Suffering. It’s an ugly word. None of us want to suffer, nor do we want to see a loved one suffer. But the hard truth is that life on this planet Earth is filled with pain and disappointment. It gets difficult, heart breaking, and gut wrenching hard. There is no avoiding it as long as we have breath in us. People have wondered for centuries why God would allow all the evil and suffering that goes on in this world. Fact is, God is God and we are not. His perspective is far greater than ours is.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares 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.” Isaiah 55:8-9
The Bible makes no attempt to sugar coat, or hide the fact we will all suffer at one time or another in this life. Many places in scripture we are told we will suffer…to expect it. But we also see it through the very real lives we read about throughout scripture. Though we may not see it at the time, for the Christian, God does have a purpose in our suffering.
“Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word. It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes.” Psalm 119:67, 71
“After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.” 1 Peter 5:10
When we take the time to search out the meaning of certain words in their original language, it can give us a better understanding of what is being said. The basic meanings of the highlighted words above are; to set fast, to complete thoroughly, to lay a firm foundation. Whenever God allows suffering, His purpose is to use it toward making us complete in him. He is using it as stepping stones, laying for us a firm foundation.
The Greek verb for “strengthen”, sthenoo, means “to strengthen in spiritual knowledge and power”. How? Look again at the verses above. “…but now I keep Your word.” “…that I may learn Your statutes.” Friends, we cannot keep His word or learn His statutes if we are not reading and studying it. Both of which will strengthen us in spiritual knowledge and power! His purpose is to drive us to Him. His desire is that we would talk with Him in prayer, that we would read and study His word. Not only to gain knowledge, but to know Him more.
So suffering keeps us dependent on God. It causes us to pray more….because hey, admit it….don’t you tend to pray much more when troubles hit than when everything is just peachy? Sad but true for most all of us I believe.
Trials and suffering send us back to God’s Word, searching for wisdom and promises to stand on which will hold us steady. Through His word we learn to know His heart.
Suffering also keeps us humble. We’re human. Us humans tend to get pretty self-sufficient and self-important. We need to remain humble and realize that without Him, we are really nothing special (John 15:4-5).
Are you beginning to see it?
If suffering keeps us praying, reading, depending on, and growing in Him…isn’t that a reason to…be Joy filled? Yes please!
“Your words were found and I ate them, and Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart; for I have been called by Your name, O Lord God of hosts.” Jeremiah 15:16
“You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” Psalm 16:11
This kind of joy is not denying the reality of our particular situation. It has nothing to do with being “happy” all the time. Happiness is circumstantial. Deep, abiding joy is with us no matter what storm is blowing around us. It comes from internal factors – like our faith in the One True God…and our relationship with Him.
“I am the LORD, and there is no other; Besides Me there is no God” Isaiah 45:5a
“I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden wealth of secret places, So that you may know it is I, the LORD, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name.” Isaiah 45:3
We experience this joy when we have no doubt that God is in control of all the details. We know this joy when we have a quiet confidence that He is present with us…personally…through this, and we can praise Him for who He is, even in the midst of our suffering. We can feel sad…and at same time still have the joy of the Lord within us.
There is one more thing that ties this all together, all this about joy in suffering…
“In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18
Dear friend, God is always good and gracious to us. His blessings are truly abundant, and He wants His best for His children. When we have a thankful heart, it steadies the storm of suffering. Though we can not always be thankful for the exact circumstance, we can be thankful that God keeps His promises. We can be thankful that He is with us through the suffering. We can be thankful He will strengthen us and comfort us. We can be thankful that….
“I waited patiently for the LORD; and He inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, and He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; many will see and fear and will trust in the LORD.” Psalm 40:1-3
Oh friend, I pray that you can surrender to Him….whatever wave of suffering you may be riding on right now, let a thankful heart steady the ride. Seek Him. He promises you will find Him.
My prayer for you is that you will know the Joy of the Lord, and you will be blessed with joy’s traveling companions…peace and hope. I pray your burden will be light, and you will soon be singing a new song…one of joy and praise.
Blessings to you dear friends.