Suffering is a reality, yet strangely we do not understand it well, let alone handle it properly. I want to show a verse in scripture that will give us an entirely new perspective on suffering
I know from personal experience as do you many of you that we all suffer at one time or another and in different ways. Some suffer more greatly than others. Not only do we suffer personally, but we suffer as we watch the people we love endure suffering. Sometimes God intervenes and removes our pains in miraculous ways. And yet many times, He does not. He allows the thing that causes us to suffer to stay.
Of course, God has purposes in suffering. I know some people get offended when I say this. However, it is true. He uses it to build up our character, and to develop in us perseverance. Suffering is a motivator to purify our hearts. We learn through suffering that He is all we will ever need. We learn that He can be trusted even during the storm, whether He calms it or not. How do we think we can escape suffering if Christ wasn't exempt? The people in the early church suffered greatly and a lot of them were brutally murdered for their faith.
Right now today you have people in other countries suffering for the Gospel sake. There are others suffering for GP simply because that is the way things are in the countries they live. Why do you think so many want to come to America? Surely it is to relieve the suffering they have been under for so long.
Many here in America bemoan the fact that times are hard but we really haven't felt hard times. We have gone through light affections compared to those in other countries. However to us the suffering is great because we haven't experienced what it is like to live with atrocities, despair, pain and heartache everyday of our existence.
Paul says in Colossians 1:24, "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is
lacking in Christ's afflictions."
First of all, notice Paul's perspective in and during his suffering. Unlike most of us, who get caught up with ourselves and our pain and problems when we are suffering, Paul is thanking God and rejoicing in the fact that he is suffering.
He doesn't get bitter toward God, but he praises Him. One of the reasons that he can do this is because he understands that somehow in someway his suffering beneficial to others. Not only does he keep his focus on others and handle suffering with a joyful heart, but he rejoices because of what his suffering does for others.
Does that mean he welcomes the pain? No. No-one gets off on being in pain and turmoil. In his flesh, that is, in his mortal body which feels pain and endures suffering, he is doing
his share (and more) on behalf of the corporate Body of Christ, the church, in filling up
the sufferings of Christ.
Christ's sacrifice on the cross is more than sufficient. It is FINISHED which means completed, yet interestingly enough His suffering is not. Even though He bore God's wrath on the cross, suffering in His body and in His spirit. His suffering was not yet complete.
Even after the resurrection of Christ, God has ordained suffering for Christ. You may ask "But how does Christ suffer if He is seated at the right hand of God in heaven, where there are no more tears?" Simply put, HE SUFFERS WHEN WE SUFFER.
Yes, He hurts when we hurt just as we sympathize for those whom we love, but this is speaking of something much deeper and profound. Not only does Christ have the ability to empathize with us, having walked this earth before us, but He actually literally goes through our suffering with us. Think of it! If we are His body and we suffer, must not He also suffer? The Church is His Body, and He is the head of the church. Since we are in Him and He is in us, His sufferings are accomplished as we suffer.
Wow the implications of this are far reaching!
First of all, we ought never to get frustrated or
annoyed at that individual whom we pray for every week, but they never seem to
overcome their horrific circumstances, illness, or whatever. When we come across someone who is doing more than their fair share of suffering we ought to thank them so that, by God's grace, we don't have to.
In other words, God has allotted and ordained a set amount of suffering for Christ to endure through His body, which is us, His Church. If somebody suffers a great deal, somebody else may get through life with very little suffering. The irony of this is that many times it is the healthy and blessed folks who insult the oppressed and hurting folks for not having enough faith or not wanting to get well. How stupid and presumptuous is that? What makes us think that we are any better because we have escaped? It is only because of His Grace and not of our goodness that we are worthy to escape. Some people were ordained for suffering. There are souls attached to their assignment of suffering. The scripture says "16The Spirit Himself [thus] testifies together with our own spirit, [assuring us] that we are children of God. 17And if we are [His] children, then we are [His] heirs also: heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ [sharing His inheritance with Him]; only we must share His suffering if we are to share His glory. 18[But what of that?] For I consider that the sufferings of this present time (this present life) are not worth being compared with the glory that is about to be revealed to us and in us and [a]for us and [b]conferred on us!" Roman 8:16-18 Ampl
We ought to thank those to whom tragedy
has befallen because they are doing their share of filling up Christ's sufferings. In other words, what I am saying is that suffering is a ministry. In fact, it is a privilege, an honor, and a means to intimacy with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Paul spoke of desiring to know the fellowship of Christ's sufferings (Philippians 3:10). This can only be a reality when suffering actually occurs.
Paul then had great intimacy with God because he suffered greatly. When we go through trials understanding that life is a co-journey with Christ, we can keep from becoming bitter, asking God why, and deducing that we have been treated unfairly.
It is no mystery that suffering doesn't go around to everybody in equal partitions. Some get an undue slice of the suffering pie while others hardly seem to suffer at all. In that respect, things are not fair. But in God's perspective of suffering, which should be ours as well, all is fair because those who suffer more are accomplishing ministry simply because of their suffering.
They don't have to get healed to have value. They ought to suffer well, but even that is a bonus. Suffering is in and of itself is a ministry because it means that somebody else might not have to suffer. I keep reiterating this same fact over and over.
It is time that we hold those who are suffering in high regard, rather than criticizing them for not having enough faith, judging them for some hidden sin, and pushing them aside because we are tired of dealing with them. Their suffering is their ministry to us, so may we minister to them in return through love, compassion, and other God-ordained means.
2 Corinthians 1:2-7 (Amplified Bible)
2 Grace (favor and spiritual blessing) to you and [heart] peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One).
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of sympathy (pity and mercy) and the God [Who is the Source] of every comfort (consolation and encouragement),
4 Who comforts (consoles and encourages) us in every trouble (calamity and affliction), so that we may also be able to comfort (console and encourage) those who are in any kind of trouble or distress, with the comfort (consolation and encouragement) with which we ourselves are comforted (consoled and encouraged) by God.
5 For just as Christ's [[a]own] sufferings fall to our lot [b] [as they overflow upon His disciples, and we share and experience them] abundantly, so through Christ comfort (consolation and encouragement) is also [shared and experienced] abundantly by us.
6 But if we are troubled (afflicted and distressed), it is for your comfort (consolation and encouragement) and [for your] salvation; and if we are comforted (consoled and encouraged), it is for your comfort (consolation and encouragement), which works [in you] when you patiently endure the same evils (misfortunes and calamities) that we also suffer and undergo.
7 And our hope for you [our joyful and confident expectation of good for you] is ever unwavering (assured and unshaken); for we know that just as you share and are partners in [our] sufferings and calamities, you also share and are partners in [our] comfort (consolation and encouragement).
Psalm 23:4 says, "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me." How foolish it is for us to curse God when we suffer as if He has abandoned us. God never promised to make heaven out of this life. Heaven is coming; in that we can be sure. Yet in the mean time, there is suffering allotted. Christ will endure it, and we will endure it on His behalf. When we suffer, let us remember that we are accomplishing a ministry of Christ, that we are co-suffering with Him as His body, and that we are never abandoned in our suffering. Like a Good Shepherd, Jesus is there. He has ordained the valleys and the darkness for our good and refinement, and the beautiful thing is that He goes through them with us, prodding us on and keeping us on the right path.
Next time you suffer, do it first of all for God's glory, rejoicing in it. Secondly, remember that you are suffering on the behalf of others. Don't expect them to thank you, but know that you have value even in your darkest hour.
Finally, be mindful that Christ is suffering with you as He leads you through the trials that He has ordained for you in His overarching beautiful, wonderful, and perfect plan for your life. Lean onto Him like you never have before so that you can find a rest and peace that you may have never known up to this point. He will carry you through. When you suffer, don't turn from Him, run to Him. He will lead you home.
Sometimes by allowing us to suffer is the only way God can get our attention. Sometimes we ignore Him and go on living for ourselves and in our own little world until He allows something major to happen that reminds us of our need for Him. I have been suffering from migraines for about 5 years. I've taken every medication available and sometimes the side effects of the medications were more severe than the migraines. I even got to a point where I was getting addicted to the medication and starting taking more than I was prescribed because I was in pain. My insurance would not cover the medicine and I ended up paying out of pocket and at one point had to borrow a significant amount of money from a friend, just so I could function and go to work. I needed the medicine to do my job. I've gotten a lot better but I have not been completely healed yet. However, God has used this illness to constantly remind me of my need for Him. He has shown me that I am nothing without Him and it is only because of Him that I can do what I do, which is teach. In my hours of darkness in my bed I cried out for help from Him. I felt so small and so helpless, like a new baby that has come into the world. I felt lost and alone. I didn't know what to do, yet in those hours of darkness, when I was living through my own personal hell, sometimes I heard the still small voice of God speaking to me. He told me that my personal hell did in no way compare to the torment non-believers would feel for all of eternity if they did not come to know and accept the love of Jesus Christ.