7 Truths to Remember When You're Suffering
Many of the blog posts thus far here at BringingTRUTH.com have been related to theology, apologetics, and/or evangelism. I would like to offer up something slightly different here. My hope is that this post might help those of you who are currently in the midst of a struggle or trial which is causing a significant amount of suffering in your life.
I think it is safe to say that everyone reading this is either coming out a season of suffering, you’re in the midst of one now, or suffering is coming in your life.
In this life, suffering is unavoidable, it’s just a matter of when.
We all suffer at one time or another. That’s why I didn’t title this Seven Truths to Remember IF You’re Suffering. Rather a more accurate title is Seven Truths to Remember WHEN You’re Suffering. Suffering is simply a part of existing in this fallen, broken world. No one is immune to suffering.
Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33 NASB
(Other translations render tribulation as: trouble, trials, sorrow, or suffering.)
Since suffering is unavoidable, how can we cope with it? Can we do more than just cope with it? What are some things to remember in the midst of our suffering?
Before we dive in, let me just say that this isn’t just some theological exercise for me, or some examination of a topic that is devoid of any personal relevance. For the last 13 years I have known suffering in a way that I have never known in the previous 32 years of my life. This suffering isn’t even something that is happening to me directly. Sometimes we suffer because someone we love is suffering. That is the case with my son Nathan who has intractable epilepsy.
I have watched him suffer through countless grand-mal seizures. They are very disturbing to watch no matter how many times I see them. He falls to the ground as one part of his body is completely stiff while another part goes through violent convulsions. Even though it isn’t my body that is enduring this, it is the most painful thing I have ever felt in my life.
If that wasn’t bad enough, often what’s worse is what leads up to it. He screams out in pain, yelling for his mom and dad as he tells us that he is scared and nervous because he knows what is coming. Our prayer is that he would stop screaming, and ironically he does stop, but only when the seizure overtakes him and he collapses unconsciously to the floor. The relief of not hearing him scream anymore can’t be enjoyed because we know the toll that is being taken on his little body at that time.
Often he comes out of it, only to rest for a moment just before more screaming begins and the whole process starts up again. This may go on for hours and is completely frustrating for everyone involved. We simply want them to stop.
This is suffering that Nathan must endure, but we as parents suffer as well because we hate to see him go through it. So, this topic is very personal to me.
Perhaps something contained in this post will help all of us to endure through the suffering that is inevitable in this life.
7 Truths to Remember When You’re Suffering
1. SUFFERING HUMBLES US AND DRIVES US TO COMPLETE DEPENDENCY UPON GOD
Suffering reminds us of our finite humanity. In moments of suffering we are reminded that we aren’t in control of our lives. When we want the suffering to stop, and we’re powerless to do so, we are reminded of our limited capabilities. It is at this time when we should call upon the One who is capable – our omnipotent Father in heaven. This is humbling.
King David said, “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes (or decrees).”
We must learn about God, and learn His ways – how He operates in this world. For example: God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. The way we learn humility is often through the painful avenue of suffering.
Pain and suffering cause us to run to God.
Suffering teaches us that we’re not the savior – He is.
Pain and suffering teach us about ourselves and God.
2. SUFFERING REMINDS THE CHRISTIAN THAT THIS WORLD IS NOT OUR HOME
The apostle Peter reminds us that we are aliens and strangers in a strange land. (1 Peter 2:11) We are simply temporary residents passing through this world. This place that has been radically corrupted by sin is not our home. We have an eternal dwelling place where things like pain and suffering will be nothing more than a distant memory.
We read about this New Heaven and New Earth in the very back of our Bible: He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.
When we understand that this is what awaits us, we redirect the focus of our lives. We live with more of an eternal perspective than ever before. This truth will remind us that there is a place where we will live forever in His presence with the absence of all pain and suffering.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
3. SUFFERING HELPS US IDENTIFY WITH CHRIST’S SUFFERINGS
We must remember that Jesus suffered. As His followers why would we expect any less?
For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.
Suffering allows us to identify with and draw near to Christ like nothing else can.
Peter again says, “But to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.” 1 Peter 4:13
Paul says, “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”
Paul is saying that nothing is worth as much as knowing Jesus, and we come to know Him more through His resurrection power, but also through sharing and identifying with Him in suffering.
4. SUFFERING IS USED TO TRAIN US IN RIGHTEOUSNESS
God often uses suffering to train and discipline us to grow us into mature believers.
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope.
God isn’t interested in coddling us, rather training us to look more and more like His Son.
5. SUFFERING IN OUR LIVES NOW WILL HELP US COMFORT OTHERS LATER
Blessed be the God and 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 will 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
This is playing out right here and right now. I’m hoping that the pain and suffering that I have endured (and the things God has shown me in the midst of it), may minister to you in the midst of your suffering.
6. SUFFERING REVEALS GOD’S GLORY
The Man Born Blind
As Jesus passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.
The Disciples are essentially asking these questions, “Why? Who sinned? Who’s responsible? Why?” These are all very natural questions to ask when we suffer or when we see someone suffering. However, Jesus gives an unexpected answer. He doesn’t launch into a long theological discourse on the problem of evil, or an apologetic for pain and suffering in our world.
Instead, Jesus answers, “It was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” He states that God’s glory would become manifest in this unfavorable situation.
So, when we suffer, we ask, “What is God doing? Why is this happening? Who’s responsible?”
The answer is…we don’t always know.
He may be preparing to work a miracle – as in this man born blind.
He may want to remind us just how weak and feeble we are, and how strong He is.
He may want to show us our utter dependence upon Him.
He may be preparing us to minister to others.
7. GOD CAN TAKE AN INCREDIBLY BAD SITUATION AND ULTIMATELY BRING ABOUT SOMETHING INCREDIBLY GOOD
To see an example in the Old Testament, look at the account of Joseph in the book of Genesis.
· Sold into slavery
· Thrown in a well
· Falsely accused
· On and on…
All these things…trials…tribulations…pain…suffering…
At the climax of this true story, after all of the suffering Joseph endured, he famously said to his brothers, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.”
God can and does use evil, pain and suffering to accomplish His ultimate will.
Look at the greatest example of this in history – The Cross!
The worst thing that could ever happen – the Creator of all things Jesus Christ – entering into His own creation to be falsely accused, mistreated, beaten, whipped, spat upon, mocked, having to endure horrific pain and suffering which ultimately culminated in His death – all of this has yielded something amazingly good!
Jesus’ suffering has brought about the eternal redemption for those of us who are in Christ! The worst thing that could ever happen has become the greatest thing that has ever been done on our behalf!
It is through the horrific pain and suffering endured by Jesus on the cross that He presented Himself as the ultimate sacrifice for our wicked behavior. His suffering produces for us forgiveness of sins, eternal life and unspeakable joy!
An incredibly bad situation was used by God for something incredibly good.
If this principle is true on a large scale (the redemption of humanity), then why can't it also be true on a smaller scale in each and every one of our lives?
We can’t conclude this topic without bringing in Romans chapter 8.
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
If you are a Christian – nothing can separate you from His amazing love. We need to remember that in the midst of the struggle. Pain and suffering don’t occur haphazardly. This world is not spinning out of control unguided and ungoverned.
God is in full control and He allows pain and suffering in our lives for a purpose.
I’ve given you seven reasons why God allows suffering in our lives. It’s certainly not an exhaustive list, but I pray it will help you in your times of suffering.
The reality is we may not always know exactly what is happening and why, but ultimately our response should echo the words of an ancient proverb:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.
If you trust in Him, you can say with Job, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” Job 13:15