SUFFERING: Did You Miss God?
“If God is in it, then it’ll be easy!”
“If this is truly God’s will, then it shouldn’t be difficult; it should just flow.”
“Your suffering is proof that you’re going against the will of God. Repent!”
How many of us have heard things like this? Not from hateful, judgmental people, but from our loved ones; people who truly care about us and want God’s best for us?
There will be times when God makes things go easy for us. But easy doesn’t build character.
Easy doesn’t test your faith.
Easy doesn’t build your spiritual muscles.
In fact, I’m inclined to believe that easy only comes after we’ve suffered for a season.
I know, I know. Suffering isn’t considered an acceptable word in our Occidental theology; certainly not in American Christianity.
But suffering is in the Bible. And as we remember the glorious resurrection of our Saviour, we also remember the cross.
When Loved Ones Steer Us Wrong
Even Jesus’ loved ones tried to keep Him from suffering. They felt He’d be wasted, His ministry would be wasted because of it.
From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.
Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!”
But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” (Matthew 16:21-23)
The Apostle Paul had a similar experience with his loved ones.
And as we stayed many days, a certain prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. When he had come to us, he took Paul’s belt, bound his own hands and feet, and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt, and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’”
Now when we heard these things, both we and those from that place pleaded with him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, “What do you mean by weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”
So when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, “The will of the Lord be done.” (Acts 21:10-14)
And Job--the king of Scriptural suffering--was told by his friends that his suffering was an indication, not of God’s favour and will, but of His displeasure for some unknown sin he must have committed.
Remember now, who ever perished being innocent? Or where were the upright ever cut off? Even as I have seen, those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same. By the blast of God they perish, and by the breath of His anger they are consumed. (Job 4:7-9)
Indeed it is in the story of Job that we begin to see in our life of service to God, things are not always as cut and dry as we believed them to be when we first started out. Well-meaning people may say otherwise, but it is our Sovereign God Who has displayed the truth.
When Our Enemies Use Our Suffering as Fodder & Fuel
It’s not just our loved ones that believe suffering is not part of God’s will for our life; our critics are in agreement. Except they take it several steps further and throw it in your face, just as the Pharisees did to Jesus while He hung, bled, and died on the cross for their sins.
They remembered His infamous words:
“Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” (John 2:19)
And not comprehending His prophecy, they tormented Him with the same words:
And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying, “You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.”
Likewise the chief priests also, mocking with the scribes and elders, said, “He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him. He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”
Even the robbers who were crucified with Him reviled Him with the same thing. (Matthew 27:39:44)
Just imagine if Jesus had become so forlorn from that experience that He “cursed God and died,” doubted His mission or the success thereof, or even called a legion of angels down to rescue Him and show His power (Psalm 91:11-13). That’s scriptural right?
But it was not the will of God for His life and His ministry.
Suffering, THEN the Glory
A dear pastor friend of mine taught me many things. I won’t pretend to remember all of his lessons, but the one message that was banged into my head and likely will remain “banged” there until the end of my time on earth is this:
The glory come after the suffering.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18)
Many times, I’ve had to comfort myself with the words of the Psalmist:
I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. (Psalm 27:13)
I really like the way the KJV says it:
I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
I like “I had fainted” because it’s true. I have fainted before in the day of adversity and been proven weak. I’m sure you have too at some point and while I’m not trying to prophesy doom and gloom, I’m sure you’ll see that day at one point or another if you haven’t already. It happens to the best of us. And while Jesus was fully God even while He was fully man, He was touched with every bit of weakness, suffering, and adversity that we could ever (not) hope to face.
For 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. (Hebrews 4:15)
And knowing this, God gave us a promise:
“My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” (II Corinthians 12:9)
And He made us another promise!
Cast your burden on the Lord, And He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved. (Psalm 55:22)
And another promise!
Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. (Romans 8:26)
And yet another promise!
But those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31)
While there is suffering that comes as the result of our own sin, etc.; I am, however, inclined to believe--and it is proven in Scripture--that suffering is sent to make you who and what God has called you to be. In the life of the obedient Christian, it is not a sign of you missing God, it’s a sign that you are more than likely in His perfect will! Be it a Job-moment where God “takes you out” to brag on you to Satan or Satan deems you a threat and has decided to come against you, either way, God will sustain you!
Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. (I Peter 4:12-13)
Today, if you are suffering, take heart: God has not forsaken you and He never ever will. Don’t wear your suffering as a badge of God’s favour, but take comfort and assurance in the fact that He will reward you in due season.
And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. (Galatians 6:9 KJV)
See Related: Jesus Didn’t Die So You Could Be Comfortable
If you’re still have trouble discerning the nature and purpose of your suffering, watch this clip!