When Suffering Comes…

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No one wants to suffer…

Yet suffering comes…

Life is going along, you are busy working, feeling ok about yourself, pursing your goals in life, maintaining relationships with friends and family and suddenly loss and pain enter your life.

Yesterday, I encountered a man who knows me and he inquired about my health. He said “I am glad to see you are up and about”. He knew I had one of those “suffering episodes” myself when I had an accident that resulted in serious fractures. I was fine one minute and the next minute I was damaged.

Loss and pain had entered my life.

Then the man shared with me his own episode. He had a horrible motorcycle wreck which put him in the hospital for six months. After being released, he had a long period of physical therapy, where he was confined to a bed and a wheelchair. Eventually he graduated to a walker and then to a cane. When you look at him today, you would never know that he was ever hurt. He is able to walk and functions like a perfectly healthy person.

Then he said something very important.

“I never see anyone now with a wheelchair, walker or cane, I never see anyone struggling with a mobility challenge that my heart does not go out to them. I know what they are going through.”

The Apostle Paul says something that relates in 2nd Corinthians: “The Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all of our affliction, so we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God.” Paul is saying that a life with Christ is not a life without suffering; indeed he affirms that to follow Christ means that we are going to have to take up our cross. This taking up of our cross means that we will suffer along the way. Pain and loss are just part of life.

The big question is, what are we going to do with our suffering?

Pastor Labberton writes about suffering and compares it to the resurrection: “Just as the resurrection teaches us that death does not have the final word, so we can learn in the midst of pain that it does not have the final word either” [188].

God is not only with us in the good times; He is also with us in the difficult times. When suffering occurs, it does not have to make us more alert to God, more awake to His presence and more sensitive to His working. It can easily go the other way. Some lose their faith in God in the midst of suffering. Someone has to be blamed so let’s blame God. The common question many have is “How can God cause this to happen?”

We can debate all day long about God causing suffering and pain. If you are determined to believe that God causes suffering, that is what you chose to believe. However, I would change the word cause to “allow.” God allows things to happen to us because He has plans for us beyond what we can see in the midst of our suffering.

Before we go any further, I don’t believe it is ever a good idea to say to someone who is in the midst of pain and suffering “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good” [Romans 8:28].

This is a realization that can come later, after time has passed and maybe wounds have healed. Then Pastor Labberton writes that we begin to realize that “what enables us to grow requires having our hearts break. . . .I want to learn from pain what I can, but I do not want to nurse it.”

As Christians, we pray for the cessation of pain and suffering. That is only natural. No one wants to hurt any more than necessary but if God does not take pain and suffering away, then maybe He is using it for a higher purpose. His view is not ours. Maybe He will use it for good in the long term. Maybe He has a plan that is ultimately for our good; we just cannot see it at the time.

John 1 5:14 says “If we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.”

We are so used to thinking that growth only occurs in the good times, but maybe it occurs in the bad. When others have loss and pain, maybe our hearts can go out to them. We can recall our experience and know what they are going through. We can recall our experience and offer them help.

No one wants to suffer…

Yet suffering comes…

The big question is what has God made of your loss and pain?

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