For the Almighty God, who, as even the heathen acknowledge, has supreme power over all things, being Himself supremely good, would never permit the existence of anything evil among His works if He were not so omnipotent and good that He can bring good even out of evil.
A gracious soul may look through the darkest cloud and see God smiling on him.
An evidence that our will has been broken is that we begin to thank God for that which once seemed so bitter, knowing that His will is good and that, in His time and in His way, He is able to make the most bitter waters sweet.
Though my natural instinct is to wish for a life free from pain, trouble, and adversity, I am learning to welcome anything that makes me conscious of my need for Him. If prayer is birthed out of desperation, then anything that makes me desperate for God is a blessing… Puritan pastor William Gurnall makes this point in his writings, “The hungry man needs no help to teach him how to beg.”
He has chosen not to heal me, but to hold me. The more intense the pain, the closer His embrace. The greatest good suffering can do for me is to increase my capacity for God. Real satisfaction comes not in understanding God’s motives, but in understanding His character, in trusting in His promises, and in leaning on Him and resting in Him as the Sovereign who knows what He is doing and does all things well.
Let Him therefore send and do what He will. By His grace, if we are His, we will face it, bow to it, accept it, and give thanks for it. God’s Providence is always executed in the ‘wisest manner’ possible. We are often unable to see and understand the reasons and causes for specific events in our lives, in the lives of others, or in the history of the world. But our lack of understanding does not prevent us from believing God.
This dark problem of unmerited suffering lights up as we see what happened at the cross. Jesus did not bear the Cross – He used it. The Cross was sin, and He turned it into the healing of sin; the Cross was hate, and He turned it into a manifestation of the love of God. The Cross showed man at his worst, and there Jesus shows God at His redemptive best. The cruelest, darkest word that life ever spoke was at the Cross, and Jesus took all that cruelty and darkness and turned it into pure love and pure light… What a light it sheds upon the tragedy of life to find such a fact at the center of our faith.
He cleansed suffering! It was no longer a sign of our being caught in the wheel of existence, as Buddha suggests; no longer the result of our evil deeds of a previous birth, as our Hindu friends tell us; no longer the sign of the displeasure of God, as many of all ages and of all religions have suggested; no longer something to be stoically and doggedly borne. It is more than that. Suffering is the gift of God.
For if [a Christian] cannot thank and praise God as well in calamities and sufferings as in prosperity and happiness, he is as far from the piety of a Christian as he that only loves them that love him is from the charity of a Christian. For to thank God only for such things as you like is no more a proper act of piety than to believe only what you see is an act of faith. Resignation and thanksgiving to God are only acts of piety when they are acts of faith, trust and confidence in the divine goodness.
Our Lord does not promise to change life for us; He does not promise to remove difficulties and trials and problems and tribulations; He does not say that He is going to cut out all the thorns and leave the roses with their wonderful perfume. No; He faces life realistically, and tells us that these are things to which the flesh is heir, and which are bound to come. But He assures us that we can so know Him that, whatever happens, we need never be frightened, we need never be alarmed.
Much suffering in the life of the church is a mystery. We must be comfortable with the mystery. We must allow God to have His secrets in our suffering.
The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith, and the beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety.
Faith upholds a Christian under all trials, by assuring him that every painful dispensation is under the direction of his Lord; that chastisements are a token of His love; that the season, measure, and continuance of his sufferings, are appointed by Infinite Wisdom, and designed to work for his everlasting good; and that grace and strength shall be afforded him, according to his need.
Trust in God, not explanations from God, is the pathway through suffering.
“Saved Alone” was the message that Horatio Spafford received from his wife after the ship sank that was taking her and their four children to England in November, 1873. After reuniting with his grieving wife at sea, the boat came near the area where his children had drowned. It is speculated that at that time he wrote the words (contained in his famous hymn) that vividly described his own grief and faith: “When sorrows like sea billows roll – Whatever my lot Thou hast taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul” (Phyllis LaPeau).
When Paul says, “If the dead are not raised, let us eat and drink,” he does not mean, “Let’s all become lechers.” He means, there is a normal, simple, comfortable, ordinary life of human delights that we may enjoy with no troubling thoughts of heaven or hell or sin or holiness or God – if there is no resurrection from the dead. And what stunned me about this train of thought is that many professing Christians seem to aim at just this, and call it Christianity. Paul did not see his relation to Christ as the key to maximizing his physical comforts and pleasures in this life. No, Paul’s relation to Christ was a call to choose suffering – a suffering that was beyond what would make atheism “meaningful” or “beautiful” or “heroic.” It was a suffering that would have been utterly foolish and pitiable to choose if there is no resurrection into the joyful presence of Christ… Judge for yourself. How many Christians do you know who could say, “The lifestyle I have chosen as a Christian would be utterly foolish and pitiable if there is no resurrection?”
[When suffering] you need to seek help. This help comes first and finally from the living God. He hears, helps, strengthens, and vindicates those who rely on Him. If you look anywhere else first, you will set yourself up for a fall. You will get snared in bitterness and revenge (spurning God for your pride). You will flee in avoidance and addiction (spurning God for your false refuges and comforts). You will develop a perverted dependency on others (spurning God for your trust in man). Sadly, our culture has awakened countless people to think about what evil-doers (“abusers”) have done to them, but it has cast them upon their own resources as “abuse victims.” Yet victims can properly understand their own sins and sufferings, and God’s grace.
The depths of our misery can never fall below the depths of mercy.
Those in the world do not respond well to pain. They fear it, despise it and run from it. They struggle with why God would allow suffering. They see no purpose in it. They make themselves out to be a victim and with bitter hearts blame the world for their misfortunes. They fret, overreact, whine, and complain. They throw massive pity-parties. They lose peace and joy and move further away from God. On the other hand, Christians know from the Bible and experience that God sovereignly permits suffering to enter our lives. We trust His goodness and wisdom and remain under the trial until it accomplishes God’s designed work in our lives. Since His primary goal is to make us holy, God gets our attention through the trial and then is continually refining our character. We don’t minimize the pain and sorrow, but know deep inside through faith that good will come out of it. We can therefore give thanks for all things and maintain our joy and peace despite apparently unfavorable circumstances. Do you see the diametrically opposed contrast to the world?
Regardless the depth of one’s pain, God promises His grace is always sufficient to meet the need to continue a Christian life of joy, peace, hope, service, contentment, faith and worship despite the circumstances being unchanged.
Yes, we are promised trouble in the world. Yes, we are not always guaranteed deliverance from our enemies. But we are promised sufficient grace to sustain our soul during all afflictions. And we have the Holy Spirit to give us joy and peace and wisdom and hope during all our afflictions. We have His word that regardless of what happens to us that everything will ultimately turn out for our greatest good. We know our trials are in His hands – hands that are good, loving, wise and sovereign. And when our assigned time on this earth is done we have promises far clearer than anything King David even experienced. We have the hope of being with Him in Paradise for all of eternity.
God’s children know that when the seas give way, God will always be there. They know supernatural intervention will always overpower the so-called freewill of man. They know that God can brighten the heart and instill hope in the darkest situations the world throws our way. Nothing is worse than the thought that God refuses to help during a pressing need. There can be no hope when our situation is cast into the arms of man or the destiny of fate.
“We know that all things work together for good to them that love God” (Romans 8:28). The Christian does not merely hold this as a theory, but he knows it as a matter of fact. Everything has worked for good as yet; the poisonous drugs mixed in fit proportions have worked the cure; the sharp cuts of the lancet have cleansed out the proud flesh and facilitated the healing. Every event as yet has worked out the most divinely blessed results; and so, believing that God rules all, that He governs wisely, that He brings good out of evil, the believer’s heart is assured, and he is enabled calmly to meet each trial as it comes. The believer can in the spirit of true resignation pray, “Send me what Thou wilt, my God, so long as it comes from Thee; never came there an ill portion from Thy table to any of Thy children.”
If only for a moment, take your eyes off yourself and your circumstances, off the ways of this world and all rival claimants, and look at who God is. Ponder His mighty deeds. This isn’t to say your soul or circumstances aren’t important. It simply means that you are in the hands of an omnipotent God whose ability to act on your behalf is equaled only by His passionate affection for you as His child, whose strength is without end and whose sovereignty covers the expanse of the heavens. God’s desire isn’t to minimize your life and struggles and disappointments. His intent is for you to gain hope, knowing that nothing can wrench you from the loving arms of a God like this!
Wisdom and comfort are found in knowing and trusting God as He has revealed Himself – even when you can’t understand the reason for your suffering.
Suffering and pain are never without purpose. They are never without cause. For the believer in Christ, suffering and pain never happen without eventual resolution!
Only a morbid fanatic can take pleasure in the sufferings he inflicts upon himself; only an insensitive fool can take pleasure in the sufferings that are the consequences of his folly; and only a convinced Christian can take pleasure in sufferings endured “for Christ’s sake,” for he alone has been initiated into the divine secret, that it is only when he is “weak,” having thrown himself unreservedly in penitence and humility upon the never-failing mercies of God, that he is “strong,” with a strength not his own, but belonging to the Lord of all power and might.
Amid trials hard, temptations strong, and troubles constant, true faith is persevering faith.