There is so much pain in my world. It seems most everyone I know is suffering in some way these days. My friends and I have parents and other loved ones who are ill or dying and it causes them emotional pain as they watch these people who mean so much to them suffer physically. Children suffer through difficult years, spouses suffer emotional turmoil, financially many people are suffering due to hard economic times.
How can we minister to those who are suffering? While it is not necessary for us to experience all kinds of suffering to minister to one another, God in His providence allows us to endure trials of many kinds so we can do just that. in 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 Paul says this:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. for just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also are you sharers of our comfort.
My own life has not been without its challenges! There have honestly been times I despaired of life itself the darkness has been so deep. I have wanted to cry out to God and tell him that this is all too much, and indeed there have been times I have done just that. There have been times I honestly believed that it was too much. I did believe that I could not take another thing happening to me.
But as I by God’s grace have overcome each of the things that caused me to despair, I have learned that what I believed was false. During these times-all of these times- God has been completely faithful. In the darkest of hours, when I told Him I just can’t take another thing God, You have to lay off! He continually reminded me of 1 Corinthians 10:13
No affliction (temptation) has befallen (overtaken) you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be afflicted (tempted) beyond what you are able to bear, but with the (affliction) temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.
According to the 1 Cor. verse our sufferings are common. Is it a comfort to you to know that no adversity that has overtaken you is new or original? The world leads us to believe that each person’s problems are unusual or unique. But the truth is that no matter how tempted I am to believe that my situation is different or abnormal, the Bible tells me to think carefully and biblically about it and to realize that God says they are common.
Our trials are common and God is faithful and He will not afflict you to the point in suffering where you lose Him. He is holding you, and He is keeping you. What is it about suffering that is common? The situations are common, and our thoughts, feelings and responses to suffering are also common. These are some things that I have decided about suffering:
Suffering happens to everyone according to 1 Cor. 10:13. I don’t know anyone whose life is untouched by suffering or trials of some kind. Even those Hollywood types with much wealth have trials and hard times! Much of it may be brought on by their own foolishness, but they are not exempt.
Suffering comes in all forms Jas. 1:2. “Various” in this verse means diverse in nature. It is non-specific as to what the trials are. The NIV says “trials of many kinds” that says it well I think.
Suffering is wrenching, anxiety creating, and disaster making Job 9:16. I think our response to suffering dictates some of this, but when bad times hit the physical response seems to begin the same for everyone I know.
Suffering causes us to fear. Psalm 105:38 A variety of words in Hebrew have direct reference to this kind of fear.
Suffering causes us to lose faith or gain faith, to doubt or have hope, to trust or to flounder. Job 3 is an example of this point. He wished to never have been born, v3, why he didn’t die at birth v11, in v 20,21 he complains that he wants to die, but God will not take him. As we read through the subsequent chapters we see that he has lost faith because he does not understand, he has lost hope because even death seems to elude him, and his faith begins to flounder. We could find verses, passages and chapters in Job that display each of these aspects of suffering. In no other book in the Bible do we see suffering as we do in Job.
Suffering will cause you to either look to God or be angry at Him Job. Which of these is your most common response? Does it cause you to run to Him or run away from Him?
I find suffering causes us to evaluate what is truly important to us Phil. 3:7-10. In those times of suffering, how much money we have is not important, our social status is not important, having the newest car is not important. What we find is truly important to us is resolving the problem at hand.
Suffering causes us to be self centered, be self-pitying. Ps. 25:16,17 We look at others who we believe have it so much better than we do, and wonder why them and not us? Especially in the case of unbelievers. We think that we are somehow entitled to relief or should never suffer because of all we do for God. We feel sorry for ourselves and sit in a pile of self-pity, waiting for things to change and begin to go our way.
Suffering causes us to isolate Ps. 6:6. I like to be alone to wallow in my misery. However, that is completely counterproductive!
Suffering causes us to wonder if God loves us. Ps. 22:1-2 Many women have said they wonder if God loves them as they suffer with a sick child, unbelieving husband, or other long standing crisis. They cannot see God through the pain of their circumstances.
So you can see that when we suffer it can really shake our faith to the core and cause us to throw everything we know to be true by the wayside. Over the next few days, I want to discuss how we can suffer biblically. Meditate on these things; ask yourself how many of the above things you are prone to do when life deals you a bad hand.
Only by examining your thoughts and heart and seeing this through the faithful and unchanging lens of Scripture can we continue to glorify God in the midst of suffering.
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