If I am honest, I would have to confess that I don’t particularly like the word “suffering.” Over the years I have heard numerous pastors and Bible teachers share about how suffering is just part of life, especially the Christian life. I totally agree. Although I recognize that suffering is part of life, I still don’t like it.
We all know there are “levels” of suffering. Suffering can range from getting our feelings hurt by unjust accusations to the loss of loved one. The range is staggering. No matter the level, suffering is often painful and absolutely, positively NO FUN.
I just started reading the book of Job in my quiet time. You might be wondering why I chose to read Job. Me too. I had just finished reading Esther which, needless to say, was extremely convicting and has resulted in a long prayer list. As I prayed about my next quiet time focus, I felt led to just go to the next book in the Bible. As I turned the page and saw Job, I must admit I let out a slight sigh. You see I have read Job many times, and I kind of know what is coming. As I glanced at the opening notes (I love this about my study Bible), I read the following:
God is sovereign and worthy of worship in whatever He chooses to do. Job must learn to trust in the goodness and power of God in adversity by enlarging his concept of God. He must come to the end of his own resources, humble himself and acknowledge the greatness and majesty of the Lord.
Having just read about the sovereignty of God in Esther, I knew God wanted to teach me more about his sovereignty – especially as it relates to suffering.
When I face suffering no matter how severe, I am fairly certain the first question that pops into my head is “Why am I going through this?” My focus tends to be on self, and pride often rears its ugly head and tells me I don’t deserve to be facing this trial. While that may be true, that really isn’t the issue. My study Bible mentioned something worth considering.
Suffering is often a two-sided coin. On the one side suffering may be viewed as coming from God to bring out the best in us. On the other side, Satan attempts to use the same suffering to bring out the words in us.
After reading this, it was as if the Holy Spirit whispered, “Don’t focus on the why of suffering. You won’t always be able to figure that out – especially in the midst of the trial. Just focus on your response.”
Needless to say, Job provides such an amazing example of what our response should be. In Job 1:20-22 he mourned, fell to the ground and worshipped. He blessed God and did not sin or place blame. Talk about convicting. My suffering pales in comparison to what Job experienced.
No matter what suffering we experience (mild or severe), it is hard, and we have choices. We choose how we will respond.
· We can be consumed by the suffering. Feelings of worry, anger, frustration, and/or hopelessness can permeate our heart and mind. This results in a paralyzed and defeated life.
· We can ignore the suffering or dismiss it because, after all, this will pass and it certainly isn’t as bad as what someone else has experienced. This results in self-reliance and a missed opportunity to see God work and bless our lives.
· We can learn from it. We can seek to understand, trust, worship, and obey.
Learning to trust God’s sovereignty in the midst of suffering is a daily struggle. How can we really learn to respond like Job?
· Mourn: We may not tear our clothes and shave our heads but we can fall to the ground and cry out to God. It’s okay. He can handle our pain.
In the same way the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what prayer to offer or how to offer it as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes on our behalf with sighs and groaning too deep for words. Romans 8:26
· Worship: Acknowledge God’s sovereignty. Blessed be the name of the Lord.
Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, be assured I will help you: I will certainly take hold of you with My righteous right hand (a hand of justice, of power, of victory, of salvation). Isaiah 41:10 AMP
· Talk Back: In the book Ashamed, Christine Caine talks about the power of talking back to Satan. Remember, he wants to bring out the worst in us. During the suffering is the hardest part. Talk back with scripture. Use the arsenal of God’s Word.
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good for those who love God to those who are called according to His plan and purpose. Romans 8:28
Consider it nothing but joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you fall into various trials. Be assured the testing of your faith produces endurance (leading to spiritual maturity, and inner peace). And let endurance have its perfect result and do thorough work, so that you may be perfect and completely developed (in your faith) lacking in nothing. James 1:2-5 AMP
Having grown up in the church, I was blessed to hear many a testimony of missionaries as they shared the stories of blessing and suffering. Without exception all quoted the familiar scripture, "So they left the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for the name of Jesus Christ." Acts 5:41
Suffering will come. May God find us worthy.