Isaiah 61:1-7 (MSG) The Spirit of God, the Master, is on me because God anointed me. He sent me to preach good news to the poor, heal the heartbroken, announce freedom to all captives, pardon all prisoners. God sent me to announce the year of his grace—a celebration of God’s destruction of our enemies—and to comfort all who mourn, to care for the needs of all who mourn in Zion, give them bouquets of roses instead of ashes, messages of joy instead of news of doom, a praising heart instead of a languid spirit. Rename them “Oaks of Righteousness” planted by God to display his glory. They’ll rebuild the old ruins, raise a new city out of the wreckage. They’ll start over on the ruined cities, take the rubble left behind and make it new. You’ll hire outsiders to herd your flocks and foreigners to work your fields, but you’ll have the title “Priests of God,” honored as ministers of our God. You’ll feast on the bounty of nations, you’ll bask in their glory. Because you got a double dose of trouble and more than your share of contempt, your inheritance in the land will be doubled and your joy go on forever.
Why suffering? I have experienced a great deal of suffering in my life. Maybe you will agree. It is important to understand the place of suffering in our life as believers. It is vital to know that God is love and suffering is one of the most substantial ways to discover His Love and recognize His Goodness. It doesn’t seem like a Loving and Good God would allow such a thing and still remain true to His Character. Yet, I have found that through suffering I know Him and love Him more than I ever thought possible.
To embrace suffering doesn’t mean to enjoy it or even invite it into our life. The opportunities arrive as unexpected guests who catch us unaware, off guard and unprepared. When the pain and pressure of trials weigh heavy upon us they will either change us or crush us. The counter force of suffering is the Spirit of God living in us who rather than pushing pain and pressure back welcomes it as part of the process of transformation. He is with us. He is our Comforter. He is the Life Changer who takes the broken pieces and catching every tear softens the once hard heart into something moldable. We are shaped into new creations in our suffering. It is unavoidable. It is not foreseeable. It is all God. It is part of our process. Yet, just as it broke our Father’s Heart to see Jesus suffer and die, He did not stop it for the joy set before Him was too great. You and me.
Suffering is not defined by situations but personalities. My experience in sufferings compared to another may seem small or insignificant. Or in contrast, far more than another may think they could bear. The truth is that suffering is subject to the individual. It is personal. God designed suffering to produce joy in our life. It gives way to new faith and trust in God. I would never want or wish cancer on anyone’s child, but it was through our son’s journey that I found faith and hope like I have never known. The confidence that I have in God not to grant my wishes but in doing His Will has changed my life forever. I am thankful for the change therefore I must respect the suffering that produced it.
There will be suffering in life. All have sinned and fallen short of God’s Glory. There are many who know of God and His Son, Jesus who choose unbelief. There are many believers who have not surrendered their body, mind, spirit and soul to the Living God. True repentance is scarce considering the vast population of the planet. Sin doesn’t produce pain and suffering personally but globally. You are not suffering today because God is punishing you. It was our invitation that granted sin entrance and it will be our refusal that moves it far from us. However, sin doesn’t produce the kind of suffering that creates beauty from ashes, joy for mourning or praise for heaviness. Suffering is allowable because it produces God’s Glory in us. God uses what sin tried to crush us with to allow God’s Light and His Love to change us. Using even the ugliest details of our broken existence to show His Goodness and His Glory in our life.
Romans 5:1-5 (MSG) By entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us—set us right with him, make us fit for him—we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus. And that’s not all: We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise. There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!
There is purpose in our suffering that far outweighs the pain endured or pressure succumbed to. Suffering takes limited vision and produces heavenly revelation. If this life is all that we live for, who will ever live eternally? Suffering shows us the vulnerability of temporary living to transform us into Kingdom seekers. I remember standing in the shower bawling my eyes out. A vivid image of my son laying in a casket played over and over in my head. I had to cope with the reality that he could very well die. The doctor professed the “realm of hope” as our current position. I rejoiced in the moment. But as the grave reality of a 2% chance of survival sunk in, I also had to face the possibility of burying my child. In my Martha moment, I had to see the Resurrection and Life reserved for the other side of death. It wrecked me. In that moment, I saw an illuminated image of Jesus stepping out of the tomb and I heard the Voice of God ask, “Will you trust me even if?” I instantly breathed, “Yes!” and sobbed even harder. Did I let my child down? Did I just say I would trust God even in his death? Yes, I did. This is what suffering is designed to produce in us. A rich revelation of Jesus and His Kingdom that allows us to extend our life eternally and our perspective to the Heavenlies. Suddenly it was vastly important to have complete belief in my resurrected Savior and Living Lord if I would ever see my son again should he not survive his horrible ordeal. Will I trust Him even if? Will you? No one really knows until give the opportunity to try. Suffering provides such an opportunity.
Philippians 3:10-11 (MSG) I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself. If there was any way to get in on the resurrection from the dead, I wanted to do it.
Suffering is an opportunity to be transformed. Our flesh may not endure it but if our soul perseveres through it – you will be transformed. In fact, I can never go back to normal again. The reality of Jesus, Heaven, His Resurrection and suffering itself will create something new in us every single time. A broken heart is fertile ground for faith to grow prolifically in our life. People notice a fire-forged believe. There is beauty when something new grows from our ashes. There is a new song of praise that is so melodic others want to hear it when it comes from the mounting of heaviness. There is inexpressible joy born from mourning so incredulous it is attractive to those who long for it. It is through the fire that God refines us. Yet, like the three Hebrew boys, seldom do we emerge with even a hint of smoky smell or singe when the time is spent with Jesus.
The suffering of Jesus was for the joy set before Him. When we participate in suffering rather than falling victim to it, there is victory on the other side. Jesus is the author and finisher of faith. He endured the Cross to go to the grave to emerge victoriously. He then gave us His Victory. To engage in suffering with Jesus produces victory after victory in our life because of the faith produced and trust established. No one will ever change your mind again. You no longer live for this life but eternity. The life of suffering is not a bad omen but an amazing opportunity to fully embrace Jesus and live the rich and satisfying life He promised.
Though we will never invite suffering, it is to be understood that it will always be a part of life. How we embrace and engage in suffering determines its benefit. We must learn to cling to Jesus no matter what especially when suffering comes uninvited. It may be the loneliest time. You will feel that no one understands or cares. You may feel lost, abandoned or forsaken. God is with you. He sees your suffering and hurts with you. But friend, there is a treasure in our pain and perseverance that only faith and hope produce. You will stand firm in your position as Child of God when He transforms you to see more than just this but a Kingdom up for grabs. It is by holding tight to hope without wavering that our stake in Heaven is had. It will come at the price of self. Self dies in our suffering giving way to a prosperous life.
Hebrews 12:1-3 (MSG) Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!