“Then Jesus began to tell them that the Son of Man must suffer many terrible things and be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law.” (Mark 8:31a NLT)
As human beings living on this planet, we will suffer, but have you ever stopped to wonder why? All people share suffering in common. No one, rich or poor, young or old, saved or lost, escapes life on this earth without suffering in some way.
The short answer for “why” is SIN! When Adam and Eve were ejected from the Garden they left behind perfection and a sin-free life, and traded it for heartache and pain, not only for themselves, but for each person who would ever be born. But I believe there’s another very vital reason the Lord allows us to suffer, especially those of us who know, love, and desire to honor Him.
Have you ever delayed visiting someone who was ill or injured because you weren’t sure how to comfort them or what to say? When I was new in ministry, young and very “green,” I visited a young man who had been shot in the face. What do you say to someone who has a hole in their cheek from a gunshot wound? I didn’t have a clue. So, I asked what I always asked: “How are you doing?” To which the young man responded: “I’ve been shot in the face, how do you think I’m doing?”
I don’t remember much more about that visit except how I felt as I left his room. It was almost like someone had punched me hard in the stomach. I was hurting, wondering why God would allow me to fail so miserably when my intentions were so good.
Today, as I remember that visit, I wish I could have a “do-over.” Today I would say something like: “It’s unfortunate that you have to endure this painful and traumatic experience, but I’m grateful you’re alive. If the bullet had gone a few inches in another direction we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”
Often, I’m convinced that God allows suffering to get unbeliever’s attention and to draw them to Himself. And, as believers, we suffer not necessarily for our benefit alone, but for those in our family and our spheres of influence. And you may wonder why I use the term “benefit.” Is suffering designed for our benefit? On some levels, absolutely yes!
C.S. Lewis, among others, believed that suffering creates an environment in which we can learn things about God and ourselves that we can learn in no other setting. And it then offers a platform from which we can speak life into people’s lives who are suffering in a similar way.
Rick Warren says, “God never wastes a problem.” If the Lord allows something to enter our life, He has a reason. It’s either to enable us to see Him more clearly and be drawn to Him more closely, and/or to give us an avenue of witness that will be powerfully effective as we trust Him to use us despite what’s happening in our lives.
None of us knows what the future will bring, but I can tell you this with certainty – I want what God wants for me even if it causes me suffering and pain. Regardless of the condition of my body or mind, if I’m alive, I have purpose. And, often, that purpose has little or nothing to do with us directly. It’s for the benefit of those the Lord will bring to us who expect us to be complaining, when in fact, we’re praising and lifting honor and glory to our Risen Savior.
He suffered more than any other, and now billions will be in heaven who would have had no hope if He hadn’t suffered. Why should we not embrace and give thanks for the privilege of suffering if we can influence even one person to see Jesus more clearly and to not miss heaven?
Blessings, Ed 😊