I don’t write or share about political things often because I find, personally, those types of conversations are better served in person. Just throwing my opinion on the internet, I have no idea who will read it and it doesn’t always end up edifying. But sometimes the things I read strike a note that I can not ignore. I know these are difficult things to talk about but, personal feelings aside, what the Bible says is what should govern our lives. Not how we feel, not what is popular, not what so-and-so is saying. We need to bring the truth of the Bible into these conversations and that is my purpose in writing this. I’m not saying suffering is easy, enjoyable, or we should walk through life with a permanent smile. But suffering is addressed in the Bible and that is what I pray you see in this post.
There seems to be a myth in certain branches of Christianity that suffering is bad. While scrolling through Twitter last week, I came across a tweet by a supposedly Christian author. In her series of tweets she proposed we shouldn't judge people who choose to abort babies known to have a terminal illness or defects because we should want to keep the baby and the parents from unnecessary suffering. According to her, it isn't merciful or necessary to have the baby and praise God for the few hours you might have with your child. We won't go into all the problems with that assumption but it made me think about what we read in the Bible concerning suffering.
I'm sure we can quickly point to several examples of suffering in the Bible and the lessons learned. But I want to look at one specific reference that I believe shows the attitude we should have when faced with trials, no matter the length of time we experience them.
In John 9, we read of a man who was born blind. The disciples asked Jesus why he was born without sight and we learn a great deal from his answer. “Jesus answered, ‘It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.’” (v. 3) In this instance, God was glorified because the man was given his sight and people saw Jesus's power on display. But even though our circumstances might seem less dramatic, God still works in them and we should still glorify him in the midst of our suffering.
Now I want to note two things that are important to remember. First, sin has consequences - sometimes lasting ones - so when we find ourselves in the middle of something, we need to honestly look at our life and see if there's something we've done that has put us in the situation.
Second, God is good. Therefore he doesn't bring bad things into our lives. But we live in a sin cursed world where evil and pain exist. The good news is God can use suffering and trials to draw us closer to himself and also to show us his power (Rom. 8:28-29).
In all his teachings, Jesus never promised his followers an easy life (John 15:18-19). He said they would suffer persecutions, loss of family, even lose their own lives. James reminds us in his book that trials are part of the Christian life (1:2-4, 12). Peter also notes that suffering is to be expected when we follow Christ (I Peter 4:12).
This doesn’t mean we should long for suffering and trials and pursue difficult paths just to see how God will work. But when we find ourselves in the midst of suffering, we shouldn’t be looking for any opportunity to get away or willing to compromise biblical truth so we can enjoy life better. The familiar example of this is Job. He suffered the loss of everything - family, wealth, possessions, health - and though he never knew the reason for his sufferings, he learned a whole lot about Who God is (Job 38-40).
And isn’t that what we should long for in any situation? Whether we are going through a trial or living our daily life, we should desire to know God more. Sometimes it takes a hard season to fully see the power of God in all circumstances and we will miss out on the lesson and the chance to glorify God if we are focused on making this life easy and pain free.
Back to the tweet that started my mind down this path. When we start saying we deserve to avoid suffering no matter the cost, we start limiting God’s power. In the case of a difficult diagnosis for an unborn baby, God can work miracles. I’m amazed at the number of posts I’ve read in the last week where a baby that should have died at birth is thriving years later. Yes, there is pain and heartache in the waiting and circumstances but there is also God who gives peace, grace, and healing when we rest in him.
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash