As new Christians we can sometimes not think rightly about some things, according to God’s Word. We bring into our Christian walk presuppositions that don’t always align with what God’s Word says. I think the subject of suffering is one of those things. We go through a major transformation of our hearts and minds. But many times, our first battle with suffering after our salvation, it can be a time of awaking to the truth that we are not exempt from it.
After our transformation, we have been passed from death into life. Christ paid all of our debt we could never pay. He took the wrath from the Father that we deserved. We follow a risen Savior. We are humbled and grateful, for the life-giving blood that our Savior paid for such a wretch as us. We are now children under the Cross. And even after that beautiful moment and all the beautiful moments since, that gave us everything for nothing, we still struggle when we suffer. Our struggle with patience in suffering is God using our suffering to do a work in our hearts. We in our sanctification are being conformed to the image of Christ. Suffering is a work that draws us closer to Him as we learn to trust Him in our suffering. And sometimes our suffering is due to discipline by our Father.
Suffering is a word tied to so much pain. Pain we don’t want. We don’t welcome or invite suffering, but we know that when God allows suffering in our lives, He will bring us through that suffering. Many times, we can begin our journey of suffering full of great distress and sorrow. And during these times we need to remember that our Savior suffered great sorrow and distress.
My mind goes to the Garden, where Christ literally sweat droplets of blood. Great distress. And He asked the Father to take His cup (wrath) from Him. Great sorrow. And then came His prayer “Father, your will be done”. Peace. Submission to the Father’s will. We, as Christians model Christ’s time in the garden, when we suffer. This is how we suffer well, as Christ did. We in our weakness become very distressed, thinking of all that could happen. Anxiety wells up. We say “Why is this happening to me”? . Then we beg the Lord to take it from us, that we can’t handle it. That this trial is too hard. Then by wonderous Grace, our heads are lifted, tears streaming down our face, we say in humble gratitude “Father your will be done”
Those are hard words to say. No one will say they are easy to say. His will may be hard, very hard. It is the unknown. But He is the Father and His ways are higher than our ways. Our lives are but vessels to be used for His glory. That hits hard against our kingdom of self. Really hard.
If we trail away from this truth, we become puffed up and not dealing with the reality of Who holds our lives in His hands. This is the reality of the believer as well as the unbeliever. But in Him we are now children of the King. And prior in our unredeemed state, we were under His wrath.He loves us and cares for our smallest distress, to our greatest distress. Our Father cares for His children, and sometimes it is necessary for children to go through hard things, for God’s glory. Christ did.
I have dealt with depression most of my life and have been in the darkest of moments, that to even think of them now, brings me great joy and peace. Joy, you say? Yes, joy. While I was going through those dark times, there was sorrow, grief and darkness. But because of my Savior, I know these times will end and He is with me, even if I can’t “feel” anything. Through these times I am numb, when I read His Word or sing songs of praise to Him. Nothing. But I sing them anyway. My feelings do not validate my words. God’s Word is the lighthouse. Guiding me ever through the darkness. And through it all, deep, down somewhere, I don’t know where, really, God gives me a Joy. A steadfast, quiet joy that even as I walk through the valley of the shadow of death. I know He is with me. That I will fear no evil, because He is with me.
Charles Spurgeon a faithful preacher in England in the 1800’s suffered from depression and anxiety. I think his words are so much more eloquent than mine and bless me greatly.
“There are times when we cannot cry at all, and then he cries in us. There are seasons when doubts and fears abound, and so suffocate us with their fumes that we cannot even raise a cry, and then the indwelling Spirit represents us, and speaks for us, and makes intercession for us, crying in our name.”“Fear not the storm, it brings healing in its wings, and when Jesus is with you in the vessel the tempest only hastens the ship to its desired haven.” ~C H Spurgeon
Depression and anxiety may be only a few ways that Christians can suffer. You may suffer with migraines, chronic pain or even a debilitating disease. Or perhaps like me you suffer or feel great empathy for the suffering in the world. The children that are sexually abused, the murder of babies by abortion.The starving children and children that parents abandon. Oh I could go on and on. These are hard things. Very hard. And my heart breaks for anyone suffering. I want to help, to stop the suffering. And I can’t most of the time. Or when I do, it feels like so little.
This is the fallen world we live in. Sin brings suffering, and God uses suffering. How do we reconcile this in our minds? We start here “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways” (Isaiah 55:8).
The Lord never promises that we will not suffer. On the contrary, we are told that we are to pick up our Cross, daily. Christ suffered carrying His Cross. The Lord tells us that there will be fiery trials. He also tells us that they will produce endurance and patience in us.
As Christians knowing that suffering will come, as Christ did, we prepare to suffer well. To glorify our Savior in it. And as I even write these words, I know how hard that is. Trust Him, He will bring you through. And He will give you Peace, and Joy to carry you through. Rest in Him. Cry out to Him. He understands your sorrow and pain. Lord grant us that we would be able to say as Job did “Though you slay me, yet I will trust in You”
Christians ask God “why?” when we suffer, and sometimes we find that it results from the Lord’s discipline (Heb. 12:3–17). However, Job’s life shows us suffering is not always due to our sin. And as with Job, God may not tell us the “why” of our pain in every case.
God is not obligated to give us the reason for our suffering. Still, whether He is disciplining us or not, we know He is always with us in our pain (Ps. 23:4) to use our suffering for good, redemptive ends and to bring glory to Himself (Rom. 8:28).– R.C Sproul