Everyone suffers. Everyone. And while it is true that no one person suffers the same as another, humans will suffer nonetheless. The moment Eve took a bite of the forbidden fruit, we were guaranteed a lifetime of suffering while on this earth.
There are many ways to undergo this. Sometimes suffering is brought on by no one other than ourselves. (I have to admit, my late teens and early twenties were full of this kind of suffering). Other times we do absolutely nothing to “deserve” the awful things that come our way, much like Job. Then, there is the worst kind of suffering. The kind where we have to sit back and watch someone we love suffer, knowing there is nothing we can do about it. The truth is, because human nature is sinful and we live in a fallen world, we will never escape the suffering that comes along with it, not even when we entrust our lives to Jesus. We will even suffer tribulations in this world BECAUSE we love Jesus.
So, now that I’ve put a damper on your day, the question remains: how do we as Christians handle the suffering that we are sure to experience?
First, we need to accept that we are NOT God and therefore cannot presume to know what He is doing. Some things are to be revealed and some are not. The way of the world is to blame God for our misery or even worse, to say that God doesn’t exist because of it. “How could a loving God possibly allow such worldly atrocities to happen?” seems to be the go-to question. Some things we will understand in due time, but some things we won’t. What we can do while we are here on earth is to accept that we won’t always know God’s reasoning, but that it is always for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28).
Second, we should recognize God’s will in our suffering and know that some good will possibly come of it. Jesus is the perfect example to follow. (I mean, isn’t He always?) In Matthew 26, Jesus is mere hours away from suffering for the sins of mankind. And I am not talking about the excruciating torture and death He is about to endure. I am talking about taking on the wrath of God for the sins of ALL mankind. All of my sins and your sins and the sins of everyone else in the past, present and future history of the world. Jesus knows all too well the magnitude of this wrath and prays for the cup to be passed from Him. Not as He willed but as GOD willed. Friends, we know that God’s will was for Jesus to pay the price, to face the wrath. The cup was not to be passed from Him. And Jesus trusted God’s will because He knew it was best.
And then there is this: rejoice! That’s right, REJOICE! I will be the first to admit that rejoicing in my own suffering doesn’t exactly come easy. In all honesty, I usually grumble and feel sorry for myself for a while before I can get to the point of even thinking that something remotely good can come from anything I deem as “bad” happening to me. Rejoicing? Not even on my radar. However, we are instructed to REJOICE always (1 Thessalonians 5:16). Key word: always. All the time. Even when things are bad. When they are hard. When we don’t understand. When we feel like it isn’t fair. When we would rather throw a grand pity party for ourselves. I don’t always rejoice, but I do have God’s Word, reminding me, convicting me that it is what I SHOULD do.
So why? Why should we rejoice? We should rejoice because of what it produces. Relationally speaking, it brings us closer to our brothers and sisters. It generates compassion and empathy so we can mourn with one another and comfort one another. It helps us see people and situations differently than we would have if we hadn’t experienced pain and trials. It produces a stronger relationship and an acknowledgement of reliance upon God. We should lay all of our sufferings at His feet, praying continually and having faith in His love and grace. But most of all, when we do these things—when we accept God’s will is best for us, when we have faith in His reasons, when we rejoice while suffering and use our own experience with discomfort to help others, we bring glory to God. As Christians, we should conduct ourselves in a way that will bring glory and honor to God, and this includes how we conduct ourselves during times of suffering. So, when you find yourself in a trial or a battle with any kind of suffering, remember that God loves you and remember His Word: whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).