Suffering Well in a Fallen World
Correct Your Thinking About Suffering
No matter what part of the world you live in, when you look around, you will always see some form of suffering. Whether it’s hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, lack of resources, famine, disease, poverty, violence, war, or death, suffering is all around. Whether in our own lives or in the lives of those around us, we will encounter it at some point or another in this life.
Suffering is an inescapable part of our fallen world and will be until all things are restored and made new by our Creator. In Genesis 3, we see the account of the first sin committed by the first human beings God created which caused the downfall of the rest of humanity and the world we live in. “Cursed is the ground because of you;…” Genesis 3:17. In Romans 5:12 we see that through Adam, death was passed along to every human being that comes after him. It is because of Adam’s sin that God cursed the earth, allowing suffering, evil and death to enter the world and be part of our daily lives.
However, suffering is not something that we expect to experience in our lives or want any part of. We expect our lives to be perfect or to at least go the way we plan them. We don’t expect to get deathly ill, lose a family member unexpectedly, or lose a job, fail a class that we needed to pass to graduate, or experience persecution at the hands of our peers or classmates because of our faith in Jesus Christ. If this is your way of thinking, I would challenge you to consider that, maybe, you are not thinking biblically. The Bible not only gives us example after example of suffering and evil in the world, but it explicitly tells us that suffering and trials WILL come our way: “Count it all joy, my brothers, WHEN you meet trials of various kinds…” (James 1:2). “In this, you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials.” (1 Peter 1:6). “…if they persecuted me, they WILL also persecute you.” (John 15:20). The bible is very clear-- suffering will be something that we’ll experience, so it’s not a matter of if we’ll suffer but when we’ll suffer. Now, please do not misunderstand me, to understand and think biblically about suffering does not mean that it will necessarily make it easier or less painful to walk through, but it will help us tremendously to know how to allow God to walk us through it.
Embrace Your Suffering
There is no greater example to us of embracing suffering than our own Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, “…who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2). Jesus suffered unjustly. If there is one individual who ever walked this earth that did not deserve to suffer, it was its own Creator, Jesus Christ. Yet He embraced His suffering because He knew there was a purpose for His suffering. God the Father had a plan for Jesus’ suffering, and Jesus knew this. That’s why Hebrews 12:2 says that He endured the cross for the joy set before Him. Jesus’ suffering brought forth salvation for mankind and glorified God; “For God so loved the world, that he gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him Should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16). Jesus embraced and endured His suffering because He knew that it would accomplish salvation for us. And just like Jesus knew that His suffering had a purpose, we to are told by God that our suffering has a purpose. “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, KNOWING that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:4-5). “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, SO THAT the tested genuineness of your faith more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:6-7). “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for YOU KNOW that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1:2-4). Embracing our suffering is never easy to do, but there is hope in knowing that it is not random or “bad luck”. It is God that is working in and through us in our suffering and He has a plan and a purpose for it. This is what allows us to embrace it with hope and joy and with an expectation of God doing something wonderful in our lives that we otherwise would not experience without suffering.
Look Forward In Your Suffering
Charles Spurgeon said this about suffering; “There must be shades in the picture to bring out the beauty of the lights. Could we be so supremely blessed in heaven, if we had not known the curse of sin and the sorrow of earth? Will not the peace be sweeter after the conflict, and rest more welcome after toil? Will not the recollection of past sufferings enhance the bliss of the glorified?” While difficult and at times seemingly unbearable, our trials bring a sweetness and a joy to our salvation that we would not have without suffering. Don’t waste your suffering by wallowing in it or growing in anger or bitterness towards God because of it; you will miss out on bringing glory to God in your suffering if you do. Rather, glorify God in your suffering by saying with Job “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him…” (Job 13:15). Hope in God, rejoice in your sufferings, and look forward to the future glory that God has in store for you. “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-17)