Archive for October, 2016

Thoughts on Suffering



This is probably the last kind of entry I’d naturally like to write, but my purpose is for encouragement more than anything. There are these underlying questions we’re all asking because of the suffering we’re seeing and experiencing, so my hope is to share some helpful thoughts in moving through it. Though I can’t relieve or avoid such universal or personal suffering, I am at least determined to grow in my perspective, and help others do the same, as the song goes, “If you can’t move the mountains then let them move you.”

Here is what I have so far..

1) Daily suffering is universal.. you are not alone or the only one, and you would experience suffering no matter who you were. Suffering may be able to be helped, but it cannot be avoided in this world no matter how powerful, perfect, successful, or wise you are. The greatest example I think of is Jesus. If anything, He suffered more because of how good He was. We typically think our suffering depends mostly on doing/being better than we are, which is true to a degree, but the ultimate truth is that the world is broken and humankind is fallen, so even if we were perfect, we may suffer ourselves less, but we would just as likely suffer others more, as even Jesus expressed, “How long shall I suffer you?” (Matt. 17:17) Of course, His suffering was all in love and not because of anything He did wrong. So there is both suffering because of unrighteousness, and suffering because of goodness and love.

2) Deep suffering is normal.. or our “broken normal” whether momentary, continual, or seasonal. When I think of every person I actually know on a deep level, I can think of an area where they deeply and sincerely struggle, whether or not it’s their fault. The worst is feeling like you’re suffering worse than everyone else because there’s something more wrong with you than everyone else. The truth is, “No temptation has taken you except what is common to man..” (1 Cor 10:13) and the biblical focus is not on our badness, but on God’s goodness. Too many of us are punishing ourselves rather than entrusting ourselves entirely to God.

3) Everyone is responsible, but no one is to blame.. by that I mean, blaming only hurts everyone worse, whether we are blaming God, ourselves, or others. Blame is only helpful to the extent it leads to forgiveness rather than judgment, because we were ultimately not made for punishment but for love. By “everyone is responsible” I mean, technically God is responsible for allowing free will, and by consequence sin and suffering, to exist, and we are responsible for choosing and perpetuating it – but if God uses everything for good, and love is stronger than death which is the ultimate culmination of sin and suffering, won’t we always have more reason for praise than blame?

Joseph was able to say to his brothers who sold him into slavery, with tears of love, “You intended to harm me, but God meant it for good.” (Gen 50:20) And he was only a foreshadow of Jesus, who while dying for the sins of the world with tears of love would pray, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) “For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:17) It was his perspective.. “for the joy set before him he endured the cross..” (Hebrews 12:2)

4) The benefits outweigh the experience:

in fellowshipping with Jesus.. In my experience, even the most bitter of suffering turns sweet, in deeper degree, with communion. Whether with others or especially with Jesus, when I find His gaze in such a way, and experience His fellowship on such a level, that I realize I would’ve given all the more to know Him so well.

in becoming like Jesus.. We tend to forget that Jesus has scars. When we pray to become like Him, do we realize that our prayers must be answered through sharing in His suffering? Paul understood when he prayed, “I want to know Christ — yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” (Phil. 3:11) His perspective was, “to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Phil. 1:21)

in comforting others.. There is nothing that has made me more helpful to others than my own painful experiences. (see 2 Cor. 1:3-5)

in eternal recompense.. “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Cor. 4:17)


Now here are some common misinterpretations of suffering, leading to loneliness:

“God is rejecting me because if he loved me he wouldn’t let me experience this.” The truth is that God suffers with us, forgives our sins, uses everything for good, and disciplines those he accepts as his children with a heart of love and compassion. See Hebrews 4:15-16, 12:4-13.

“There must be something wrong with me more than normal people to experience this.” See 1 Cor. 10:13 where the focus is on God’s faithfulness in the midst of our common struggles.

“I’m wasted, lost, ruined. This is my end.” See Hebrews 9:12, “He entered the Most Holy Place once for all by His own blood, thus securing eternal redemption.” And Revelation 21:5, “Behold, I make all things new.” – including me and you.

“It is right for me to live in punishment.” See Romans 8, there is now no condemnation.

“I must judge myself.” See 1 Corinthians 4:3-5, where Paul said he does not judge himself, but entrusts himself to God, from whom he waits to receive praise rather than judgment.


We may not be able to help our circumstance or condition, but we can help our experience of it through renewing our mindset according to the Truth beyond the facts. Often our misinterpretations of suffering and negative responses can hurt us worse than our actual circumstance, and by that I mean resigning to despair, condemnation, blame, pride, or unforgiveness, which leads to bitterness and resentment whether against God or ourselves or others, rather than to restoration which is always God’s heart and promise.

And finally.. when I really think about it, I realize.. God foresaw all that would go wrong, and still decided that we should all exist like this. So, if I believe Him to be all-wise, all-powerful, and all-loving, I must trust even when I don’t understand that what exists is the most wise, powerful, loving kind of reality possible, because of who He is. And that is my ultimate consolation, that the whole story is going to end as the greatest possible testimony to His character, and the greatest possible testament of His love, that ever could have been.

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