered on what’s truly important. For Advent: reflecting on how I can best receive the presence of God in my life. For Lent: reflecting on how God uses suffering to refine me into the likeness of Jesus as I wait for God’s resurrecting power to fill me.

Free Lent 2017 Offer

For this reason I want to offer you a gift of my book, Return from Exile, free on Kindle on Ash Wednesday as well as the two days preceding it. Return from Exile uses the biblical theme of exile to explore how God uses loss in our lives. Over the forty days I reflect on what causes exile, what we can learn in exile, and what it takes to return from exile to live a new, resurrected life.

I hope you will share this post to let others know about this offer. The book is also available in paperback at 30% discount here if you use the code: YHSMPH6T. You can also purchase it at full price from Amazon.com.

A Book for Those Struggling with Loss, Pain, Anger & Disappointment

Here’s what one recent reader said of the book:

This is an excellent book for anyone struggling with loss, pain, anger, and/or disappointment…While some self-help books wield bible verses like a club, Diederich offers them as search-light into the human heart and a gentle guide for constructive solutions . He does not condemn us for feeling angry, dissatisfied, hurt or in despair, but instead gives us a model for how to use these conditions as a tool for growth and perhaps even someday use the knowledge gained to help someone else.

I speak as a pastor/friend, wanting to help you out of your personal exile to reclaim the life that God has waiting for you.

Return From Exile is for Everyone

The reviewer above used Return from Exile to help them through a rough divorce. It will soon be used in a small group of cancer patients to help them deal with the many losses associated with the disease. Return from Exile is meant for everyone because we all deal with loss.

I hope you will share this special Lent 2017 offer with friends and family going through their own season of loss. Click here to download the book for free now.


Free Sermon Series for Lent for Pastors

I want to give you a gift to pass on to your pastor. It’s a free sermon series for the season of Lent.free sermon series

Lent is the season that leads up to Easter. It’s the time we reflect on the suffering and resurrection of Jesus. But it’s also the time we ought to reflect on how our suffering can lead to resurrection as well.

Resurrection isn’t limited to the next life. It’s for this life too. God wants to resurrect us from our seasons of suffering.

Help People Overcome Their Losses

This free sermon series is called: Return from Exile: How to overcome loss, failure and personal setbacks (or whatever your pastor chooses to call it). I’ve preached these sermons in my church and they formed the basis for by book, “Out of Exile,” which was followed by my latest book: “Return from Exile.”

The goal of the series is to help people reframe their losses as something positive. I use the metaphor of exile to talk about the various losses we experience in life that leave us feeling disoriented and disillusioned.

I learned that God makes his greatest investment in our lowest moments.

The Bible is full of stories about exile and how God used them for good in the lives of his people. If you are open to it, God can use your losses to transform your life. As one person said about the book: I learned that God makes his greatest investment in our lowest moments.

Download the Free Sermon Series

Download the free sermon series here. (email me if you want a Word document)

As an added bonus, here is a link for a free download to my book: Out of Exile: Pastor’s Edition to give to your pastor. It’s written to specifically help pastors overcome the losses unique to them.

Contact me if you have any questions. Otherwise, download the free sermon series and you are good to go. Or maybe just send the link for this post to your pastor.

I hope this series encourages your church.


Overcoming Loss: a free book offer for reviewers

Have you suffered a devastating loss and haven’t known how to get your life Overcoming lossback? Whether it’s a divorce, a death, a health issue, a job loss…well, you name it. These can all leave you feeling like you’ve landed in “exile.” My new book was designed to help people in overcoming loss, failure, and personal setbacks.

What is exile? Exile is when life throws you a curveball and you end up in a place you never thought you would be. You feel stuck, like a beached whale, with no way back. Exile convinces you that life will never be good again.

It’s lonely. It’s confusing. And it’s painful.

But exile can also be a time of transition that opens a door from one season of life to the next. In “Return from Exile” you will learn that, whatever pain and loss you have experienced, it is not the end of your story. You are not finished. You are not a washout. Exile is merely a rite of passage: an intensive character-building workshop preparing you for a richer, fuller life…if you let it.

Read a Preview of “Return From Exile.”

I’ve created a short preview of the book that takes you through the introduction and the first five devotions of a forty-day journey. You’ll hear a bit of my personal story and get a feel for where the book is headed.

Click here to download the preview.  Answer the questions to rate the preview and request a free copy of the book in exchange for reviewing the full version on Amazon.com. I don’t know about you, but I rarely buy a book without combing through at least a few reviews. I’d appreciate your posting a review when you finish the full book. My book page should be “live” on Amazon.com by the time you finish the book.

I hope you’ll share this post with your friends, especially those who might be hurting right now.

I appreciate your willingness to be a part of the publishing process!


Out of Exile: Day 40 – Goodness and Mercy

Today marks the end of our 40-day journey in, through, and hopefully out of exile. Thanks for walking with me over these months as I’ve sought to help you process the losses, betrayals, setbacks, and outright rebellion that landed you in exile, far from anything that looked remotely familiar, wondering if you’d ever find your way back. 

My hope in writing for these 40 days, and my prayer for you now, is that you would experience the fullness of God’s goodness to such an extent that it would overflow you and into the life of others. After all, isn’t that what God is working into all of us…a generous heart to reveal his goodness to others? 

Let me quoted Richard Rohr one last time:

The soul has many secrets. They are only revealed to those who want them, and are never completely forced upon us. One of the best-kept secrets, and yet one hidden in plain sight, is that the way up is the way down. Or, if you prefer, the way down is the way up.

In Scripture, we see that the wrestling and wounding of Jacob are necessary for Jacob to become Israel (Genesis 32:26-32), and the death and resurrection of Jesus are necessary to create Christianity. The loss and renewal pattern is so constant and ubiquitous that it should hardly be called a secret at all.

I hope you see by now that loss, or what I’ve been calling “exile,” is not a misnomer…it’s not an aberration that hits people God is upset with or just “bad luck.” Loss comes to us all. It’s a part of life that we need to learn how to recover from and even dance with it gracefully.

When I lived on our farm, one of the many things I learned about farm life is that death is as much a part of the farm as was life. You think of a farm as a place with many living animals. But when you are there 24/7, you begin to realize that death happens all around you. There is almost a rhythm of life and death. I’d imagine people who work in hospitals experience the same thing.

We live in a sanitized world where we quickly remove pain, suffering, death, or anything that makes us feel uncomfortable. We have lost our ability to suffer, learn patience, grieve and then recover well. As a result we become shallow, self-absorbed people who get stuck in exile, having no idea how to return.

But I’m confident that God not only provides a way to return from exile but longs to restore and prosper us.  David was convinced that “goodness and mercy” would “follow him all the days of his life” even though he walked through the valley of the shadow of death. Psalm 23

When my wife and I moved off of our farm, into town and back into ministry, I was surprised at how quickly the blessings of God came back into my life. That was in 1997, and they continue today. One day I was reading through Psalm 31 where it says:

How great is your goodness that you have stored up for those who fear you, that you have given to those who trust you. You do this for all to see. Psalm 31:19

I felt like God was speaking to me directly, saying: Remy, you think you wasted seven years. You think the world passed you by and life will never be what you hoped. But all the time you were enduring hardship, I was storing up the goodness that you were missing. And now I’m bringing that goodness out of storage for you to enjoy.

I find it hard to believe that God would want any more for me than he wants for any of his children. I have to believe he has goodness stored up for you as well.

My hope in writing for these 40 days, and my prayer for you now, is that you would experience the fullness of God’s goodness to such an extent that it would overflow you and into the life of others. After all, isn’t that what God is working into all of us…a generous heart to reveal his goodness to others?

I haven’t gotten as many comments since I took a break for the holidays. But I’d love to get your final thoughts now that the journey is over. Please leave them below or email me directly.

I’m not sure how much I will be posting in days to come. Much less for sure. But I’d love to post the thoughts and stories of people who are either going through an exile or have found their way out…especially if you are in ministry. People in ministry have their own special exiles and we need to hear from our peers to gain comfort and insight.  Click the mail icon in the margin to email me.

Thanks again for traveling with me. God bless you in your journey.


Out of Exile: Day 33 – Be the Hero

I’m on the final stretch of our journey out of exile.

When you are stuck in exile there comes a time when you need to “be the hero” of your story. A negative way to say this: stop playing the victim.

It doesn’t take any courage to be angry. It doesn’t take any skill to complain, gossip, cast blame, or feel sorry for yourself. Anyone can do that. But is that the story you want your life to tell?

Would you watch a movie for two hours about a person who suffered an injustice, then complained and felt sorry for himself the rest of the movie? Of course not! What makes a good story is when someone faces injustice with wisdom, courage, and grace. We call these people heroes. So why not be the hero of your own story?

Healthy stories challenge us to be active characters, not passive victims or observers. John Trent

Being the hero requires a choice: a heroic choice. It means stepping up and saying, I’m not going to let my past control me anymore. I’m going to take responsibility for what’s happened to me and move on with my life.

Heroic choices free you from getting stuck in exile and open your life up to new possibilities. They make your story compelling. Engaging. I like what John Trent says about the power good choices have on your life:

Healthy stories challenge us to be active characters, not passive victims or observers. Both the present and the future are determined by choices, and choice is the essence of character. If we see ourselves as active characters in our own stories, we can exercise our human freedom to choose a present and future for ourselves and for those we love that give life meaning. Choosing to Live the Blessing.

Trent makes the case we should be proactive in choosing our future and not let our future simply happen to us. He builds on this idea of choice when he says:

We can curse the past like victims of circumstance, or we can bless it like victors over our circumstances. It’s up to us. It’s our choice. In some of the strongest and most compelling stories, the main character makes life-and-death choices. These choices give the story energy. They make the plot intriguing. They also change the character.

The character who doesn’t make choices is weak and passive. So if we want our lives to tell strong and compelling stories in which the characters grow into people of blessing, then we – the characters – have to make choices. Choices that are sometimes difficult. Choices that are sometimes painful. Choices that are sometimes critical, where something important is at stake.

If you think of the movies that touch you, they most often reach a moment of decision for the protagonist. In the beginning of the story she struggles with a problem, but there is a “make or break” moment. Against all odds she decides to take a risk and do the right thing.

The risk adds tension to the story because it adds a level of doubt. Can she do it? Will she regret her choice? In the end her choice pays off. You breathe a sigh of relief. Her choice enables her to overcome her struggle and become the hero. That’s a story you are willing to pay money to see.

Think of your life as a story half written. Half the book is full. You can’t do anything about those chapters. But the rest of your book has all blank pages. You determine how your story will end. What will you write?

Remember, the most compelling stories are turn-around stories…stories where a person was down for the count and made a comeback…even in the eleventh hour. So never give up on your story. (adapted from STUCK…how to mend and move on from broken relationships)

My question for you today is: are you making choices that will tell a good story?  


It’s good to be back from the holiday break. I look forward to closing out the last seven days of this 40-day journey. Please take a minute to share your thoughts below. Thanks.




Out of Exile: Day 32 – Peace in the Pain

A few days back I said it was time to return from exile and I was going to show you the way out. I’ve started us down that road, but maybe you don’t like the path so far!  Naming your losses, facing your nakedness, being silent and listening: not exactly a fun or fast track out, is it? Well, you’ve probably noticed that nothing much happens fun or fast in exile. Leaving it takes time too.

Today I want to look at how to find peace in the pain of exile. With all of the honesty, stripping, and nakedness going on, it is a pretty raw existence. Life is more like chaos where nothing is settled and it FEELS like it never will be. 

Peace doesn’t come from taking control or having someone (even God) fix what’s broken. Peace comes by being fixed on God.

Jesus said he came to give us peace, but not a peace like the world gives it.  His peace keeps us from feeling troubled and anxious (John 14:27). God spoke a similar word through Isaiah – that if we aligned ourselves with God we will have peace like a river (48:18). Combining the two thoughts…the peace of the world is temporary. The peace of God keeps flowing and never stops.

Peace typically leaves us when three things happen: something changes, conflict arises, and/or we lose control.  This is when most of us kick into control mode:

  • Plan A: we work to take back control by what ever means necessary.
  • Plan B: if we can’t take control, we ask or pay someone else to do it for us.
  • Plan C: if Plans A & B fail, we often go into denial by ignoring, minimizing, or escaping our pain.
  • Plan D: we ask God to fix it.
  • If all plans fail, we fall into despair.

Sound familiar? In one sense, there’s nothing wrong with this process. It’s natural. But at some point it’s important to realize that you are chasing the wrong end. The reason God often doesn’t answer these prayers (Fix it!  Get me out of this jam!) is that he is looking for something deeper from us.

Peace doesn’t come by getting God to bring all of your chaos under your control. 

Peace comes when you bring all of your chaos and place it under God’s control. 

If you leave exile without learning this lesson, you left too soon and your exile experience was a waste. Isaiah has more to tell us about peace:

You, Lord, give true peace (wholeness) to those who depend on you, because they trust you. So, trust the Lord always, because he is our Rock forever. Isaiah 26:3,4

Notice the source of peace. Peace doesn’t come from taking control or having someone (even God) fix what’s broken. Peace comes by being fixed on God.

My point in all of this is to point out that returning from exile should never be your goal so “I can get my life back” or “I can be happy again.” Exile IS your life for a season and you need to find a way to experience peace and joy there, not hold your breath and run through this season hoping to exhale on the other side.

No matter what you might be suffering today, God has a peace that will “guard your heart and mind” (as Paul promised the Philippian church – 4:7).

What is your process to take back control in your life? Can you relate to the plans I laid out above?  Have you been asking God to bring control to your life rather than bringing your life under his control?  Let me hear about your quest for peace by leaving a comment below. Thanks.