One response to “Why Do I Have to Suffer? Part 2”
Real suffering is an inevitable part of life. Christians are not excluded from that. In fact, Christ Himself had indicated to His followers that in the world they would suffer tribulation. Indeed, most of us go through life with our fingers crossed just hoping to miss the big one. We don’t have anything bad enough to complain about on a large scale, but neither are we really satisfied with our lives. Plus, we really can’t enjoy life because there is this looming feeling that at any moment the shoe might fall. We watch others go through pain and suffering and though they survive and sometimes even seem stronger, we have this deep suspicion that we might not do so well.
A few years ago, one of our church member’s mobile home had a malfunction in the gas stove and there was an explosion. She and her son got out but did receive some fairly significant burns and required extensive physical therapy. Her mother, another member, received this word of encouragement during that time of suffering. “Faith empowers us to live with reality, sometimes enables us to change reality, sometimes cope, but never avoid.” It is our choice whether or not we place our faith in God to empower us, whether we choose to let pain and suffering be victorious and defeat us, or to accept that God sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to not only cope with reality but to change it!
Faith in the real world is about our relationship with God, not our circumstances. We cannot struggle at the core of our relationship with God and still enjoy a vibrant fellowship with Him! Faith does not eliminate problems. Faith keeps us in a trusting relationship with God in the midst of our problems. Faith has to do with our relationship with God, not our circumstances. That is why I think suffering is more about “being” than “having and doing.”
But the question remains: “Why do we learn more when suffering?” I believe making sense out of suffering requires faith in a God who is Sovereign. Part of the witness of the Bible declares just that. God will not hesitate to blow up our circumstances to get at our character. That’s because He’s far more interested in what kind of men and women we become than what we have when we get there. A part of God’s sovereignty is also His holiness, therefore God hates sin and, when necessary, it must be punished and the sources of sin eliminated. The understanding of the world from a biblical perspective is that it is God’s garden, and when it is time to pull weeds, the weeds get pulled, when it is time to till the soil and plant for another harvest, God will do it. If land needs to lie fallow for awhile, God will let it. One plot may produce a hundred fold, while another goes through a drought and is blighted by storms and insects.
Moreover, Christ alludes to a cross which his disciple should bear, making clear that such cross is a badge of one’s Christian commitment. And the cross, or crosses you may be called upon to carry, will not necessarily lead you to death; their purposes are to develop character in you, to build resilience, to draw you closer to the One Who will not let you endure your cross alone. His unlimited resources shall remain abundantly available!
With such understanding, Christians of other eras confronted tremendous odds, not in fear, not in total discouragement, but with the courage which Christ Himself provides. In the primitive church many were persecuted, several had their personal property confiscated, countless were driven to foreign nations in search of refuge, while a large multitude even offered their lifeblood, as martyrs, on account of their complete allegiance to their Savior and Master. Indeed, it is impossible to escape what is inevitable in one’s earthly life, even if persecutions and martyrdom may not be part of the picture in America, it is in countries like China and Egypt..
Although suffering is shared in this life by Christian and non-Christian alike, there are sufferings which are the inescapable result of one’s personal commitment to the Son of God. The cross, which Christ expects His followers to bear, is something additional; it is the identifying emblem of one’s belonging to Him, no matter what form it takes.
That’s why every Christian needs to discover ways of suffering with wisdom. This entails knowing and utilizing all the resources God makes available for His people in battle, or in the mere living of one’s daily life. It further means recognizing that grace which is always sufficient to Christ’s followers in any situation. It’s also a reminder of the divine affirmation, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you,” even in the midst of trouble – any kind of trouble!
Sometimes, it is a difficult experience that leads a person into a truly fulfilled life, even if the same experience may totally paralyze another, or even remove all meaning and joy from that individual.
Someone once said there are three classes of sufferers: “the rearguard of the defeated, the army of the compliant ones, and the vanguard of the conquerors.” Where would you be? Hopefully, among the victorious ones if, indeed, you suffer in wisdom and with wisdom!
Be confident of this one truth: there’s no such thing as permanent defeat for a child of God; His plan is to lead His own from victory unto victory, no matter what may be happening around them in this vale of tears! Failure comes only when you disregard God’s offers; success is certain when you follow His lead!