A few years ago, I started some new medications which “will initially give you Flu-like symptoms and make you feel worse.” Thanks, Dr. P…
“Do not get discouraged!” he said, reminding me that I would begin to improve after the initial symptoms.
Suffer- To feel or bear what is painful, disagreeable or distressing, either to the body or mind; to undergo. We suffer pain of body; we suffer grief of mind. The criminal suffers punishment; the sinner suffers the pangs of conscience in this life, and is condemned to suffer the wrath of an offended God. We often suffer wrong; we suffer abuse; we suffer injustice.-webstersdictionary1828.com/
No one likes the word suffering, it means pain, discomfort, sickness. Yet, we have suffering as long we live on the broken, sin-infested earth.
Abandonment afflicts children.
Lack leaves hungry bellies and empty bank accounts.
What is the purpose of suffering?
I have pondered this question much over the years as I have suffered illness and the past fifteen years as I have watched my children, handicapped from wounds of the their traumatic past.
Does suffering has a purpose? That is a tough question to answer. I think the answer is suffering can be used for a purpose. Suffering draws us to God the Father. Without pain and suffering in our lives, we tend to go about our merry way. We don’t see our need for an Omnipotent God. Just as my suffering illness led me to a doctor who had the power to help, me, our personal suffering leads us to the all powerful one.
“The human spirit will not even begin to try to surrender self-will as long as all seems to be well with it. Now error and sin both have this property, that the deeper they are the less their victim suspects their existence; they are masked evil. Pain is unmasked, unmistakable evil; every man knows that something is wrong when he is being hurt.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain
We know something is wrong when we are being hurt in body, soul or spirit. That is why God gave us the gift of pain. Pain tells us something is wrong. But, there is more to it than that. First, let me backtrack and say God did not desire that any of us suffer. He intended for us to stay in the Garden of Eden and live happily ever after. When Adam and Eve sinned, that opened the door for the curse and now we live in a fallen world. This present darkness. But, the kingdom of heaven is here and God works all things out for good for those who love the Lord and those who are called according to His purpose.
So, how does God use suffering?
Today I had a small lesson in suffering. Just a teeny sip of hardship. I had a craft day planned with daughter, Amerey. Everyone in the family had gone their separate ways. I stayed to finish putting beef and sweet potato stew together in the crock pot. Afterwards, I gathered my things, paints, boards, lunch, etc.. and headed out the door. I loaded up my car and got in. No keys. No keys in purse. I headed back in. Not on the key rack. Not on my dresser. I searched for the next forty-five minutes. I texted the teen who had driven the car the night before (she was skiing) and through a series of texts, she finally came up with some idea of where they could be. Through it all, I prayed. Lord, let your will be done. Let me okay if I can’t go. Help me to do your will no matter what (not always my reaction, so don’t reach out and pat me on the back just yet). Finally found them in her coat pocket which was in her hamper in her room. Hmmm! I know. That was just a minuscule bit of suffering. It was a test. I had the opportunity to be offended. Hot. Mad. It also gave me the opportunity to grow. I could just see Jesus chuckling at me. He knew where they were all the time. The test was maintain peace or fail and blow up. Lots of times I fail. I think I have taken the same test over and over.
We have to suffer to heal:
denying the flesh,
facing the past,
plowing new ground to sow better seeds,
letting go of hurt to reach for healing.
Consider it wholly joyful, my brethren, whenever you are enveloped in or encounter trials of any sort or fall into various temptations.
Be assured and understand that the trial and proving of your faith bring out endurance and steadfastness and patience.
But let endurance and steadfastness and patience have full play and do a thorough work, so that you may be [people] perfectly and fully developed [with no defects], lacking in nothing. James 1: 2-4
Our response to suffering is more important than escaping it. This is a hard, good word. ‘Consider it wholly joyfully’? In most instances, we want to escape pain not be joyful about it.
Give thanks in all circumstances…. I Thessalonians 5:18
All things work together for good…. Romans 8:28
Suffering also gives us the gift of empathy. How can we comfort others if we haven’t suffered anything ourselves? We who have grieved can comfort those who are grieving. Those of us who have lost a parent can feel the pain when others lose one. We who adopt hurt children can minister to them if we have been hurt ourselves. Suffering drives us to the one who endured the cross. Who took our infirmities,our weaknesses, our sin and bore it. He wanted to carry it for us. He doesn’t want us to carry it alone. And we shouldn’t let others carry their burdens alone. We can help them bear it (as long as we steer clear of codependency- that’s another post).
Who comforts (consoles and encourages) us in every trouble (calamity and affliction), so that we may also be able to comfort (console and encourage) those who are in any kind of trouble or distress, with the comfort (consolation and encouragement) with which we ourselves are comforted (consoled and encouraged) by God.
2 Corinthians 1:3-5
Sometimes we suffer so we can heal. Other times we suffer so others can heal. Yet, while on the earth, we will suffer. Isn’t it better to share our sufferings so that others may gain healing?
And if we are [His] children, then we are [His] heirs also: heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ [sharing His inheritance with Him]; only we must share His sufferingif we are to share His glory. -Romans 8:17