Suffering and hardship are common human experiences. If we live, we will suffer hardship. Knowing this does not make our current suffering any easier, but only assures us that we are not alone. Suffering takes many forms. We may think of the minor irritations of life as suffering, while others would see them as trivial. However, there are some experiences that we would all agree fall under the heading of suffering.
Can there be relief to severe suffering? Is there hope for those who suffer? God’s Word, the Bible, gives us a definite, “Yes.” Let’s see how we can endure suffering and hardship and approach life once again with lasting joy and peace.
Our View of Suffering
When suffering through severe hardship, it is common for our thoughts to turn to ourselves. When I suffer, I tend to think about me – I am the one hurting, I am unhappy with my circumstances, I desire that people or things around me change. Our perspective can become contorted and even self-centered as we focus exclusively on our trial, and how we feel about our trial. Our view can add to our suffering if we believe that the solution is a decisive change in circumstances.
God’s View of Suffering
Understanding what God is like and His view of suffering can help us tremendously. Jerry Bridges, in his book Trusting God, leads us to look at suffering in a much broader way. He focuses on three aspects of God’s character. He says, “All suffering ultimately comes from (or at least through) the hands of our triune God who is sovereign, wise, and good.”
In God’s sovereignty over all things, He can control the events around our life. Psalm 115:3 says, “Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases Him.” As the creator and sustainer of heaven and earth and of all things that exist, He alone exercises control over them.
In God’s wisdom, He sends or permits suffering in our lives. God’s sovereignty might be frightening to us if He were not also all-wise. That God is wise means that He works all things perfectly, in an orderly fashion, to bring about a purposeful end which is always for His glory and for our good (Romans 8:28-29).
In God’s goodness, He only permits what is best for each of His children. It is in His goodness where we can rest peacefully in His loving hands. His sovereignty is at work, His wisdom comes alongside, and His goodness is always present. We find in God that we are truly safe; He is at work in and around us, His plans will come to pass, and our good is always intended.
In all of this our suffering is regulated. It will never be more than we can handle. As Dr. Robert Jones has said, “God has His eye on the clock and his hand on the thermostat.” We only receive what is intended and only what is for our good.
What is Ultimately Good for Us?
We may say, “How can this be for my good? What is happening to me does not look good!” It is true that all things that happen are not good; however, God has promised to work all things out for our good (Romans 8:28-29). What is the good that He is working out? In Romans 8:29 we read that what is ultimately good for us is that we be more conformed into the image of Christ. God is working in and around us to make us more like His prized Son. God uses suffering to do that. In suffering we are changed, we are tested, we are more conformed as God’s children to the image of Christ Jesus, and that is good! It can at times be painful, and not feel good in the moment, but even then we can believe in our faithful God who is working out the details for what is absolutely best for us.
Christ suffered deeply in His time on earth, and we’re called to share in His sufferings as we become more like Him. How does God want to use suffering to make us more like Jesus? He wants to…
As a Christian, the future is always brighter than the past. Ultimately, our future is in heaven. In 1 Peter 1, Peter reminds sufferers that an incredible future awaits us in heaven. Our suffering is short compared to eternity with Christ. Since God regulates the strength and timing of our suffering, and He is sovereign, wise, and good, we can endure with joy, anticipating the pleasures of our heavenly home. Remembering our future home can give us hope while suffering today.
“I See the Good, But Can I Really Endure?”
As Christians, God gives us all we need to live rightly for Him (1 Peter 1:3). When Paul was weak, he glorified God knowing that when he was weak, God would be seen as strong (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). When we face suffering in the strength of God’s might, the only explanation is that God is at work in us. God displays His power in us, growing our faith, and showing Himself strong and faithful to a watching world. We can truly do “all things through Christ who strengthens [us].”
We can be thankful for the hope that is available for us. Our suffering is real, but in our trials we can have hope in God who is sovereign, wise, and good. God cares for us, He loves us, and He is committed to work all things out for our good. He is regulating what can enter our lives and will not let us have more than we can handle. He promises strength to His children. We also have hope of a better future, a heavenly home waiting for us, where there is no sin, no pain, and an end to all suffering.