Do You Suffer?
It is easy to be thankful and praise God in the good times, when your marriage is good, when you have a steady income, when your cupboards are full, when the heat is on and the car has a full tank of gas. But when your life is not going so well, when your marriage breaks down, when you lose your job, when a child passes away, when you get bad news from the doctor, when you are drowning in debt, when friends and loved ones turn their backs on you, when the car is repossessed, when you have no food to eat, do you still have the same thankfulness? Do you still praise God when he takes away? In times of suffering it can be very difficult to see the hand the God, it can be very hard to praise him.
I know what it is like to endure suffering. I have sailed through some rough seas, where at times the storm was so dark that I could not see my faithful God guiding me, testing me, carrying me. When my dad passed away, when I got sick, when my marriage was marred by sin, when I lost my job, when my health was failing me, when bills and debts piled up – at these times I did not realize it was God testing me, shaping me, moulding me, breaking me down to turn me into something useful for His glory.
In the book of Job we read of Satan going before God and saying that Job will lose his faith if everything he has is taken away. God permits Satan to take Job’s family, wealth, and health away. Despite Satan’s accusation and best efforts, Job continues to trust in God’s promises. This does not mean that Job does not question God, the rest of the book tells the story of Job asking why God has allowed such suffering in his life. God never tells Job why. Instead, God reminds Job of His sovereignty over all things and that His ways are hidden from us. Job’s response is to surrender to His wisdom and to admit that he does not understand God’s ways. Job trusts God even though He does not completely understand.
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart.
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;
may the name of the LORD be praised.” Job 1:21
The book of Job is a reminder that God is in control of all things. This can be a comfort to us and yet can also be confusing when we suffer. Sometimes things happen to us that do not make sense from our point of view. Yet unlike us, God sees all and has a good plan for all that happens. The wise man, like Job, trusts God even when He does not make sense to him. We should ask for the wisdom and faithfulness to trust Him even in the bad times.
I could not see it at the time, why God allowed such suffering to happen in my life. I admit that my response was not much like Job’s. I did not display the courage and maturity of faith or the wisdom which Job showed. I accused God, and blamed Him in my misery. Yet even with my sin of blaming God and turning from Him, He held on to me and did not let me go. I can see now that God’s hand was leading me. Had God not taken me through the storm, and allowed suffering to befall me, I would not have the strength of faith I have today, I would not hunger for His Word, nor have the love for the needy and the downtrodden, nor my amazing marriage to my wonderful wife, nor would I have this blog. 🙂
Let me be clear, the suffering which I endured is not what produced my faith or my maturing in my walk with Christ. It was only a tool that God used to bring me to Himself so I would respond to Him and His Word. God used my suffering to force me to turn from trust in my own resources to living by faith in God. Ultimately, it is the Word and the Spirit of God that produces faith and mature Christian character. God used my suffering to reach me with His Word and Spirit, to lead me back to repentance and faith in the redeeming sacrifices of Jesus Christ. I am still growing in faith and learning to trust, and I will for the rest of my life, but I can now sing with the Psalmist:
Before I was afflicted I went astray,
but now I obey your word.
You are good, and what you do is good;
teach me your decrees.
Though the arrogant have smeared me with lies,
I keep your precepts with all my heart.
Their hearts are callous and unfeeling,
but I delight in your law. It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees. (Ps. 119:67-71).
We all struggle, we all suffer. If you are going through hard times, or suffering in silence do not lose faith, do not give up hope. I hope that you never have to endure suffering, but if and when you do, remember that you are not alone. Jesus came and suffered more than you or I can ever possibly imagine – He suffered complete separation from the Father in our place for the complete forgiveness of all our sins. So cast your cares upon him! God is in control of all things so give him the glory and honour. Likewise, if things are going well for you, and your life is blessed, remember to give all praise to the God who gives and takes away.
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 1 Peter 4:12–13
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the daylong; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35–39
do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6–7