Resolved, to view my own suffering as a promised reality of this broken world; to learn from and use those sufferings as an opportunity for growth and blessing in both myself and others.
We all suffer. It’s the great equalizer in our human experience. Causes for human suffering can range from something as obviously devastating as extreme poverty in the Third World to something as seemingly trivial as gossip in a suburban high school.
One circumstance will rightfully seem much more legitimate than another. Still, the personal experience of suffering is rarely alleviated by that kind of perspective. In either situation, someone is suffering and their experience is very real. Maybe that person is you.
If you’re suffering, then by no means will I try to mitigate that reality or dictate how you should suffer. I’m praying that this post will bless you and serve you in some small way. Please email me if you’d like prayer, support, or encouragement.
Promised Reality of a Broken World
There’s a really dangerous misunderstanding out there that goes something like, “Come to Jesus and he’ll make everything fantastic.” These preachers will tell you that with “enough faith,” you’re entitled to a newer car, a bigger house, and a heftier bank account.
If that’s what you’re hearing on Sunday mornings, you’re being lied to.
We worship a homeless guy who was murdered. 11 of the 12 apostles who went out to build the Church after Him were martyred. The remaining apostle was nearly boiled alive. Name it and claim it all you want, but God never promised that we wouldn’t suffer.
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 ESV
If you’re suffering right now, God is with you. He may not have promised deliverance from all of our suffering in this life, but He has promised that He would be right there with us. If you’ll pray to Him and focus on Him, He will prove Himself faithful.
Learning From Suffering
These storms are going to come repeatedly in our lives. That much is a given. That said, the choice isn’t in wether we will suffer or not, but in how we suffer. One tendency is to withdraw; to cut ourselves off from the world and wallow in our own misery. Another tendency is to turn self-destructive and head out on a bender.
Honestly, who could blame us for that natural,visceral response?
What I’m looking for in my own life, however, is so much more. There is a lot to be learned from the experience of extreme emotional hardship. I want to invite you to join me in looking at these temporary moments of suffering as opportunities to learn and to grow.
Growth and Blessing in Suffering
I lost my father 5 years ago; a week before his 50th birthday. I never would have chosen that suffering willingly, but I didn’t get that choice. During that time, if you would’ve told me to buck up and use the experience as an opportunity to grow, I probably would’ve hit you.
Through that suffering, however, I grew in a lot of important ways. Does that make it worth the loss? Absolutely not, but one of the things I love so much about God is His ability to redeem. He takes the darkest stuff from the past and uses it for His perfect will.
That’s exactly why I get to sit across the table from a friend who’s just lost a loved one and speak life into that situation from a place of experience. Having been there and made it through to the other side, I can enter into a unique position to serve that person. I only get the chance to truly empathize with that person’s suffering because I’ve been there and experienced it myself.
That’s much better than simply having read about it in a book.
A Much Better Example
Don’t follow my example. I’m imperfect, weak, and flawed.
There’s a much more infinite and beautiful example of this principle in the life and death of Jesus. God, in His infinite grace, wrote himself into history, entered into our suffering, and died in our place so that we would forever have a sympathetic Mediator.
“But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.” Hebrews 2:9-10 ESV
“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:14-16 ESV
Question: In your life, what have you learned about suffering?
This post is part of the Resolved series: a collection of 21 personal resolutions that I’m writing/preaching to myself. If you’d like to keep up with this series, feel free to click one of the links below and subscribe to my RSS feed.