My life alongside God's word. Suffering and response section.
by Israel Angelo Adeldong
Suffering is defined by the Oxford Student’s Dictionary of Current English as, “Pain of body or mind, feelings of pain, unhappiness.” C.S. Lewis understands pain as, “God’s megaphone”. “It is God’s way of arousing us from spiritual lethargy. Problems are not punishment; they are wake up calls from Loving God the Father. God is not mad at you, He is mad about you and He will do whatever it takes to bring you into fellowship with Him.” This means God has a purpose behind every problem. He uses circumstances to develop our character. In fact, He depends more on
circumstances to make us like Jesus, than He depends on our reading the Bible. The reason is obvious: you face circumstances twenty-four hours a day.
Life is a series of problems. Every time you solve one another is waiting to take its place. Whether big or small, God uses them for our benefit and all are significant in God’s growth process for you as an individual. God uses problems and pain to draw you closer to Himself. Regardless of the cause, none of your problems could happen without God’s permission. God filters everything that happens to a child of God. He intends to use it for good even when Satan and others mean it for bad. Because God in His sovereignty is in control, accidents are just indications within God’s good plan for you. Because everyday of your life was written on God’s calendar before you were born, everything that happens to you has spiritual significance, Romans 8:28; Job 2:6-10.
Since God intends to make you like Jesus Christ, He will take you through the same testing experiences Jesus went through. These include loneliness, temptation, stress, criticism, rejection and many other problems. But be of good courage, Jesus has overcome the world, John 16:33. Focus your look onto Christ and you will be at rest. It was
Corrie ten Boom who suffered in a Nazi death camp, who later said about the power of focus: “If you look at the world, you will be distressed. If you look within, you will be depressed. But if you look at Christ, you will be at rest. Your focus will determine your feelings”.
When you face suffering, whether physical, emotional, hypochondria, (that is the mental depression due to unnecessary anxiety about one’s health), whether persecution from without or humiliation from within, remember, remember and remember God’s answer to the apostle Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness”, 2 Corinthians 12:9. The fiery furnace of suffering is God’s intention, using outside forces to rid us of impurities and to perfect His strength within us, just as beautiful and valuable diamonds from their common, carbon-black, dirty beginning are put through years of intense heat and high pressure until they become pure and strong. In like manner, God uses testing in our lives to rid us of impurity and to teach us that our strength is in Him alone and not in our self-sufficiency. Suffering is the fire that God uses to purify and strengthen us. So we must accept it when we experience pain of any kind. Draw near to God and depend on Him completely, for His grace and power are sufficient. They are perfect. He will give us strength to endure everything He allows.
John Piper in his 'Sweet and Bitter Providence', stated, “Life is not a straight line leading from one blessing to the next and then into heaven. Life is a winding and troubled road … God is not just showing up after the trouble and cleaning it up. He is plotting the course and managing the troubles with far-reaching purposes for our good and for the glory of Jesus Christ.” Piper was trying to caution his readers that life is a combination of bliss, joy, happiness and blessings, plus pain, suffering, cursing and death. In spite of all these
circumstances God is responsible for all that happens in human life. He meets our needs for a healthy and enjoyable life, yet He also allows bitter experience to affect and
interrupt human life so that we may seek Him, ask for help from Him, and stand firm in His love.
I am reminded of what President Abraham Lincoln said, “Be sure to put your
feet in the right place, then stand firm.” To stand firm when you are faced with pain and suffering, you need to turn to God for power and help to endure the pain,
remembering that God’s grace is sufficient for you and He can give you power and strength to endure all pain and suffering.
He has been through this before
Jesus Christ in His incarnation, (that is in His human body and flesh), experienced pain and agony. He knew the pain of hunger and thirst, the excruciating death on the cross,
mockery, rejection from His own people, the Jews, and from the world. He experienced physical, emotional and psychological pain. Yet, God the Father sent angels to minister to Jesus and to strengthen Him. He was able to endure pain and suffering on our behalf, paying the penalty of our sin to save us from all sin. He took God’s wrath, the
punishment from God, to give us a perfect life when we believe and trust ourselves to Him. It is awesome, amazing, wonderful and encouraging to surely know that Jesus did
not only suffer for our sins and iniquities. He also suffered for our physical pains and anguish, for our weaknesses and shortcomings, for our fears and frustrations, for our
disappointments and discouragements, for our regrets and remorse, our despair and desperation, for injustices and the iniquities we experience, and for the emotional distress
that besets us.
I once read, “There is no physical pain, no spiritual wound, and no anguish of soul or heartache, no infirmity or weakness you or I ever confront in mortality that the
Saviour did not experience first. In a moment of weakness we may cry out, “No one knows what it is like. No one understands.” But the Son of God perfectly knows and
understands, for He has felt and borne our individual burdens. And because of His infinite and eternal sacrifice, He has perfect empathy that can extend to us His arm of
mercy. He can reach out, touch, succour, heal and strengthen us to be more than we could ever be and help us to do that which we could never do relying only upon our
own power. Indeed, His yoke is very easy and His burden is light”, Matthew 11:28-30.
Have you been sick? Lost a loved one? Been imprisoned? Unfairly treated? Are you crushed by your labour and heavy-laden? Then let me invite you to come to Jesus Who
will give you rest and lighten your burdens. Please be of good and full cheer, because in all of our trials, pains, suffering and grief, God promises to bring something good
out of even our darkest moments, James 1:2-4.
In our suffering, whether physical, emotional, psychological or spiritual, we should cheerfully and with patience submit all our burdens and afflictions to the will, plan and purpose of the Lord our God. He is able to withstand all challenges and difficulties as we faithfully and confidently accept to follow His will and plan for our life. And He will increase our capacity, impact, influence, and empower us to act as His agents of comfort, love, change and help for all those around us we minister to, who suffer as they undergo their different circumstances.
Share the strength God gives you
One way this takes place is when we share the comfort God offers us with those who are now going through trials. The apostle Paul, who experienced pain and suffering in his
flesh, wrote that we are comforted by a Saviour Who knows our suffering, and we honour Him when we pass His comfort on to others, 2 Corinthians 1:3-7. As fellow human
beings, we should never leave someone alone to suffer pain and suffering because of sickness, distress, loneliness, loss of a beloved one, or rejection. If we know someone who is going through trial, we should immediately offer help. God will provide for us to guide that person to a relationship with Himself. He is present in all situations and He is the surest comfort for all human kind. It is my prayer that God will help us to step forward when others around us are suffering trials similar to those we have been through, and
enable us to be a comfort, as God has been to us in the past.
Throughout Christian history again and again we see the body of Christ, which means all Christians, supporting and
encouraging one another. People have learned that they
can use the trials they have been through to reach out to
others going through similarly difficult times. In my
personal life I have experienced many difficult
circumstances, including the loss of my first son with a
stomach ulcer, chronic anemia, kidney failure, Lymphoma
Non-Hodgkin cancer and Leukemia, the loss of my father,
loneliness and separation from my family, persecution
from outside and within the church, rejection, and financial difficulties, but through it all my God was and is still faithful to me. He gave (and gives) me grace and the ability to bear and overcome pain and suffering because I trusted (and trust) in His Word and His promises when He said, “… Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by
name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour …”, Isaiah 43:1-5.
“Heal me now” or “Your will be done”?
Based on these verses, we should work increasingly hard, seeking to understand, to know, to accept and to live according to God’s will and plan for our own lives. We
should also continue praying for the strength, ability and guidance to learn more, to change our own attitudes, our characters, our way of our life, accepting and submitting to
whatever circumstances befall us. Rather than praying relentlessly for God to change our circumstances we should pray that His will be done in these circumstances and in our
lives, according to His purposes. Believe that Jesus is able to cleanse, heal, comfort, protect, strengthen, guide, provide, sustain and intervene in every one of our circumstances. This will give us an absolute release, bring forgiveness, and offer freedom, satisfaction and eternal rest.
Our Lord Jesus once comforted His troubled, perplexed and fearful disciples, saying: “Do not let not your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me”, John 14:1. This verse affirms that Jesus will willingly bear our burdens and will ease the unique challenges placed in each of our lives. He will help us overcome our afflictions as we completely rely upon Him, as we rely on the merits, mercy and grace of the Holy Messiah.
I am reminded of the hymn “Be Still My Soul” in which the author wrote,
“Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord.
When disappointment, grief and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past
All safe and blessed, we shall meet at last.
This song expresses a great reality and assurance of the Scripture that David wrote in Psalm 46:1-10, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging … the Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress … Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Based on
this hymn and this Psalm, we can stand firm and be still in our darkest situations. Even at the point of our death, we can be at ease, for Jesus Christ has defeated and conquered
pain, suffering, and death on our behalf. So we must be still and allow Him to calm our troubled hearts.
Injury, illness or sin-inflicted?
Physical pain and suffering are caused by severe injury. We may sustain prolonged injury through sickness, accidents, natural disasters and catastrophes such as earthquakes,
severe storms, tsunamis, tornados, floods, wild fires or wild animals. Injuries caused by these means can result in residual pain and suffering which may continue for life. Or
the pain may come to an end after a long process of healing which is usually slower than we expect or desire. In most cases physical injuries compel us to seek God’s help for
healing of the pain and suffering we endure. Similarly, spiritual pain and suffering is caused by our own agency, which is our freedom to choose, sometimes leading to
wrong or unwise choices, resulting in sin. Sin is the spiritual sickness that affects all mankind since the Fall. It brought the curse of spiritual sickness and spiritual death
that is eternal separation from God. Spiritual pain and suffering cause lifetime consequences, which we have to bear as long as we refuse to confess them and repent
Often our spiritual suffering and pain can be caused by our personal choices or even by the actions and advice of hurtful friends. They cause burdens and wounds that we endure for a lifetime. Spiritual healing is only possible through turning to Jesus Christ, Who is our greatest Physician, Healer and Redeemer. His blood is the only antidote, the curing medicine, for our spiritual sickness. When we turn to Jesus, our healing is sure
although full restoration is not always experienced in this life. The promise of our restoration is always true, based on the comfort and encouragement of the apostle John who wrote, “He (God) will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away”, Revelation
Let us remind ourselves by thinking of the hard seasons, situations and destitutions that the Israelites went through when God allowed and led them through hardship and depression for forty wilderness years, Deuteronomy 8:2. They endured homelessness, uncertainty, destitution and various other dangers as a result of their disobedience and lack of faith. But God’s love and mercy continued to follow them, providing for their needs, disciplining them whenever they sinned against Him and protecting them
from their enemies, from wild animals and from natural catastrophes, until coming through these hardships they humbled themselves before God and one another,
Deuteronomy 8:1-18. They learned spiritual lessons that God would provide for their physical needs when they were hungry giving them manna from heaven and water
from the rock. God taught them that He could bless them in spite of difficult times, Deuteronomy 8:1.
Most of all the Israelites learned that their adversity was not a sign of abandonment by the loving, gracious, merciful, compassionate and forgiving God! So, in our physical or spiritual times of pain and suffering, we should know that our awesome God has all comfort and healing for our pains, our suffering, our burdens and our struggles. We should bring all our physical and spiritual anxieties, our fears, all our hurts and our cares to Him with complete trusting confidence, knowing that when we come broken into
Christ’s presence we soon will be fully restored into the state of perfection and wholeness, because God can work for all things for our good. Whenever we encounter
desperate times, we should look for the spiritual lessons embedded in our difficulties, hardships, calamities and catastrophes. We should always rely on the only One who
can cause all things to work together for our good and for His glory, Romans 8:28, bearing in mind that the clearest view of everything that happens to us is the heavenly view,
coming from our loving and kind Father God. He allows circumstances to afflict us for His blessed and divine purposes.
So let us continually give thanks, praise, glory and honour to God in our daily lives as we maintain faith, assurance, trust, obedience and service to Him. Let us learn to see what He wants to show us during our adversity.
Friend or foe?
The emotional pain and grief that come from loneliness and being abandoned are the most hurtful to the suffering individual. This is clear from Job’s cry after all his friends
and even his wife forsook him, accusing him of sin in his life. In Job’s grief, suffering and distress he cried, “Oh, that I had someone to hear me!”, Job 31:35. He desperately
needed a listening ear to hear and understand him after his friends had sat with him for seven days of silence. They did not listen when Job started talking. Instead they continued talking, talking and talking without listening, totally failing to comfort him, Job 16:2-3. They saw that his suffering and calamity were great, Job 2:13, but the help Job sought from them was not forthcoming. Therefore he continued to lament his health condition in loneliness, in distress, in agony, in grief, and perhaps hardest of all, in
Writing about the importance of learning to listen and respond effectively to those in difficult situations, Joyce Huggett in her book 'Listening to others', relates some of her own experiences in listening to suffering people. She mentions that they often thank her for all she’s done for them. She states that: “On many occasions, I have not ‘done’ anything. I have ‘just listened’. I quickly came to the conclusion that ‘just listening’ was indeed an effective way of helping others.” In most cases of suffering people prefer listening ears to being given a piece of advice. The good listener affirms to the suffering person that, “What matters to you matters to me”. “I want to hear it.” This gives relief and comfort and passes on a full sense of love and care from the listening person. Often times listening to a needy, stressed and suffering person is hard work. It is often difficult to do. To be good at it takes some time of learning and adapting.
Sadly, many people today do not have enough time to listen, hear and understand, to comfort or give help to the suffering individuals of our communities and neighbourhoods. Others don’t even care to extend a helping hand to the needy, disabled, elderly or orphaned people, who are absolutely devastated by distress, grief, loneliness, sickness, bereavement, catastrophe, tornado, tsunami, drought, or man-made calamities such as civil wars, tribal conflicts, racial discrimination, genocide, religious persecution and ethnic cleansing. All these calamities cause physical, psychological and emotional suffering. Trauma, hopelessness, disappointment, despair, grief and even spiritual suffering may follow.
As Christians we are being loved, comforted, cared for, assisted, forgiven and saved by
God the Father. He commands us to love one another just as He has loved us, John 15:12, John 13:34-35, James 2:14-17, 1 John 2:8-11, 1 John 3:10-11, 13-24, Hebrews 10:23-24.
So, we should love and help one another, be 'brother-keepers' and be 'sister-keepers', especially during times of emergencies, accidents, deaths, natural disasters and other
desperate needs. By so doing we make the love of Jesus Christ manifested, demonstrated, experienced and tangibly proved, seen in both action and reality. Let me spur all of us to help the suffering individuals even if we have no material things to offer them. We can still offer our love, comfort, encouragement, listening, guidance, advice,
counsel and prayer for the person in need of our help.
Good works do count
We should always be mindful in our work of love, kindness, mercy, and respect of humankind that God in His faithfulness and justice never disappoints us. The Bible
recounts numerous incidents where Jesus and His followers extended acts of love, mercy, compassion and healing to others. These included physical healings and
exorcisms of evil spirits and demons. Most importantly lives were saved, people who had been lost, afflicted, oppressed, destitute, possessed, outcast, despised, ridiculed, mocked, slandered and marginalised, were won to follow Christ.
The Bible assuredly records many acts of love, mercy, kindness and compassion done to people, including some done to Jesus Christ Himself. He affirms that those good works will be remembered throughout the generations of human history. Even the giving of a cup of cool water offered in Jesus’ name will be remembered and rewarded by our loving, merciful, gracious, compassionate, caring, providing, sustaining, kind, generous Father, John 12:1-8; Luke 4:31-41, 5:12-15, 7:1-17, 7:36-50, 8:1-3, 8:26-39, 8:40-56, 9:10-17, 9:37-45, 10:25-42, 13:10-17, 14:1-6, 18:35-43; Mark 1:40-45, 2:1-12, 3:1-6, 5:1-43, 7:24-37, 8:1-9, 8:22-26, 9:14-29, 10:46-52, 14:3-9; Acts 2:42-47, 3:1-10, 4:36-37, 5:12-16, 20:7-12; Hebrews 6:10, 11:31.
In the light of all these references we should not assume that our expressions of devotion and serving the desperate destitute through small acts of love and compassion are insignificant. No, they are not. Rather, in God’s eyes, these works hold much historical meaning, because our love and devotion to Christ Jesus creates memorials to God for future generations to see and remember. Jesus Christ commended a woman because she performed a profoundly amazing act of love for Jesus. It was not because she wanted to impress the disciples or those who were around, in order to attain or gain public attention and celebrity status, or even to gain praise from Jesus. She simply sought to demonstrate her absolute love to Jesus in a practical and tangible way. Her
act of love and respect for Jesus emanates from a humble, faithful, loyal and believing heart. She acted not with speculation or miraculous intention, nor did she preach a
charismatic sermon, yet Jesus was clearly moved by her self-less loyalty. He acknowledged and approved her act of love as worthy of remembrance throughout the remainder of human history, Mark 14:9.
The New Testament also deems worthy of importance the account of Rahab the harlot. She is remembered because of her loyalty to God’s messengers sent by Joshua to spy the Promised Land, Joshua 2:1-21, Hebrews 11:31.
Beloved brethren and sisters, please be assured that our God is not a partial God. No! He can use our faithfulness and loyalty even though it is small and seemingly insignificant. God can make spiritual changes, emotional differences, and begin a spiritual legacy to bless others for generations to come. Just as God chose to bless all nations of the world through Abraham, Genesis 12:1-3, as we perform our acts of love, kindness, compassion and comfort, God will use us. Let us do it single-mindedly and whole-heartedly with
anticipation that one day we will receive God’s reward of great blessings as we meet those to whom we have been a helpful blessing during their times of need, affliction, injury, pain, agony, discouragement, disappointment, distress, grief and depression. It is crucial for us to express daily our love to others around us, as part of our loyal devotion to
Jesus Christ, until He returns. We know that God finds absolute pleasure in our acts of love, kindness, and the service of others.
How to respond
The following statement may help you pray to God, when you are in critical situation:
“Dear Lord, sometimes life seems to be full of perilous and
winding roads. Thank you for giving me assurance that You
have my course plotted and You are watching over my every
step, Psalm 121:1-8. I trust You and must give You thanks,
praise and glory, because You are in everything and in all
situations, good and bad, sweet and bitter. All things and all
situations work for my good because You love me and want
me to live in obedience to You.
When I disobey You, You discipline me by allowing troubles
to afflict me so that I may take heed and confess my sins,
repenting to receive pardon, forgiveness and healing from
God, bless and heal me, (or a loved member of my family, or a
friend), from any pain, suffering, or grief experienced right
now. You are my Healer and Redeemer from any kind of pain,
whether it is physical, social, psychological, emotional,
economic, political or spiritual.
Lord, teach me to still my soul before You. Help me to bear
patiently the trials I face, and to leave everything to You for
direction and provision. I know that You will always remain
faithful, just and trustworthy, therefore I trust Your ability to
do all things in Jesus’ name! Amen.”
Beloved brethren and sisters, Jesus gives rest to the weary. Hear His invitation to all who are troubled and worried. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I
will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light”, Matthew 11:28-30.
If you now take a step of faith and turn to God in confession and repentance from any
known sin in your life, and you invite Jesus to come into your life, He will assuredly come into your life and cleanse away all flaws, making you a new creation and setting you
free. Take haste and come to Him NOW! Revelation 3:20; 2 Corinthians 5:17; 1 John 1:9.
1. Nobody is suggesting suffering is fun, but are there any benefits (advantages) for the Christian who suffers? List as many as you can.
2. How can anyone “consider it pure joy, whenever you face trials of many kinds”?
James 1:2. Be as practical as you can be.
3. Pastor Israel has permanent kidney dialysis. I (the editor) had my voice box removed due to aggressive cancer in 2006. Pastor Matta suffers regular aerial bombing right now where he lives in the Nuba mountains. Many readers have been displaced by famine or
fighting. How would you encourage any one of us in our suffering, if you were to have the opportunity to speak face to face?