May 26, 2022

Suffering Is Not In Vain

Photo by Casey Horner

This coming weekend is a holiday weekend. Many will get to enjoy a day off work. What a blessing! Holidays are times for celebration or getaways, and we need them. Yet, holidays can also sometimes be the hardest days of the year. Mother’s Day or Father’s Day after losing a parent, or a child. Christmas with a family member diagnosed with aggressive cancer. The birthday of your spouse after their death. Memorial Day for families who have lost loved ones in service. Thanksgiving week when it seems that God practically refuses to hear your prayers for a job, or a family, or relief from pain, or you name it. Our lives are full of both joy and sorrow.

A Big Question—“Why Suffering?”

Why does God allow suffering? Why school shootings? Why sexual abuse and war crimes? Why such evil? If you’ve ever asked such a question, you’re not the first. You won’t be the last. For ages kids and adults, rich and poor, Christians and non-Christians have asked this. Yet God’s purposes are often hidden to our eyes, at least for now. Consider the story of Job, or of Joseph. God sent no message of explanation at the outset of their trials. But He did work, and still is working, all things according to His good plan of redemption, ultimately to His glory (Eph 1:12) and the good of all who believe (Romans 8:28). “God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform” (William Cowper).

The Bible’s Response—“Don’t Be Surprised. Rejoice!”

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed” (1 Peter 4:12–13). “We see … Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering” (Hebrews 2:9–10 ESV).

“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10). “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17). “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (Romans 5:3-4). “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us (Romans 8:18 ESV).

Application—Three Ways to Respond

The Bible has much more to say. Read it! But how do you respond when you face suffering? Here are three important things every Christian should do.

1. Look first to Jesus. He suffered perfectly, as the perfect sacrifice, to perfect all who wholly trust in Him. Go through Jesus to the Father. Pray. Meditate on His Word. Believe His promises.

2. Then ask another brother or sister in Christ to pray with you. Every Christian has experienced suffering. Some may have experienced more, and some less, but you are not alone in your suffering. Share your sorrows with a believer you trust, and ask them to pray.

3. Be a blessing to someone else. Bear the fruit of the Spirit. Come alongside others who are suffering to encourage them. Send a card. Call and ask, “How are you?” then listen. Even while you may feel like you’re the one who needs to be encouraged, go to another in need. The Lord will use your obedience to bless others, but even more to bless you. Invite a friend or neighbor for a meal. Be honest about your struggles, but listen even more than you talk. Pray together. Sing!

As a bonus, the physical act of singing has been proved to lift the spirit. So sing, whether alone or with a friend, or with the gathered church. Sing out for all to hear. And let your singing testify to your faith in the faithful Savior. I commend this song to you, based on Psalm 42, that helps you both express your sorrow and trust in God. Listen. And sing!

image Unsplash | Casey Horner