only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering
produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character,
No where in the Bible does it say that Christians won’t experience
trial. In fact just the opposite! But the Bible also tells us these trials will
help us grow. God uses life’s difficulties to refine us, to build our
character, deepen our trust in Him and make us stronger in the future.
Suffering is a part of life. It’s the reality of living in a
fallen world. You can’t open the newspaper or listen to the news or sometimes
even talk to a friend when you don’t hear about natural disasters, sickness and
death. Real pain caused by war, hunger and crime.
How do you respond either when you see someone you love
suffering or you yourself are?
question the existence or goodness of God. They ask, “If God is good, why would
He allow people to suffer? If God is all-powerful, why doesn’t He intervene?”
The prophet Habakkuk cried out, “How long Lord must I call
for help but you do not listen.” Or David, “My soul is in deep anguish. How
long, Lord, how long?” In Revelation, the martyrs under the altar asked how
long until they would be avenged.
Sometimes it seems like God isn’t paying attention.
But we have to remember that God has eternal purposes. He
doesn’t always explain His actions, but He always sees our hardships and hears
our questions. And even if He doesn’t remove the problem we can trust Him.
God had the apostle John write an entire book to people who
were suffering. In Revelation, his letters to the seven churches spoke
comforting words to believers pressed by persecution and possible martyrdom.
Revelation promises Christ’s return to set up His kingdom and forever vanquish
God created His world in magnificent perfection. Sin was
introduced by Adam and Eve. That sin
brought death into the world. So the simple answer to “why do people suffer?”
is “sin.” Whether it’s wars, natural disasters, family conflict or personal
struggles. And when we realize that much of the suffering we encounter comes
from living in a fallen world, it really makes no sense to blame God.
However! Not ALL suffering directly results from a specific sin. Wonderful Christian
parents have still born children. Many illnesses aren’t linked to a personal
sin. Believers and unbelievers get cancer; lose their homes to tornados and
family members to death.
The abundant life Jesus promised is not free of trouble, but
it is a life in which God is glorified as believers find His strength and even
joy while in the midst of suffering. Often the Christian’s spiritual life will
get stronger because of a trial. Pain should not be wasted!
Sometimes God lovingly disciplines us to sanctify us.
Remember His ultimate goal is for us to be like Christ. For some that may take
a lot of sanding off rough edges! God loves His children too much to let their
sin go unchecked. He will often allow a circumstance that will strengthen faith
and spiritual muscle.
The Bible says that God disciplines those He loves. Revelation 3:19 Jesus said, “Those whom I love I rebuke
and discipline. So be earnest and repent.” When this happens it
means we belong to Him! So use that trial to grow closer to Him.
Christians also face the trials of opposition from ‘the
world.” Throughout history God’s people
have been persecuted. And Satan is behind this.
So how do we know if our current suffering is God’s
discipline or Satan’s opposition? How do we determine if it is designed to
reveal sin or just normal life?
First – God uses every situation to draw His children near
to Himself. So it’s always right to search our own hearts and ask God what
needs to change in us or what sin needs to be confessed. Being drawn to prayer is
always a good start.
Next, think of Christ and
His suffering. He had to suffer in order to save us. God didn’t spare His
own Son because of the greater eternal purpose. Suffering can have a redemptive purpose. And this is comforting. Jesus
suffered too. He knows bodily pain, and the betrayal of a friend. He
experienced hunger and grief. And we’re told that to follow Christ we must take
up our cross daily. Everyone suffers at some time in their lives. We aren’t
being singled out.
We won’t all suffer equally though. When Jesus told Peter
after His resurrection that Peter would have a future of suffering, Peter
immediately questioned what the future would be for John. And Jesus clearly told
him not to worry about John; that his only responsibility was to follow Him.
God’s path for each of us is unique.
Later Peter would write that believers should rejoice in
suffering because it represented their union with the Savior. And when we are
united with Him He supplies the power to persevere.
Third, focus on God’s unchanging character. He is completely
sovereign, which means He is completely in control of everything. Even the
devil’s power is limited by God. Also, God is completely good. He does not
cause evil. He doesn’t tempt us to sin. Satan’s work abounds in this world but
God is powerful enough to bring good results out of evil and suffering. In a
fallen world suffering molds and shapes our faith and character in ways that
nothing else will. So God not only allows suffering, He uses it to do that.
So we can rest knowing that even the bad things are still
within His control. When Christ comes back He will end evil for good. But it
isn’t time yet. Our short sighted view often demands immediate answers, but God
has the big picture. And He is always doing more than we think He is.
But He also doesn’t let His children suffer needlessly.
Every pain, offense and trial is allowed to sanctify us. Suffering allows us to
apply our theology to the realities of daily struggles.
A lot of people quote Romans 8:28 during a trial, but they forget what verse
29 says. Here’s the whole thing 28 and we know that in all things God works for the
good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For
those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son,
that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.
God is able to use everything in life, good or bad, to make
His children more like Jesus.
Still, in spite of knowing all this we equate a smooth ride
with God’s pleasure in us so our prayers are dominated with requests for
healing, relief, success and protection. We believe that a comfortable life is
the best life. We ignore the fact that most people are either in a crisis, recovering from a crisis or preparing
for another one!
As you look back over your Christian life do you see when
you have experienced the greatest Christian growth? Was it during or right after a trial? Seasons
of growth are most often connected with times of challenge. How can we know the
fortitude of our faith if it’s never tested? The storms of life reveal the
truth about our faith. God weaves enough struggles into our lives to keep us
dependent upon Him. Just as storms and
drought force the roots of a tree to grow deep into the earth, times of
suffering draw our roots deep into God Himself.
These times teach us much about ourselves and God. Suffering
purifies us, revealing pretense and sin. It shows us where we need to grow. It
will either harden our hearts (which is NOT the goal) or soften them so we can
hear from and respond to God.
Also through trials we learn to experience and express God’s
compassion and mercy. After intense suffering Job said, “My ears had heard of
You, but now my eyes have seen You.” It sensitizes us to God’s work in our
lives. We learn to pray when we are in need. Suffering drives us deep into
God’s Word. The Bible becomes a life line of God’s voice when we are searching
for answers and comfort. We develop patience when waiting on God to answer our
Sometimes when suffering is really intense God just calls
His people to know and believe He is enough. To trust him in the pain and with the
pain. Jesus tells us to come to Him when we are heavy burdened and He will give
Suffering also prepares and equips people to love and
comfort and support others. There are practical ways to help the hurting. We
know that people in pain sometimes question God and His love, right? If you’ve
been there – you can tell them that – a testimony of God’s faithfulness and
provision gives Him glory and offers hope to those in the middle of similar
pain. But they need your presence and practical help more that they need your
words. They need you to listen more than they need you to speak.
Pray for them. And
with them. Pray for faith and
perseverance. But don’t forget to pray boldly too. It’s ok to pray for healing. Sometimes God brings supernatural protection and rescue. But
when he doesn’t His strength delivers them through
the suffering with even more radiant likeness to Him. Because remember His goal
is to make us more like His Son.
Labels: perseverance, suffering