Enduring Pain and Suffering
Let me start with a word of prayer: Father in Jesus name, I thank you for this great opportunity you’ve given me this morning, just to share a word of encouragement to the world that is suffering and needs a hope. Many have lost their loved ones, jobs and still others are sick and not sure of their next minute. Lord, as they go through this trial, may you give them hope, healing and grace in this time. Let this article be of help and healing in them, for it is in Jesus name I pray, Amen.
The world is going through a certain change that is brought about by pandemics like the COVID-19, floods, war. And as Children of God we reach a point and we start questioning, “Where is God? Why is he allowing pain, suffering, death when he says he will save us?” With all this adversities, Children of God and the world at large are losing hope day and night. Are we supposed to suffer when we are Christians? Does God allow suffering? I pray, that through this article, I will be able to answer some of the questions in Jesus name.
I will begin by Philippians 3:1–14, Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you. Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision; for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh, although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the law, found blameless. But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ, and may be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, 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. Not that I have already obtained it, or have already become perfect, but I press on in order that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
I am focusing in this message on the need to prepare for suffering. The reason for this is not just my sense that the days are evil and the path of righteousness costly, but the promise of the Bible that God’s people will suffer.
For example, Acts 14:22 says that Paul told all his young churches, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom.” And Jesus said, “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you” (John 15:20). And Peter said, “Do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12). In other words it is not strange; it is to be expected. And Paul said (in 2 Timothy 3:12), “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”
So I take it to be a biblical truth that the more earnest we become about being the salt of the earth and the light of the world, and reaching the unreached peoples of the world, and exposing the works of darkness, and loosing the bonds of sin and Satan, the more we will suffer. That’s why we should prepare. And that’s why I am writing to you today.
God helps us prepare for suffering by teaching us and showing us that through suffering we are meant to go deeper in our relationship with Christ. You get to know him better when you share his pain. The people who write most deeply and sweetly about the preciousness of Christ are people who have suffered with him deeply.
Suffering in the Life of Jerry Bridges For example, Jerry Bridges’s book, Trusting God, Even When Life Hurts, is a deep and helpful book about suffering and going deep with God through affliction. And so it’s not surprising to learn that when he was 14 years old, he heard his mother call out in the next room, totally unexpectedly, and arrived to see her take her last breath. He also has physical conditions that keep him from normal sports. And just a few years ago his wife died of cancer. Serving God with the Navigators has not spared him pain. He writes with depth about suffering because he has gone deep with Christ in suffering. Suffering in the Life of Horatius Bonar. Over a hundred years ago Horatius Bonar, the Scottish pastor and hymn-writer, wrote a little book called Night of Weeping, or, When God’s Children Suffer. In it he said his goal was, “to minister to the saints . . . to seek to bear their burdens, to bind up their wounds, and to dry up at least some of their many tears.” It is a tender and deep and wise book. So it’s not surprising to hear him say, It is written by one who is seeking himself to profit by trial, and trembles lest it should pass by as the wind over the rock, leaving it as hard as ever; by one who would in every sorrow draw near to God that he may know Him more, and who is not unwilling to confess that as yet he knows but little.
Bridges and Bonar show us that suffering is a path deep into the heart of God. God has special revelations of his glory for his suffering children.
The Words of Job, Stephen, and Peter
After months of suffering, Job finally says to God, “I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees thee” (Job 42:5). Job had been a godly and upright man, pleasing to God, but the difference between what he knew of God in prosperity and what he knew of him through adversity was the difference between hearing about and seeing.
When Stephen was arrested and put on trial for his faith and given a chance to preach, the upshot was that the religious leaders were enraged and ground their teeth at him. They were just about to drag him out of the city and kill him. At just that moment, Luke tells us, “Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit and gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:55). There is a special revelation, a special intimacy, prepared for those who suffer with Christ. Peter put it this way, “If you are reproached for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (1 Peter 4:14). In other words God reserves a special coming and resting of his Spirit and his glory on his children who suffer for his name.
Suffering is nothing more than the taking away of bad things or good things that the world offers for our enjoyment — reputation, esteem among peers, job, money, spouse, sexual life, children, friends, health, strength, sight, hearing, success, etc. When these things are taken away (by force or by circumstance or by choice), we suffer. But if we have followed Paul and the teaching of Jesus and have already counted them as loss for the surpassing value of gaining Christ, then we are prepared to suffer. If when you become a Christian you write a big red “LOSS” across all the things in the world except Christ, then when Christ calls you to forfeit some of those things, it is not strange or unexpected. The pain and the sorrow may be great. The tears may be many, as they were for Jesus in Gethsemane. But we will be prepared. We will know that the value of Christ surpasses all the things the world can offer and that in losing them we gain more of Christ.
Let me finish with this, through the suffering we are going through, the pandemics, etc, our God will give you the grace to endure our pain and suffering. Annie J. Flint in her poem says:
- He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength when the labors increase;
To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.
- When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.
- Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision,
Our God ever yearns His resources to share;
Lean hard on the arm everlasting, availing;
The Father both thee and thy load will upbear.
- His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.