By Anne Peterson, Crosswalk.com
I had just found out that my sister was missing. And believe me, for a moment I did wonder why our family got one trial after another. Our mom died in 1968, and in 1976, our dad died. Here it was six years later and our sister disappeared. My sister’s disappearance ended with her murder trial.
Sometimes it feels like we suffer one thing after another. And those times of suffering were not my only ones; as I’m certain all of us have many as well.
Of all the promises in the Bible, the one none of us like is that Jesus promised we would have suffering in this world (John 16:33).
However, there’s a second part of that verse that we shouldn’t forget...the part that is good news. Jesus tells us to take courage because he has overcome the world. Will we experience that here on earth? I cannot say, because I don’t know what God is working in your life. I only know that if you have accepted Jesus, God promises in 1 John 3:2 that one day you will look like him. Furthermore, God will take the circumstances of our lives and he will work them together for good (Romans 8:28).
Why do we suffer?
We suffer because we live in a fallen world.
When Adam and Eve were placed in the garden, they were told they could eat the fruit from any of the trees there, except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And I’m sure you know which tree they eventually picked. You can read the whole account in Genesis 2-3. And you’ll find that because of Adam and Eve’s disobedience the world was changed. Life would become hard.
But God loved man so much he did not want him to be separated from him forever. Yet, he knew man could not stay in the garden once he had sinned.
Will we always suffer?
Jesus promised that while we are on this earth we will have trials, we will suffer. But that doesn’t mean that the suffering is of no merit, or that it has no value. The truth is, even suffering, like discipline, can yield good results (Hebrews 12:11). Suffering gives us the opportunity to surrender to God in a way nothing else does.
When Joseph was in prison (though he was innocent), that prison stay became a tool that God used in his life. And Joseph let the Lord use that to work in Joseph’s life. Read Genesis 39:19-21. Joseph’s attitude was exemplary. And God honored that.
Look at your life circumstances. Have you ever felt like you were in a difficult situation, like Joseph was in? Can you say you had a good attitude, or did you find yourself fighting it?
Is suffering always because of our choices?
Well, we saw in the life of Joseph that his suffering was not because of a choice he made. He was imprisoned because of someone else who had lied. In the story of Job, we see again where a man is suffering huge losses that he had no control over at all. If you take the time to read Job, you will see a great picture of suffering. And in Job’s life, he had choices to make. Would he continue looking to God, as he had in the past, or would he throw up his hands and say, “Enough is enough! I don’t trust you anymore!”
Job’s wife even told him to curse God and die. But Job chose to continue to put his trust in the God who gives and takes away.
The thing is, whether we are suffering because of choices we’ve made, or it’s the result of someone else’s decisions, suffering is hard. It hurts.
How should we suffer?
When we are suffering because of choices we’ve made, we can rectify that.
The time is always right to do the right thing - Martin Luther King Jr.
And regardless of why we are suffering, God is still allowing it in our lives, so we should look to him for grace to endure it. James 1:4, tells us that. We aren’t supposed to just ‘hang tight,’ we are supposed to keep open to God who will teach us something in the things we go through. Remember, the end result will be that we look like Jesus.
Another thing we ought to do when we suffer is watch our attitudes. We can choose to do what God suggests in 1 Thessalonians 5:18: “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
I once was with a group of new Christians on our way to camp, and one of our tires got a blowout. One guy started thanking God for the blowout. While I think his heart was in the right place to thank God for the blowout; I think what we’re really thankful about is that we don’t go through anything alone.
God has promised us he is with us always (Matthew 28:20). So we have someone to call on when things go wrong. And we can thank God that he’s sovereign which means he’s not ever surprised at the circumstances of our lives.
God knows the beginning and the end. He knows our future as well. It makes sense that we would trust the all-knowing, ever-present God, doesn’t it? Yet, sometimes when we are in our trials, we are white-knuckled just waiting for it to end. Sometimes our attitudes are anything but thankful. And believe me, I’m included in that.
A great bonus to suffering well:
When we are doing wrong and we suffer, and then we take it well, we get no credit it says in 1 Peter 2:20. But it goes on to say if we are doing good, and we suffer for it, and then take that patiently, that is well-pleasing to God.
But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. —1 Peter 2:20
The enemy of our souls, satan, wants us to turn away from God. Some people do when they are hit with one trial after another. They listen to satan’s lies that God doesn’t care. Just like Eve listened to him.
But if we decide that we will still look to God (the one who is allowing our trials), then God is pleased, and satan is defeated. It’s a win-win.
Scripture truths to remember when you are suffering:
God is sovereign. (Job 42:2)
God doesn’t change. (James 1:17)
God knows how things are going to work out. (Jeremiah 29:11)
God is pleased when you suffer well. (1 Peter 2:20)
A prayer for those who are suffering:
Father, we know that you love us. You love us more than anyone ever could. We also know that living in this world we will have trials. We will suffer. Help us, Lord, to hold onto the truths in your Word, when we are struggling in any way. Give us grace to endure our trials. Remind us how you’ve worked things out in the past. God, we love you, and we pray that you give us strength each day. Help those who read this, who are suffering right now. Help them know you have not left them. I pray this in Jesus’ precious and Holy name. Amen.
Anne Peterson is well acquainted with suffering. She is a poet, speaker, published author of 14 books, including her memoir, Broken: A story of abuse, survival, and hope, as well as a volume of 3 books, He Whispers: Poetic talks with God. Sign up for Anne’s newsletter at www.annepeterson.comand click on free Ebooks to choose one. Or connect with Anne on Facebook.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages