The question we are considering this week is, “How do you suffer?” You may have gone through some of the methods of the world for dealing with suffering already. Have you found any of them to be helpful? Or are you walking through this suffering season with the underlying question of: “Why God, why?” Your view of suffering has great bearing on your responses to it.
There are various reasons for suffering and just as many responses to it. I would like to continue today with some of the ways we respond to suffering in thought, belief, and behavior.
- Suffering causes us to wonder if God has forgotten about us, or hears our cries. Often we become angry and frustrated with God because we pray for months and years and it seems as though our circumstances are not changing. I have had people say to me that their prayers appear to bounce off the ceiling, never making it to the throne of God — which is untrue! Psalm 56:8 says, “You have taken account of my wanderings; Put my tears in Your bottle.” (Psalm 27:7-9; 56:8)
- Suffering causes us to wonder if God is punishing us or is unhappy with us. Have you wondered if you have somehow displeased God by your actions and caused Him to look with anger upon you or visit trouble upon you? If so, head back to last week’s blog on why God allows suffering in our lives! It is always for a purpose. (Psalm 51:11)
- Suffering causes us to feel sorrowful, sometimes to sorrow without hope. Prolonged suffering can bring the ultimate suffering, sorrow without hope. When a person comes to the place in her thinking that this is never going to change, that all is lost, she can tend to ask, “Why bother?” This is the ultimate defeat as all efforts have been exhausted, and there is nothing else to be done — yet the problem remains. This is why suffering causes us to lose heart. In these cases, we can lose heart. We can seemingly lose our ability to care anymore. People describe this as being crushed and in despair. (Psalm 22: 1-2; 2 Corinthians 4:16; Ephesians 3:13; Hebrews 12:3)
- Suffering causes us to have a downcast spirit. How can we be cheerful when it seems that so much is wrong in our lives? Sometimes we put on the happy face but it feels shallow and fake because it often is! (Psalm 42:5, 6; Lamentations 3:20)
- Suffering causes us to wonder if it will ever be “ok” again. Much like Naomi, we wonder what the future holds and if things will ever be “normal” again. (Ruth 1; Psalm 35)
- Suffering causes us to grumble and complain against God and our circumstances. As our circumstances remain unchanged, we grumble and complain to God about them. We shake our fist in anger toward the sky and rage at God who we know could change things with a word, but does not. (Ruth 1:20-21)
I distinctly remember a time in my own life when I wrote, “I am suffering under the weight of my circumstances. This doesn’t feel good. I feel like I want to quit and give up. I feel like this is too much. And yet I know it is not, that God is right here with me. I know that He is keeping me.”
When I am in the depths of sorrow and discouragement I must be able to preach to myself! I must be able to draw from the well of truth that I have in Christ and His Word. When I am suffering I must know and believe that I am being kept by Him. These are the resources that I have to build up before I am in the midst of the suffering or I will have little to hold on to. Nothing in this world will hold me fast and steady. I have to cling to Jesus.
I had to keep going back to 1 Corinthians 10:13 and remind myself that there is a way out of trials — Jesus Christ. He is the way through the trial and the suffering. My wise husband says, “God isn’t as concerned with what you go through, but how you go through it.” And I would add who you turn to as you go through it.
As to why we suffer… The reasons for suffering are more than I can detail here but some we are very familiar with. Sometimes it is illness, yours or someone else’s, financial hardship, loss of a loved one — the list could go on and on. Regardless of what the type of suffering is, it is important to understand that God is in charge of it. God is an active participant in our trials and sufferings and is orchestrating what kind of suffering we undergo.