In this life, suffering is inevitable. But it is not insurmountable. Every one of us will suffer in various ways and degrees. It might be a betrayal by a friend. It might be false accusations or slander. It might be physical or emotional abuse. It might be a maligning of your character. If you suffered unjustly, there is no minimizing what happened to you. It was wrong, selfish, cruel. If you feel like you are going through hell, keep going.
Sometimes, Jesus does not redeem us from our suffering, because Jesus wants to redeem us through our suffering.
Here are four ways we can suffer well:
1. Acknowledge That You Will Suffer. Jesus said that in this life, we will experience tumult and unrest. But Jesus also says to us: “Take heart, I have overcome the world (Jn. 16:33).
No matter how painful our suffering might be, we already know that Jesus has overcome it and will empower us to be victorious through it.
Knowing something that will occur can prepare us for that event. This means that the more we press into Jesus, the better we will be equipped to handle any suffering. Even in the most painful parts of our life, the gospel of Jesus is still at work – just like the gospel was fully active – even when Jesus hung on a rugged cross, full of pain and suffering. Jesus knows exactly what you are going through. We are being shaped, chiseled, refined and cleansed by the suffering that we go through. We realize more that this life is painful and only the next life will bring perpetual pleasure. Suffering allows us to realize the fragile nature of life. We are sinful human beings, living a messy life – that is being shaped and molded into something beautiful.
Jesus loves to take broken vessels and make them into beautiful vessels.
Every time you and I suffer, we are being conformed to the image of Christ, the greatest Sufferer of all time.
2. Approach Suffering As Worship. Jesus said that we are blessed when others revile and oppress us falsely (Mat. 5:11).
Sometimes, we do not realize that Jesus is all we need – until Jesus is all we have.
This tends to happen when we are going through a painful part of our life. Our man-made solutions fall by the wayside. We realize that Jesus is the only one who can take shattered pieces – and put them back together again. We must embrace the sovereignty of God, when we experience suffering in our life. When we look at it as worship, our attitude is that of surrender and trust in a God who is bigger than our circumstances. Jesus will provide the resolution that we need, not necessarily the resolution that we want.
3. Embrace Suffering As A Calling. The Bible says that we were called to suffer, because Jesus suffered first and left us an example to follow – of how to suffer well (1 Pet. 2:21). When Jesus suffered on the cross, two things occurred:
First, it was efficient. When we believe upon the cross, we are saved to eternal life (1 Pet. 2:24).
Second, it was exemplary. Because Jesus suffered well, we too can look to Jesus and suffer well in our life. We have an example for us in Jesus that is both efficient and exemplary.
The only way we can be oppressed and not answer back in like manner, is by looking at Jesus. In the economy of Jesus, He did not return to those that made Him suffer, what they deserved. When He was reviled, He did not revile in return. When He suffered, He did not threaten (1 Pet. 2:23). Why? Because He continued entrusting Himself to the One who judges justly. The righteous Judge will deal justly with those who act unjustly with you. Entrust yourself into the care of the Great Justifier.
We do well to run to Jesus, when suffering runs in to us.
4. Realize That Suffering Brings Healing. Without the cross, there would be no resurrection.
Without Jesus suffering for us, salvation would not have been available for us.
Because Jesus died, we live. This is why suffering is a gateway to a blessing. Jesus bore our sin and was punished for it – so that we would not have to. Jesus was not only our example but also our substitute. Because Jesus died, sin has no power over us. We experience pleasure, because He experienced pain. When we go through suffering, we begin to resemble Jesus. Even on the cross, Jesus prayed to the Father saying: “forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). At the apex of Jesus’ suffering, He carries no animosity towards His oppressors. After the hell of suffering, we experience the healing of our Savior. Every time we suffer, we must think about Jesus. We must think like Jesus. We become more like Jesus.
We are headed in to the latter part of the passion week. In a few days,we will soberly remember the Suffering Servant, Jesus the Christ. The One who took our sin upon His sinless body. The one who took the scourging and lashing, so that we would experience salvation and life.
Suffering is a part of our life, but it does not have to destroy our life.
It did not destroy with finality, the life of Jesus, and neither does it have to disassemble ours.
Question: How can you and I not waste our suffering? How can you practically approach suffering as worship, calling and healing?