Look Outside Yourself

September 29, 2019

David Sorn

When life gets hard we tend to turn inward. However, in our suffering, God has 4 other directions He wants us to look instead.

Look Outside Yourself

September 29, 2019

David Sorn

When life gets hard we tend to turn inward. However, in our suffering, God has 4 other directions He wants us to look instead.


Sometimes you can stare at something your whole life and not see what’s really happening.

Sometimes you just need a different perspective

For instance, in a second, I’m going to show you some popular logos.

I want to apologize to you before I show this you…because you’ll never be able to unsee what I’m about to show you.

For example, look at the FedEx logo:

(FedEx Logo)

How many of you knew there is an arrow in between the E & the X?

See it?

(Tour De France Logo)

Tour De France…you might have seen this before.

Do you see the cyclist?

The orange/yellow circle is his front tire.

The O in Tour is his back tire.

Or, here’s a good one

(Tostitos Logo)

I’m not sure how I never saw this before, but the two “t’s” in the middle of the word are people.

And they are dipping that yellow chip into salsa!

And Finally, this one blew my mind.

(Wendy’s Logo)

DO you see it?

Look at her collar.

It spells MOM!


Sometimes you can stare at something your whole life and not see what’s really there…because you’re looking at the wrong thing.

And this morning I want to talk what to do when we face hard times.

And we’re going to talk about how to look at your suffering differently…how to see things, in the midst of the hard times, that you’ve maybe never seen before.

Before we go any further, let me preface by saying that there are all different types of suffering.

We can experience physical suffering…or complicated health issues

We can experience mental health challenges or emotional pain

Some suffering can come from persecution or rejection

Some suffering comes from tragedy or loss

Some suffering might even come from our own doing.

Or from the sin of someone else.

There are SO many different reasons BEHIND the hard times that we wall face.

One of the things I really appreciate about the Bible is that it’s incredibly realistic when it comes to suffering…hard times.

It’s not sugar-coated.

If we were going to do a teaching series and teach about all the times the Bible talks about suffering or tells of people who’ve suffered, it might take us 200 weeks just to get through everything.

But today, we’re just going to approach it from a high-level, and we will try and answer the question of where should we look when the hard times come.

For a lot of us…I think we look primarily in one direction when the hard times come:

We look inward.

We tune others out…and we become prone to self-pity

And we say, “no one understands. They don’t know how I feel.”

Sometimes, we even dare say, “God, how could you do this to me?”

Our self-pity is wrapped in a pride that we often don’t see…

It becomes difficult to walk in the chief virtue of humility when you suffer.

But here’s the beauty of God’s Word…it will allow you to look at your hard times differently.

It’s like staring at a logo, and then someone points your eyes to something you’ve never seen before.

That’s what God’s Word can do.

And because God’s opposed to our pride, He’s going to call us to look outside of ourselves…not just inward to self-pity…

…that’s how you can survive suffering…looking outside of yourself.

Now, notice I didn’t say that we’re going to look at the Bible’s teaching on how to make suffering go away…or avoid suffering in your life.

No, we’re talking about the Bible’s teaching on how to endure suffering...that’s what it teaches.

This series is not “IF life is hard..”, it’s “WHEN life is hard…”

So what do you do when you suffer through unemployment?

Or a spousal betrayal?

Or a miscarriage.?

You won’t open a Bible and find “4 steps to end suffering that all start with Q”

I’m even a bit hesitant to provide you with practical direction today…because I really don’t want you to leave here thinking that I said this is going to be easy.

It’s not.


But I still want to give you some direction, so what we’re going to look at today is what Scripture teaches on how to survive the hard times…not how to erase them, solve them, or end them.

Instead, I’m going to give you a number of different directions the Bible encourages you to look in your hardships.

And none of them will be into yourself…in self-pity.


#1: Look to the Side

When we suffer…we are not called to suffer alone.

When Job, in the Old Testament loses all of his livestock, all of his servants, and all of his children…in one day…

His friends came and sat with him for 7 days. Just sat.

We’re not supposed to suffer alone.

This is how we are commanded to watch out for each other:

(Galatians 6:2) – NIV

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

We aren’t to suffer alone.

And yet…many American Christians do.

I just saw a stat the other day that said, in 1980, 20% of Americans were lonely.

Today, that number has doubled to 40% of Americans…who say they are lonely.

(Look Outside Yourself Slide)

I was telling some of our staff this week that it seems like the amount of pastoral care our elders do goes way down in the summer.

And do you know why that is?

It’s not because all of us experience less hard times in the summer.

It’s because we don’t have House Groups in the summer.

But when we get in community with one another…

And we open up the Bible together…

And pray together…

And talk about our lives together…

We look to the side, at the people sitting with us…and we begin to finally let them carry our burdens with us.

That’s what the church is meant to look like!

And it breaks my heart to think that most American Christians don’t have anything like that.

That they suffer alone.

80% of American Christians don’t have any sort of Christian community around them.

They merely just attend a Sunday service, walk in, and walk out…

No community.

Or nowadays, in many churches, they don’t even show up in person…they just watch the service from home.

Listen, Bible teaching is incredibly important, but walking in & walking out, without knowing anyone, is not how the body of Christ is meant to function.

Paul tells us this in Romans 12:

(Romans 12:15) – NIV

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

But some of you are in that 80% group

You’re a part of the 80% of American Christians living an isolated faith.

This is not what Jesus what Christ wants for you.

And one of the main reasons is this:

When the hard times come, you won’t have any one to mourn with you.

To cry with you, to counsel you, to support you.

I want you to know that here at Renovation Church, the statistic is actually flipped.

80% of our people, DO have that community…people to mourn with them & support them in the hard times.

And if you don’t have that yet, where else are you going to get that when the hard times come?

I remember when my grandpa died when I was in 2nd grade, I remember my dad (as it was his father), mostly holding it together at the funeral.

But at one point during the funeral, even though the funeral was 2 hours away from our home town, his eyes happened to glance upon 3 people who walked in the door.

And it was his 3 best friends…his co-workers who had made the drive…and he lost it.

We weren’t meant to suffer alone.

The relief of having your friends carry the burdens with you…is SO powerful!

We want to be there with you.

And if you haven’t signed up for a group yet, seriously, do so today at the hallway table.

Look to the side.


There is another key direction we need to look though when the hard times come.

And by the way, if you’re not in a hard time right now, this is the time to take notes…because you certainly will be in the future.

Speaking of taking notes, since we’re just starting up House Groups again…this is a good time to point out…that if you take notes in our Renovation Church app…

…one of the benefits of that is that you can pull your notes up (from a Sunday morning) while you are at House Groups during the week…which can be really helpful!

To take notes in the app, simply find today’s message in the message tab, and then take a note.

All right, here’s the second direction we need to look when the hard times come:


#1: Look to the Side

#2: Look Up

Look up to God.

This is easier said than done.

When life gets hard…really hard.

It’s easier to drown yourself in anger and self-pity than it is to cry out to God for help.

It’s easy to stop praying…maybe even to stop coming to church.

Self-pity will often turn you against God

Self-pity will tell you to say, “God, how could you do this to me? How could you let this happen?”

Now, it’s okay to be honest with God…and share your emotions with Him…that’s basically what most of the Psalms are in the Bible

It’s not like God doesn’t know what you’re thinking & feeling anyway.

But let’s be careful to not accuse God…or blame God.

Remember, our self-pity is just another form of pride.

Our self-pity wants to say, “God you don’t know what you’re doing! If you did, you would never have let this happen to me.”

We’re going to dive deeper into this question of WHY God sometimes allows suffering in our lives in the 2nd week of this series.

Which will actually be 2 weeks from today, on October 13th…

Next Sunday, October 6th we will be celebrating Renovation’s 10th birthday!

(Birthday Slide)

I’m going to talk a little bit about our past.

But I’m also going to talk a little bit about our future.

I don’t want you to miss next week because I’m going to update you on some really important things regarding our future building as well.

So PLEASE be here for that.


So…two weeks from today we’ll dive deeper into this topic of WHY God sometimes allows suffering, but at minimum, let me say this on that topic today….

… Before we think of accusing God of anything we must remember the difference between us and God…specifically how He knows infinitely more than we do.

It makes me think of when Lindsey and I first gave each of our kids a bath after they got home from the hospital as infants.

You’re trying to do the right thing for them…

But for most babies…as soon as you put them in the water…no matter how good of a job you did making sure the water was just the right temperature…

They start crying and yelling.

And they look at you like, “You MONSTER! How could you do this to me?!”

And they you start putting the soap and shampoo on…

And they scream some more, “And now this! You torturer!

But you know something they don’t, right?

And similarly, God knows some things that we don’t ☺

I think we sometimes, in the suburbs, we forget that life isn’t always up and to the right either.

Years ago, I read an article where a man who had spent most of his life in the city was talking to his father-in-law who had spent his entire life farming.

While they were discussing the differences between city living and farming, the old farmer noted:

"Most city folks I know expect each year to be better than the last," he said. "They think it's normal to get an annual raise, to earn more this year than you did last year…

but as a farmer, I have good years and bad years. It all depends on rain at the right time, dry days for harvest, and no damaging storms. Some years we have more; some years we have less."

And the author of the article notes that it hit him: This was the real “law of the harvest.” Some years are good. Some not so much.

And this principle is the same in life.

Growing in spiritual maturity requires gratefully accepting the “seasons of more” AND the “seasons of less”

If you call Him Lord when it’s sunny, we must also trust Him when it’s raining.

And so when the hard times come, one of the best things you can do is to LOOK UP…and start talking to God.

And say, “God, I don’t know what you’re doing right now…I’m not sure I understand it…but I trust you.”

I trust that you are working all things together and that you love me.


And the last two places that you can look…will assure you of His love for you.


#1: Look to the Side

#2: Look Up

#3: Look Ahead

Look ahead…to the future.

The thing about suffering is that it often keeps you looking inward…and it becomes difficult to get your mind off of your present suffering

But the Scriptures tells us as believers that we are to keep our eyes on the prize…

That we will one day walk in the new heaven and the new earth with Christ!

And therefore we must look ahead…to our time in the rest of eternity.

(2 Corinthians 4:17-18) – NIV

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Paul says, “For our light and momentary troubles”

Paul is not making light of your sufferings here.

He’s only saying that our sufferings are nothing in comparison to the good things we will experience when this life is over!

And Remember, Paul himself suffered greatly.

He was stoned, whipped, beaten, shipwrecked 3 times, put in prison multiple times.

But he’s saying, through all of our suffering, we should FIX YOUR EYES on eternity…what is unseen…not just the pain you see with your eyes right now.

We do this with other things…we “look ahead” so that we can endure!

When you’re giving birth…I’ve heard it’s hard work…

How do survive the pain of the labor?

Because you KNOW, in the end, it will be worth it!

And you fix your eyes on that.

Or, let me give you a different example.

The other night when Lindsey and I came home from House Groups, our babysitter, who’s in college was doing homework on her laptop…as the kids were in bed.

I saw her doing homework and I shivered.

And then I thanked God from the deepest parts of my soul that I have to do no such thing anymore.

And it brought me back to some of the late nights of studying, the cramming for tests, staying up to 4am to finish writing a paper.

Those were the difficult times of college.

But now that it’s over, and the entire story of college has been written….

When I think back on college, that’s not what I think of.

I think of the many good things that happened.

I think of my friends…

I think that I graduated…and went on to the next thing.

And some day, when this life is over, and you are with God…

And the difficult times are over.

You will look back with a perspective that you don’t have right now.

This is why it’s so important…that when life is hard…that you don’t just inward to your own present sufferings, but you look ahead…to the future.

As it says in the Book of Revelation…when all things here are wrapped up:

(Revelation 21:4) – NIV

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”


I think this is an encouraging word from God.

Don’t just look down at your own sufferings…

But look next to you at the people who want to carry the burdens with you.

Look up at a God who loves you and is in control

Look ahead at what He has waiting for you.

And then, fourthly, here’s where Christianity is so powerful…

Perhaps the best place for you to look when life is hard…is to look back:


#1: Look to the Side

#2: Look Up

#3: Look Ahead

#4: Look Back

To look back…to the past…to Jesus on the cross…

The central point of our faith.

“The problem of suffering” is a difficult thing for any philosopher, or any religion.

But Christianity is the only worldview that can make sense of suffering on a personal level.

Think about this.

If there is no God…is there any point to your suffering?

Life is meaningless if there is no God.

There is literally no point to it…and thus your suffering means nothing. Absolutely nothing.

And even in other religious systems

In Buddhism your suffering may just be a result of your Karma

That’s not very comforting.

In Islam, you can go to Allah with your suffering…

But mostly with just a recited prayer

And Allah (if he were real) doesn’t know what it’s like to suffer.

But think of Jesus.

Jesus got weary…

He knows what it’s like to have friends die…or betray him.

Jesus was tempted…He was abandoned…He was rejected.

And ultimately…even executed.

Jesus KNOWS what it’s like to suffer.

It’s hard to even question suffering when your eyes are on the cross…

It’s hard to fix your eyes on the cross and say “God, why are you doing this? Don’t you love me?”

You can’t say that while looking at that cross.

When you LOOK BACK…and fix your eyes on the cross…

You’ll see that he suffered for you…

…and He suffered, to come into your suffering…and be with you.

And this completely changes how the Christian is able to look at their suffering.

Imagine you decided to volunteer at Children’s Hospital.

And you volunteer by visiting the children there that are dying of cancer.

And one day, a nurse who has taken notice of your frequent visits pulls you aside and says, “I don’t understand. How can you believe in God…after seeing all of this suffering? After seeing children dying??”

As a Christ follower, you could say, “I can believe in God…because the Son of God knows even what it’s like to die. He knows…what even these kids…are going through.”

“And for Christians, remember, death is not death…

“For the Christian, death is not the end…but the beginning.

And so “look outside yourself” this week.

Like those logos I showed you at the beginning, too many of us have been staring at our suffering, but we’re not seeing all that’s there.

Look around you

Share your burdens with others…

And look to the God who suffered on the cross and gave His life for yours.

Let me pray.

Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN

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