Joy in suffering

It’s natural to avoid suffering if we possibly can.

In the Western world, we probably take it to extremes.  We rely on medicines and drugs to deal with emotional and physical problems.  People like me try to steer clear of conflict even when dealing with issues may be vital.

In essence, many people consider freedom from suffering to be a human right.  They accuse God or government of letting them down because they are hurting physically or mentally or emotionally – or spiritually.

But Jesus never promised his followers that they would live a pain-free life.  In fact, he assured them they would face persecution and trouble (John 16:33).

So why does God allow suffering?

People have wrestled with that question over thousands of years.  I can’t give a full answer or even offer anything original.

However, I suggest that suffering and pain is not originally from God, but flows from man turning away from the Lord and seeking to satisfy his own selfish desires.  Basically, he chose to listen to Satan rather than God.

Still, God can use pain and suffering for good in our lives. That is hard for us to accept – all we see is evil when we are hurting.

But I know that my horizons are short.  I don’t look much further than tomorrow.  I want instant peace and self-gratification.  Yet, as our pastor said this morning, God has a longer view.

So, how do we cope with suffering as believing Christians?

We realize that ultimately we are in God’s hands.  We believe that he loves us and is working things out for our good (Romans 8:28).

And we celebrate the fact that we are his – we are beloved children of the great God.

One of my favourite passages in the Bible is from the prophet Habakkuk, chapter 3, verses 17-19:

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.  The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.”

Is Habakkuk a polyanna?  No.  Not if you believe God loves you and has a place for you where there are no more tears.

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