I’ve had my share of suffering. Let’s face it, we all have. Suffering seems to invade each of our lives without prejudice. So why does God allow so much suffering? Wouldn’t it be easier to love, laugh, and live without so much tragedy. Or maybe, just maybe there is a purpose behind our suffering. Maybe suffering is part of a bigger plan that God has for us.
When I was a little boy I would test my dad. I remember when he first showed me how to shoot a gun. It was a small handgun, and we were very careful. He took what seemed a lifetime to show me how to shoot that gun. When he finished talking I was ready, but he didn’t let me shoot. I then stood their, waiting with baited breath to have my chance, as he shot the gun. I was suffering. I was in torment. I felt slighted and bitter. I wanted to shoot that gun! When he finally let me fire the weapon I pointed it at the target, held my arms loosely, and pulled the trigger. The next thing I remember is a horrible ringing in my ear and a goose egg on my forehead. I never shot that gun wrong again.
My dad allowed me to suffer so that I could learn to appreciate how to do things right. Maybe God allows us to suffer for similar reasons. Maybe he allows us to suffer so that we can truly appreciate what he has done to alleviate the eternal consequence of suffering.
Lets take a look at this video for another perspective as we look to answer the question:
If there is a God, why does he allow suffering?
THE CHURCH ON SUFFERING
Each of us struggle with different levels of suffering. Sometimes we cause more suffering while we try to cope. This is why it is so important to connect to a local Church and a small group within that church that can help care for your needs. The Church is the hands and feet of Jesus. The small group is the part of the church where that is best demonstrated. One great small group that many churches offer is called – Celebrate Recovery. Click Here for more information on a Celebrate Recovery group near you. Trust the church to help encourage, support, and care for your needs as you cope with suffering.
JESUS ON SUFFERING
Jesus clearly addressed the fact that we will deal with suffering. In John 16 he addresses the reality of suffering while pointing us to its only remedy. Lets take a look at John 16 and see what he says.
28 I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.”
29 His disciples said, “Ah, now you are speaking plainly and not using figurative speech! 30 Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question you; this is why we believe that you came from God.” 31 Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? 32 Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. 33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16
In this passage Jesus assures them of two things. They will suffer and they may have peace. Notice the difference in how he expresses these assurances. He definitively says we will suffer, but he implies that peace is optional. Peace is optional because it can only be found in Him. If this is true then it is also true to say that peace in the midst of suffering is found through Jesus. Does your suffering reveal Christ’s peace? Are you torn apart by the trials of life? Does your relationship with Christ serve as a filter by which you interpret everything that life throws at you?
Christian suffering should produce the character of Christ. Lets look at three things that suffering accomplishes in the life of a believer.
SUFFERING PRODUCES COMMITMENT
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces commitment. And let devotion have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (Jas 1:2–4).
A life committed to Jesus is a life that lacks nothing. Everything is found in having a relationship with Jesus. Are you singularly focused on Knowing Christ and making him known?
SUFFERING REVEALS JESUS
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. (2 Corinthians 4:7-10).
The life of Jesus is expressed in the way we handle suffering. If your life were a museum would Jesus be on exhibition? What would people see?
SUFFERING RENEWS OUR FOCUS
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16–18).
Finding a renewed focus is a daily process. Suffering prepares us to spiritually, mentally, and emotionally embrace eternal life with God. As we look forward to eternity, we can begin to experience the benefits of eternity by focusing on what Jesus accomplishes in us.
We touched base a few weeks ago on what it means to find our focus in Christ. Titus 3 illustrated it well. Click on Finding Focus to review what we discussed. It is important to remember that our focus is our faithful obedience to Christ’s ultimate sacrifice. This will propel us into a peace that overpowers any suffering we face.
In closing, here is a song that illustrates the ultimate reward of being set free from suffering. My parents loved the Lord. Their lives were filled with many trials. The most difficult trials came at the end of each of their lives. My Father lost a battle with leukemia and my mother breast cancer. The most amazing thing about this testimony is that my parents found their peace this side of heaven. Will you?
Years ago I wrote a song illustrating their journey from suffering to eternal peace. Lets end with this song in mind.