5 principles of suffering

When we look back at our dash of life, I suspect that suffering will be some of our most productive, meaningful, helpful moments.

Success has seven verses in my concordance, but there are 33 verses listed for suffering and its related words. So God has a lot to say about suffering.

Rightly so, we all suffer.

Jesus said John the Baptist was the most extraordinary man who ever lived (Luke 7:28). (Jesus was God and man, so in a different category than John the Baptist.)

Jesus said that John the Baptist wasn’t recognized as the foretold “Elijah to come” and

“they did to him whatever they pleased so also the Son of Man [Jesus] will certainly suffer at their hands.”

Matthew 17:12

So, both of these men — John the Baptist and Jesus — came from God and were called to suffer.

This means part of their purpose occurred in how they suffered. So, therefore, is our purpose fulfilled in how we face suffering?

Can we be designed with suffering as part of our purpose?

Suffering and how we face it is part of our purpose. If the greatest people who ever lived were called to suffer, we know that suffering is part of our calling too.

Suffering Principle #1

Why fight the suffering of God’s servants?

However, understandably we recoil when we consider that suffering is part of God’s plan for us. Surely not! But this happened to Jesus too!

When Jesus said He must go to Jerusalem and suffer,

“Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.”

Matthew 16:22

So, we must remind ourselves when faced with suffering, what Jesus told Peter,

“for what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his own soul?”

Matthew 16:26

What do you forfeit when you want all the comforts of the world and not to suffer?

You know what a forfeit is. It is when you are playing a ballgame and just quit. Or you can’t field enough players and have not to play the game.

So, when you forfeit your own soul, you’re saying, “I quit. I can’t do it; here’s my soul. I want to be comfortable and I’ll give up my soul for eternity for a tiny speck of comfort here (that I can’t keep.)”

You do wrong by wanting everything the world has and rejecting God and your need for Him. You need Him and He loves you!

The fact is that sometimes we must face suffering. And there are those who become bitter and angry and shake their fist at God. This world is called earth, not heaven.

But all of us innately long for and dream of a place not so broken. We long for heaven on earth but it won’t happen. Certainly, some would instead do anything – even lose their own soul – than face suffering. But suffering is here. God is here too and as one who has suffered, I know that suffering with Christ in my life and good always comes from it. Suffering is never wasted.

The problem is, when you think you’re gaining the world, you’re not. So the person with the most money, most pleasure, most fame, most comfort, and most of everything worth having that the world can offer without Christ will forfeit his soul for eternity. Game over.

What is 80 years divided by infinity? Why not even 1%. Not even .0001%, not even anything. It is so small of a time that it is nothing.

Your life on this earth matters. Yes. Don’t get me wrong. Your life is something. But compared to infinity, in terms of time, the time of our life — and our suffering– truly nothing in terms of time comparisons.

But this life does matter, even though it is way too short. However, for the infinity and eternity of time, we will inherit what we do in this tiny tick of the clock — this little dash we call life.

And if suffering was part of the plan for Jesus and John the Baptist. It is undoubtedly part of our lives here. And the rock solid Romans 8:28 is true.

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

Romans 8:28, NKJV

All means all. Work together means there is a synergy and energy we cannot comprehend in this complex web of life. But this is a conditional promise, we can KNOW if we love God and are the called according to His purpose. You know if you love God and you have believed on Jesus Christ as your personal savior. If you have, you can KNOW that ALL will be worked out for good. Even your suffering. Period.

Faithfulness in suffering matters because we will all suffer. Yet, if we know God and if God allows suffering, Christians will always suffer for a purpose. We can know our suffering is never wasted. Ever.

Suffering principle #2

Suffering Opens Doors that the Comfortable Cannot Open

“And [Jesus] said to them ‘I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.'”

Luke 22:15

Jesus knew suffering was coming, so he also knew that his moments and words had become especially important.

A suffering person is permitted to say and do things “regular folks” can’t. Even those facing a hangman’s noose, no matter how bad their crime, were given the right for last words.

When I had surgery on my foot this February 2022; I had a stack of prayer cards from my students for nurses and doctors. They gladly took them from me and passed them around. I was a patient. They knew it comforted me. If someone came off the street and brought them, I’m not sure if they would have made the rounds as those cards from my students did.

My surgery was supposed to happen at 12:45, but it was delayed. Because of the delay, I was passed around between several nurses. Each nurse had a story. Each nurse had a family and had needs. One was getting ready to coach Tball for her child and was nervous. Another was wanting to get back into church with her family. Still, another had different issues with God. And it was ok. I got to hear their stories and pray with each of them. Nobody that day turned down prayer from me. I was the patient. My suffering gave me the right to say and do things that an average person wouldn’t get to do. It gave me their attention and their ears and they shared their stories.

As I waited for surgery, each moment I found was full of purpose. God kept showing me people who needed encouragement. Prayer cards. Praying. Encouragement. All tasks to do from the gurney waiting for surgery. I got to pray before they numbed my foot. Every procedure they let me pray before it. God is so good!

Then, around 4 pm, I had finished praying, and admittedly, God had calmed my nerves. For I, too, had issues. I had been full of stress and anxiety in the weeks leading up to this time. I’m no perfect person. In fact, I’m a deeply flawed person who can walk in victory through the power of the Holy Spirit alone. Without God, I’d truly be a mess.

However, as God shifted my focus onto others I had purpose, and with purpose came the courage to take a deep breath and relax. God’s Holy Spirit calmed me, for there is no other explanation. I read verses that comforted me.

When you suffer, God opens doors of ministry that the comfortable world cannot enter.

Suffering Principle #3

When You Suffer, God Shows Up In Impossible Ways

So, back to around 4 pm on the day of surgery, I felt a peace. As I prayed to God, “Well, Lord, I think everything is done that needs to be done,” the orderly came to get me and said, “We’re ready for you,” and off I went.

But God wasn’t done yet.

They moved me to the operating table and started strapping me down, and then asked me to count. I asked if I could praise God instead. (Not that I thought I was going to die, but any time you go under, you have to know that it might be your time to fly away to a place of joy and heavenly hope to which we’re not going to want to return.)

Of course, I’m the patient, and I said yes that I could praise God instead of counting…

"You are the God who heals!"
"I praise you, God because you are good to me."
"Oh, God, bless these doctors and nurses and their families. Thank you for sending me the best doctors and nurses who always take such good care of me. Bless their hands and bless their fam. i...l...ies........"

And the next thing I knew, I was awakening in the recovery room what I would find out to be 2 1/2 hours later. Yet, in my heart, I was singing a song from church. My favorite song…

“I have a story
and its founded on the central point in hist’ry
that the God in heaven gave His life to save me
because of this I know I have a purpose
and its not defined by anything the world says
its bound and sealed by the blood of Jesus.
I know who I am
I’m yours.
God, you make miracles arise.
And you raise the dead to life,
there is no one like the God of the Impossible.
Oh Great is your love and faithfulness
You keep your promises
there is no one like The God of the Impossible
you’re the God of the impossible…”

God of the Impossible by Seth Brasher

And it goes on. The whole song played as clear as you can play this song on YouTube right there in my head. Every single word. A fuzzy headed clueless patient in a recovery room heard every single word clearly. Amazing. Comforting. A great song for a 52-year old woman with a broken foot and 2 titanium screws wondering if God will allow her to run half marathons again.

And so I kept singing a song about impossible things, and it gave me great comfort, for I hadn’t thought of that song in quite some time, but it was the first thing in my mind and on my lips as I awoke. So I believe God comforted me that He is the God of the impossible and to notice what he was doing.

When you suffer, God shows up to comfort you in unique and seemingly impossible ways, often through music.

Suffering Principle #4

Suffering Can and Will Bring Glory

“There are no obstacles which our Savior’s love cannot overcome. The High Places of victory and union with Christ can be reached by learning to accept, day by day, the actual conditions and tests permitted by God, by laying down of our own will and accepting His.”

Hinds Feet on High Places by Hannah Hussard, Introduction

I’m not particularly eager to suffer. I don’t sit around and plan how to suffer. I don’t wish for future times of suffering. Suffering and sorrow come whether we want for them or not, but to wish for them would be foolish. Yet, while I did not wish for a broken foot, God knew I would have one.

But how dear Romans 8:18 is to me!

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory of God to be revealed in us.”

Romans 8:18

I take comfort in this verse because Paul suffered so much. As a fellow sufferer who suffered much more than me, he earned the right to speak this truth into my life. He says that suffering isn’t even worth comparing to the glory of God that is to be revealed in us. So all the beatings, whippings, stonings, threats, criticism, loss, pain, hunger was not even worth comparing to the glory of God that is going to be revealed. Oh yes!! Paul wasn’t comfortable, he was a sufferer. He suffered so much! Not as much as Jesus but he suffered.

So, Paul encourages me.

Likewise, yours and my ability to encourage rises along with our suffering. My friend with a replaced knee and other friend with a broken leg encourage me more than just about anyone else. Why? Because I know they are suffering too.

The glory of God will be revealed in us. God will bring the greatest good from His children’s worst suffering because He never wastes the suffering of His saints.

Suffering Principle #5

Again, suffering is not something we want. Not something we choose. It comes upon us like an unwanted unexpected thief in the night. Jesus knew he would suffer and didn’t look forward to it either. Yet, he faced it.

The greatest thing that ever happened came from the worst thing that ever happened. (Our salvation from the crucifixion of Christ. John 3:16)

For in eternity we will glory in the achievements that no one knew about but us and our Savior as we suffered what we thought was impossible and realized that our God truly is the God of the impossible.

And then, we really will have a story, won’t we?

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