We come into this world with nothing, and we leave with nothing. Along the way, we experience many joys, trials and sorrows. God gives us everything we have, but he also takes things away from us. Thus, he tests us to see how we freely respond. This process reveals whether or not we love him with all our mind, heart, soul and strength.
No one is exempt from being tested by suffering, including Christ. This is why he is able to suffer with us, whilst helping us to find and follow his way of love through every experience. Jesus’ life and death clearly demonstrate that God brings good out of even the most terrible suffering, and the same can also be true for us.
When others suffer, we pray that they will be strengthened, helped, and healed. Additionally, we can ask God to bring good from what they are undergoing, both for the sufferer, and for others.
However, when we ourselves must suffer, Jesus invites us to shoulder our cross and follow him. This means we have a choice about how to respond to our situation.
3. Responses to suffering
A. We may respond to suffering with resentment, anger, bitterness or despair, blaming God for the troubles he has sent us. If suffering makes it impossible for us to maintain our previous understanding of God, we are likely to become disillusioned, rejecting him, and perhaps even losing our faith altogether. Yet such inner struggles can be healed, because God endlessly waits for us to turn to him, longing to help us reach a deeper understanding of him, and of our suffering.
B. Alternatively, we can respond to suffering by learning to face, accept and even welcome it, seeing it as a way of sharing in the redemptive suffering of Christ. By adopting this approach, we can focus on asking God to help us embrace what we must undergo, for it is useless to fight against his will. As above, we can also pray that God will bring good from our suffering, especially for others. Such an attitude might take many years to develop, but we have our whole lifetime to work on it, until our last breath.
4. Entrusted with suffering
Suffering is not imposed on us without purpose. Rather we are entrusted with a level of suffering that is commensurate to the strength of our faith. Like Jesus, our task is to face it in such as way as to be an example, an encouragement and an inspiration to others. This is how God brings good from it, often in very unexpected ways.
5. Suffering as an opportunity
Suffering can therefore be understood as an opportunity for personal and spiritual growth, a form of service, a privilege, a blessing, an honour and a glory. Such an approach gives rise to a much more positive attitude than seeing it as a random or unfair event, a judgement, or a punishment. We can thank God for it, doing our very best to endure and manage our suffering with patience and love. This approach brings peace of mind, for we can be confident that our approach to suffering will help others, and even ourselves. In this way, suffering is transformed and made meaningful, becoming easier live with, and to bear.
Whatever trials and sorrows we face, we can turn to God and ask for his help. Summoning all our courage, we can choose to trust in him, whilst being as joyful, prayerful, thankful and loving as possible. When we have faith that God will support and teach us through all we experience, we can be assured that our suffering will, in time, bear fruit.
God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering (Genesis 41:52; NIV).
Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will leave this life. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord (Job 1:21; CSB).
The dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it (Ecclesiastes 12:7; NIV).
Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows (John 16:33; NLT).
The Lord your God is testing you to see if you truly love him with all your heart and soul (Deuteronomy 13:3; NLT).
Whatever you say or whatever you do, remember that you will be judged by the law that sets you free (James 2:12; NLT).
He did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all (Romans 8:32; NLT).
Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested (Hebrews 2:18; NLT).
I am the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6; NLT).
In all their suffering he also suffered (Isaiah 63:9; NLT).
Jesus suffered and died outside the city gates to make his people holy by means of his own blood (Hebrews 13:12; NLT).
In all things God works for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28; NIV).
I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them (1 Timothy 2:1; NLT).
If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me (Matthew 16:24; NLT).
3. Responses to suffering
A. My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why are you so far away when I groan for help? (Psalm 22:1; NLT).
The Lord longs to be gracious to you (Isaiah 30:18; NIV).
The Lord must wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion (Isaiah 30:18; NLT).
B. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble? (Job 2:10; NIV).
If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine (Matthew 26:39; NLT).
It is useless for you to fight against my will (Acts 26:14; NLT).
You are hurting yourself by kicking against the goads (Acts 26:14; NET).
It’s foolish to fight against me! (Acts 26:14; CEV).
If we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering (Romans 8:17; NLT).
Submit to God and be at peace with him (Job 22:21; NIV).
God teaches people through suffering and uses distress to open their eyes (Job 36:15; GNT).
Then Jesus shouted, “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!” And with those words he breathed his last (Luke 23:46; NLT).
4. Entrusted with suffering
From the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked (Luke 12:48; NIV).
Every test that you have experienced is the kind that normally comes to people. But God keeps his promise, and he will not allow you to be tested beyond your power to remain firm; at the time you are put to the test, he will give you the strength to endure it (1 Corinthians 10:13; GNT).
God chose you to suffer as you follow in the footsteps of Christ, who set an example by suffering for you (1 Peter 2:21; CEV).
5. Suffering as an opportunity
God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation (James 1:12; NLT).
Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory (2 Timothy 2:10; NIV).
He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more (John 15:2; NLT).
We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope (Romans 5:3-4; NIV).
Trust in God (John 14;1; NLT).
Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; NLT).
Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ (Ephesians 5:2; NLT).
From within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you
(Mark 7:20-23; NLT).
My hands are soiled.
My tongue has lied.
My feet have followed
My heart is cold;
My judgments, harsh.
My thoughts betray you
All my days.
My faith is weak.
My hope has gone.
My love for you, and all,
Lord, rescue me! Forgive my sins,
And lead me on
The way you taught.
I have suffered from Chronic Fatigue since 2005. This means that my energy is always very limited. Exhaustion often forces me to rest, regardless of what I want, or need, to do.
Until today, I have always understood ‘rest’ as time spent sitting down, or being in bed.
However, to my astonishment, God has now shown me that rest can also be a state of mind, and even a way of life.
With this approach, whether or not I am active, living restfully means noticing my sensations, thoughts, and emotions as they occur, acknowledging their reality without judgement, then sharing them simply and honestly with God.
Hopefully, this process will teach me how I need to change in order to live more restfully, so I can be at peace with myself, with God, with others, and the world.