Sunday, June 05, 2005

Concluding Observations on the Christian and Suffering

This is the last in a series of brief posts on the Christian and suffering. To read earlier entries, see below:

On Suffering, Part 1
The Cause of Suffering
On Suffering, Part 3
On Suffering, Part 4

The Bible says that Christians will suffer, and God has a purpose in it for His children. So what attitude should we exhibit toward suffering? Because God promises that all things work to good for those that love Him, we can be joyful even in our sufferings. That doesn’t mean we should put on a happy face and merely act as though nothing is wrong or that we are not struggling. Rather, we should be assured that God is in control and has a purpose for us that will be glorifying to Him. We can also take assurance that suffering will not be permanent for I Peter 1:6 says that suffering is for a season. Its duration is short.

The Bible also says that temptation and trial will not be so great that it cannot be overcome. In I Cor. 10:13, Paul writes, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”

We aren’t left defenseless on the battlefield. God’s Holy Spirit resides in us, and we have the very Word of the Lord given in Scripture. We also have the strength and support of our brothers and sisters in Christ who are called to help us bear our burdens (Gal. 6:2).

Most importantly, we have a Savior who understands our suffering. Christ came to earth and emptied Himself for us, dying as a man to be our sacrifice and our mediator, reconciling sinners to the Father. But in His humanity, Christ also serves as an example to us. Scripture says that we are “being changed into his likeness” and being “conformed to the image of the Son.” Likewise, Peter tells us that with regard to suffering, Christ is our example—“Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps” (I Peter 2:21). We know that “He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted” (Heb. 2:18) and that “we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15).

As I wrap this up, let me conclude with a few observations and hopefully practical suggestions for facing times of trouble.

1. Renew confidence in God, for though our afflictions may be great, He will deliver us from them.

Romans 8
28And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

Psalm 34
19Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
But the LORD delivers him out of them all.

2. Pray

Psalm 50
15Call upon Me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me."

Psalm 34
4I sought the LORD, and He heard me,
And delivered me from all my fears.

In prayer we show our dependence on God, and our trust in Him. When we go through times of struggle and hurt, we should go to Him.

3. Count your blessings
When we see the goodness of God and recognize it, our trials become easier because we know that will ultimately produce good.

Romans 5
3And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

4. Get into the word.
God’s Word is a comfort to the believer. Even if we don’t know the cause of our trials, we know that the Word says that God “will never leave of forsake” us (Heb. 13:6) and that the Lord is our helper. He suffers with us, but He knows the end result.

5. Forget yourself, love others

Galatians 6
2Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Romans 12
15Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.

2 Corinthians 1
4who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.

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