Perhaps it audacious of me to attempt to write a blog post with this title.
Who am I to explain why we suffer? There are no letters after my name or before it. I’m no masters of divinity recipient or doctor. I only have years of my own faith walk and Bible study and more Bible study and the experience of I watching loved ones suffer. Their suffering broke me into many pieces.
God seemed absent.
Or worse. Aloof.
I knew better, but that is what I felt.
In time the grief subsided and my faith returned, or I returned to my faith. And Holy Spirit helped me come back to the very foundation of faith–the faith that God is a good God, and Jesus proves that.
As we’ve studied “Worth” this week, we’ve come across scriptures about suffering, and it made me realize that there are many theories about suffering, different theological camps that either believe we will suffer or we don’t have to because of victory in Christ. And though I do believe with all my heart that Christ has come to set us free, and He is the Healer of both our bodies and souls, the fact is that we still live in the middle of the now and not yet. And in God’s wisdom, suffering is still apart of this world. Who are we to question that?
Rather than me giving a dissertation on suffering, here are some scriptures about it. May they be our answer to this question, why do we suffer? I find them encouraging.
- “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The Creation waits in eager expectation for the sons and daughters (my addition) of God to be revealed” Romans 8:18, 19.
- “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not us. We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our bodies” (2 Cor. 7-9).
- “Therefore, we don’t lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal’ (2 Cor. 4:16-18).
- “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out for us his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” Romans 5:3-5.
- “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you’ve had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1 Peter 1:6,7).
In his book, Living Prayer, Robert Benson talks about the Eucharist, and the pattern involved in that sacrament. I believe his words also point to the reason for our suffering.
Taken, blessed, broken, shared is the essential pattern of prayer of the Eucharist, and the essential pattern for the life of the spirit. In all places, at all times, in all things, we are at some stage of that pattern. It is the pattern that makes us whole, makes us one with Christ and each other, makes it possible for us to become a reasonable and lively sacrifice. (p. 48)
. . . To embrace one’s brokenness, whatever that looks like, whatever has caused it, carries within it the possibility that one might come to embrace one’s healing, and then one might come to the next step: to embrace another and their brokenness and their possibility for being healed. To avoid one’s brokenness is to turn one’s back on the possibility that the Healer might be at work here, perhaps for you, perhaps for another. (p. 47)
If you are suffering today, I pray the scriptures and the words from Benson strengthen you. I pray they help you know that you are not alone, and that each pain, each broken piece of our hearts and bodies unites us with Christ, each other, and the glory to come. Oh what a day that will be.
I feel a prayer coming on. Grab my hands.
“Dear LORD, we are consumed by your power, wisdom, Presence, and love. I pray for all who are suffering as they read this today that they will be strengthened, encouraged, and filled with hope. I pray they experience a manifestation of your Spirit–your Presence comforting, healing, blessing, and uniting their hearts with Christ and others who also suffer. Thank you for our brokenness, and thank you for the glory that we will one day experience. Hallelujah! Amen.”
“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” Revelation 21:4