Suffering and Blessing
Download Audio (9.7MB)
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.—Romans 8:18
Someone once asked me if I didn’t think God was unfair, allowing me to have Parkinson’s disease and other medical problems when I have tried to serve him faithfully. I replied that I did not see it that way at all. Suffering is part of the human condition, and it comes to us all. The key is how we react to it, either turning away from God in anger and bitterness or growing closer to Him in trust and confidence.
God may permit suffering so we learn to respond to problems in a biblical way. Scripture tells us that Jesus “learned obedience from what He suffered.”1 Our goal should be not merely relief from suffering but rather learning to please God by being responsive and obedient to Him and to His Word.2
Sometimes God permits us to suffer to teach us that pain is a part of life. Nowhere does the Bible say that the Christian will not suffer adversity. Paul points out in Philippians 1:29, “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.” Adversity can be a gift from God. Christ did not evade the Cross to escape suffering. Hebrews 12:2 says he “endured the cross, despising the shame.” Why? “For the joy that was set before him.” He knew that the final word was not crucifixion (suffering), it was resurrection (victory).
God may permit suffering for our well-being. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”3 We must accept this by faith and pray that God’s highest good will come as a result of our suffering. Only through adversity are some of the deeper lessons of life learned. Trust God to work out His own will and purpose in us so that we might be more Christlike.4 There is no redemptive merit in our suffering as there was in that of Jesus, but if we are faithful under adversity we may be able to share in “the fellowship of his sufferings.”5
We may suffer briefly, or all our lives. But let us not give up hope or engage in self-pity or bitterness. The end result is what we all look forward to. Being with the Lord in heaven will put all things into perspective!—Billy Graham6
Most of the Psalms were born in difficulty. Most of the Epistles were written in prisons. Most of the greatest thoughts of the greatest thinkers of all time had to pass through the fire. Bunyan wrote Pilgrim’s Progress from jail. Florence Nightingale, too ill to move from her bed, reorganized the hospitals of England. Semiparalyzed and under the constant menace of apoplexy, Pasteur was tireless in his attack on disease. During the greater part of his life, American historian Francis Parkman suffered so acutely that he could not work for more than five minutes as a time. His eyesight was so wretched that he could scrawl only a few gigantic words on a manuscript, yet he contrived to write twenty magnificent volumes of history. Sometimes it seems that when God is about to make preeminent use of a man, he puts him through the fire.—Tim Hansel7
Romanian pastor Richard Wurmbrand spent 14 years in prison for preaching the gospel. Although his captors smashed four of his vertebrae and either cut or burned 18 holes in his body, they could not defeat him. He testified, “Alone in my cell, cold, hungry, and in rags, I danced for joy every night.”
During this time he turned to a fellow prisoner, a man he had led to the Lord before they were arrested, and asked, “Have you any resentment against me that I brought you to Christ?” His response: “I have no words to express my thankfulness that you brought me to the wonderful Savior. I would never have it another way.” These two men exemplify the supernatural joy that can be experienced by believers who live on the edge of death as the result of being severely persecuted.
Salvation, which brings strength for today and hope for tomorrow, lasts forever. Therefore, we don’t have to be defeated by troublesome circumstances. When we know we are saved, we have the assurance that God is at work in our lives, preparing us for the eternal realities of the better world. Yes, salvation is life’s greatest blessing.—H.V.L., Our Daily Bread
The psalmist tells us, “As for God, His way is perfect.”8 If God’s ways are “perfect,” then we can trust that whatever He does—and whatever He allows—is also perfect. This may not seem possible to us, but our minds are not God’s mind. It is true that we can’t expect to understand His mind perfectly, as He reminds us, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”9 Sometimes God’s perfect will includes sadness and suffering for His children. But we can rejoice in that He never tests us beyond our ability to bear it and always provides the way out from under the burden of sorrow we bear temporarily.10
No greater suffering has ever been experienced than that of Jesus, a “man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.”11 His life was one continued series of sorrows, from the cradle to the cross. In His infancy His life was in danger from Herod, and His parents had to take Him and flee into Egypt.12 His entire ministry was characterized by the sorrow He felt from the hardness and unbelief of men’s hearts, from the opposition of the religious leaders, and even from the fickleness of His own disciples, not to mention from the temptations of Satan. The night before His crucifixion, He was “exceedingly sorrowful unto death” as He contemplated the coming wrath and justice of God which would fall upon Him as He died for His people. So great was His agony that His sweat was as great drops of blood.13 Of course, the greatest sorrow of His life was when on the cross His Father hid His face from the Son, causing Jesus to cry out in agony, “Why have you forsaken me?”14 Surely no suffering experienced by any of us compares with that of the Savior.
But just as Jesus was restored to the right hand of His Father after enduring sorrow, so can we be assured that through hardships and times of sadness, God uses adversity to make us more like Christ.15 While life among sinful humanity in this world will never be perfect, we know that God is faithful and that when Christ returns, sorrow will be replaced with rejoicing.16 But in the meantime, we use our sorrow to glorify God17 and rest in the Lord God Almighty’s grace and peace.—From gotquestions.org18
Being confident in how much Jesus loves you won’t just make you happier; it will be a stabilizing force in your life. When you are assured of His love for you, when you are aware that He is intimately concerned about your welfare and happiness, then that knowledge will give you peace in your heart and steady you, even when you suffer or face disappointments, heartbreaks, difficulties, or any other adversities that life sends your way.—Maria Fontaine
Published on Anchor September 2021. Read by Jon Marc.
Music by Michael Dooley.
1 Hebrews 5:8 NIV.
2 See Romans 12:1–2.
3 Romans 8:28 NIV.
4 See Romans 8:29.
5 Philippians 3:10.
6 The Billy Graham Christian Worker's Handbook (Minneapolis: World Wide Publ., 1984), 223–25.
7 You Gotta Keep Dancin' (David C. Cook, 1985), 87.
8 Psalm 18:30.
9 Isaiah 55:8–9.
10 1 Corinthians 10:13.
11 Isaiah 53:3.
12 Matthew 2:13–14.
13 Matthew 26:38; Luke 22:44.
14 Matthew 27:46.
15 Romans 8:29; Hebrews 12:10.
16 Isaiah 35:10.
17 1 Peter 1:6–7.
- Living in God’s Word
- God’s Healing Balm in Times of Grief
- Hurry and Worry
- One Thing Before All Things
- Faith Like Gold
- Learning About God’s Mercy
- Trusting Through the Silence
- A Life Well Lived, Today and for the Future
- How God Gave Me a Home
- Setting Our Affections on Things Above