In the past few months, I have been faced with meeting and knowing more people than normal who have had more than their share of suffering. I know of at least two women much like Dorcas of Acts 9 who have met an untimely and premature death. One child in the congregation with which I am working is suffering with cystic fibrosis (an incurable lung disease) and my sister recently adopted an infant who later was found to be hopelessly blind. Another faithful member of the congregation here is presently going through a siege of heart trouble. The list could be lengthened by preachers with more experience than myself, but this is sufficient to pose the problem of why must the righteous suffer so much on this earth? This is the same question as found in
Many blessings are found in things which we do not enjoy. There is a passage in the Old Testament which declares a principle that men need to remember. “It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart. Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning: but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth” (ECCI. 7: 2-3). Jesus said, “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:4). The word “blessed” means “happy.” Therefore Jesus said, “Happy are they that mourn . . . ” Of course not every sort of mourning can claim this blessing, for “the sorrow of the world worketh death” (2 Cor. 7:10). Solomon said that there is a time for mourning. “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance” (Eccl. 3:1-4).
For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope. Romans 15:4
One of the most important words in the Bible may be this little four letter word Hope. The Scriptures are God’s gift to us for the purpose of establishing our faith, giving us a cause for hope. A man with hope for his future can endure great hardship. A man without hope lacks direction and purpose. Hope can be a powerful motivation in our lives. As we study the Scriptures our faith is built and reinforced and our hope that there is a better life awaiting us empowers us to endure the sufferings of this life.
For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. – Romans 8:24, 25
There is difficulty in establishing this hope. God’s promises are not based on tangible things that we can see or touch. If we believe in the beauty of God’s character and his love for us we will seek to please Him and we will hope for what he has promised. I love this phrase, if we hope, then do we eagerly wait. As a child I remember not being able to sleep the night of December 24 as I eagerly awaited the morning. Are we awaiting our reward with eagerness?
(as it is written, “I have made you a father of many nations” in the presence of Him whom he believed—God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did; who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, “So shall your descendants be.” – Romans 4:17, 18
Why was Abraham a father of many nations? It was because despite their advanced ages, despite what he could understand, he believed God’s promise. Even though Abraham had nothing tangible on which to base his faith, he believed God. How strong is your hope?
The title for this article might seem somewhat out of place. I want to start off with the understanding suffering is real. There are many different kinds of suffering and I do not wish to minimize anyone’s suffering. What I would hope to do is to increase our understanding and maybe open our minds to a different viewpoint that should help us to keep suffering in its proper place.
I want to start off with a bold assertion. Setting aside physical pain, the majority of suffering is a comparison between where we are now and where we think we should be.
Imagine if you will an experiment. If you took 10 Young men from an impoverished country where every day is a struggle to survive along with 10 men from an upscale private school and sent them to live in the same building. In each room is a mattress, running water, and all their meals are provided for them, I have no doubt each group of men would see the identical facilities differently. Even though there is nothing different about their physical environments one of those two groups would be “suffering.” in this case it is easy to see the comparison to understand how one group would consider themselves to be suffering.
I want to develop this same idea a bit further. What about the family who loses a young child to an accidental death. Their suffering is real and their grief certainly understandable. Yet, their suffering is a comparison to where they are and where they would want to be, enjoying the life of their departed child.
Consider the below statements from the apostle Paul and notice the items in his list of suffering:
From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness— besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches. – 2 Corinthians 11:24-28
I know we understand how difficult it was for Paul to suffer persecution for preaching the gospel of Christ. Notice however that he lists being beaten with rods right along with sleeplessness. He lists being stoned right next to being shipwrecked. He has perils of robbers with cold and nakedness. If he considered one type of suffering greater than another type of suffering I certainly do not see it. Suffering is suffering. Whether it’s physical pain that the doctors can do nothing about or the emotional pain of the loss of a child or a parent.
Our reaction to suffering, no matter what its source, should be the same.To pray to or God (Jas 5:13). To lean upon our faith. To remember our hope which is in Christ Jesus. To comfort one another that all suffering in this life is temporary.
The apostle Paul did believe in relative suffering. He makes two statements which clearly show he compared his suffering from what he currently was enduring to what he knew he would have to endure in the future.
For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.2 Cor 4:17,18
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. Rom 8:18
“Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, saying, “I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.” – John 13:27,28
Much has been written about the physical suffering of Jesus. I would like to focus on the emotional aspects of his suffering so that we might understand and hopefully help to comfort those who are dealing with these types of trials. Continue reading “The Emotional Suffering of Jesus”
The book of Hebrews clearly shows the correlation between suffering and the learning of obedience. The writer declares that Christ was perfected as the author of salvation through sufferings (Heb. 2:10) and that he “learned obedience by the things which he suffered” (Heb. 5:9). The writer exhorts the readers to follow Jesus’ example in chapter 12. He urges them to be perfected in righteousness as they face growing affliction (Heb. 12:1-13).
While the experience of human suffering is universal, the lessons learned from it are not. Whether young or old, rich or poor, righteous or wicked, all of us experience suffering. The reaction we have to such experiences determines whether or not we learn obedience through the things suffered. The same episode may result in a determination furthering obedience or a discouragement furthering rejection of God’s will. The difference in reactions is not brought about by dissimilar events, but by dissimilar hearts.
What is it to be thankful? We stop at this time of year and give thanks for all of our good gifts as well we should (Phil. 4:6). When was the last time in the midst of a calamity you saw someone thanking God that tragedy had interupted their lives?
From time to time, each of us has visited someone who was complaining about his situation in life. Maybe he had been diagnosed with a terminal illness, was going through the trauma of a failed marriage, was the victim of a senseless crime, or some other malady. Sometimes those who go through such tragedies make some seemingly senseless statements: