We began our study on suffering by discussing its definition and its implication in the life of the believer. While no one wants to suffer, it is a fact of life that we must manage every day. We mentioned early in the series how we try to alleviate our suffering. Living in a fallen world, however, we will experience some form of suffering.
We examined the practice of pain management and the strategies we use to ease our pain and suffering. For believers, we agreed that our pain management comes from our knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord. Armed with that knowledge, we can live confidently, trusting in His goodness and His greatness. (Ps. 27: 1-3).
We concluded that having the right theology of suffering will help us to not only manage the pain, but also sustain us through our suffering. Suffering is best managed first, by putting our trust in God and secondarily, by having a Christian worldview.
Where is God?
With all we’ve discussed about suffering to date, there is yet one question we have. “Where is God in the midst of our suffering?” Through the COVID pandemic, in natural disasters, and during mass shootings; with these and many more events in mind, where is God? This is where the right theology of suffering is important.
If we believe that God is our spiritual “Superman” who will rescue us from suffering, then we will always be disappointed. God loves us and is intimately involved in every aspect of our lives. His glory and His power can best be recognized not in His rescuing us “from” our suffering BUT INSTEAD in His provision for us “during” our suffering. God is where He has always been and where He will always be—actively participating in our suffering.
How does God participate in our suffering? By sustaining us (Ps. 55:22; Phil. 4:19). By strengthening us (Ps. 27:1; 2 Thess. 3:3). By comforting us (John 14:7; 2 Cor. 1:3-5). By providing and protecting us (Isa. 54:10). God is not observing our suffering from afar. He is ever near (2 Chron. 16:9; Isa. 30:21).
As our Sovereign, God controls all events, people, and circumstances that flow into our lives. By faith we trust God, knowing that all things work together for good to those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28). And that purpose may include the experience of suffering (2 Cor. 12:7). Without God we can’t fit suffering into the fabric of life.
Look for Jesus in the midst
In reading God’s Word and through the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, I have learned to not only, trust in God, but also, “look for God” during my suffering.
While working with a soul healing team, we witnessed how the Holy Spirit would reveal Jesus in the midst of a person’s painful experience. The Holy Spirit helped individuals see Jesus during their situation. They realized they were not alone. Jesus was there with them! Sustaining, comforting, strengthening, and protecting.
Jesus is always with us! We must learn to practice looking for God during times of suffering. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you see Jesus with you during times of suffering. Look for Him with your spiritual eyes.
Closing words on suffering
F.B. Meyer, noted theologian, wrote these words about suffering.
Suffering in the will of God challenges us to persevere in our faith. God desires to use such suffering to advance his Kingdom and righteousness in many ways, including further conforming us to the image of God. We need to keep the right perspective about such suffering.
Andrew Murray had this to say about suffering:
By faith alone are we able to bear suffering, great or small, alright to God’s glory, or our own welfare. Faith sees it in the light of God and eternity; It’s short pain, it’s everlasting gain; it’s impotence to hurt the soul, it’s power to purify and to bless it.
While I appreciate both writer’s input, I commit to memory the following from my Lord and Savior Jesus. Especially its closing promise.
These things I have spoken to you, that in me you might have peace. In this world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. John 16:33