PAIN AND SUFFERING

“The Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless” Psalm 84:11

What an awesome promise to claim and hold on to! I am encouraged to know that God will provide me with all the good He believes will benefit me! Of course, like some other promises, there is an attached condition. The condition is that my Christian walk be blameless. This condition does not mean I have to be sinless, but it does mean that I have to hate sin, and make a conscious effort to not be overcome by it. I need to not take advantage of God’s goodness.  

I have met people living in sin unashamedly; because they claim God will forgive them. I’ve had to remind them of the question the Bible puts to Christians, “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer (Romans 6:1-2 NIV84)? Our attitude towards sin is indicative of our respect or disrespect for God, and how serious we are about our faith. The Bible states, “No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him” (1 John 3:6 NIV84). Our disdain for sin should convince people that we know and fear God. We can’t claim a relationship with God and be comfortably living in sin at the same time. Claims are not enough; our way of life speaks louder than our claims. Blamelessness also means walking in obedience to God’s word; and that is when we can confidently claim this promise.   

God doesn’t withhold good from us, but He also doesn’t withhold painful experiences from us. Painful experiences include but not limited to, loss, suffering, poor health, financial difficulties, persecutions, and the like, and are good for building our character. Through suffering, we learn to carefully examine our lives to make sure we do not have any un-confessed sins; we learn to trust God, and also look at life from His perspective. The Scripture says God made Jesus perfect through suffering (see Hebrew 2:10), and Jesus, though the Son of God, learned obedience from what He suffered (see Hebrews 5:8). If sinless Jesus was made perfect through suffering, then we mega sinners need to embrace suffering with the understanding that suffering is for our good, and that it identifies us as members of God’s family, with Jesus as our Brother (see Hebrews 2:11). Addressing the issue of suffering, Paul and Barnabas, encouraged their new converts in Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch to remain faithful to the faith by saying, “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22 NIV84). 

The Psalmist is a good example of how to appreciate pain; he said to God, “You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever” (Psalm 30:11-12 NIV84).  So through his experience, the Psalmist learned to praise God and testify about His goodness and sustaining power in times of distress. Therefore, if God allows a painful experience, it must be because it is good. Praising God is one of the outcomes of suffering that God desires for us (see Isaiah 57:18-19). Let us therefore endure suffering as children who desire to be transformed into the image of their Father. This calls to mind another Scripture, “In all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28 NIV84). 

It is essential to remember that in our suffering, God controls the intensity and duration, and also makes a way of escape for us  because He has promised that He will not allow us to go through more than we can bear (see 1 Corinthians 10:13). God does not rejoice in our pain, but rejoices when we bear godly fruit of righteousness and peace. The Scripture says, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11 NIV84). 

God told Jeremiah that His plans for him were for welfare (see Jeremiah 29:11), but Jeremiah’s experiences were not always without problems. His own people plotted to kill him because they did not appreciate his messages (see Jeremiah 11:18-19, 21). Jeremiah was persecuted and jailed by a colleague, Pashhur the priest, for prophesying doom and gloom as instructed by the Lord (see Jeremiah 20:1-2). These experiences do not sound like welfare, but God allowed them, maybe, to test and grow Jeremiah’s faith.

The outcome of enduring pain does not benefit only the person experiencing it; it also benefits the Body of Christ, the Church. The Church is encouraged when it witnesses, first-hand, the power and faithfulness of God in the life of other believers. Having said that, it is also fair to say it is okay to pour out our hearts to God in our pain; Jesus did. On the cross, He said, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” (Mark 15:34 NIV84)? However, He did not request legions of angels to come to His defense, although He could have (see Matthew 26:53). Instead, He completed the task the Father had given Him. By so doing, He earned the highest place that heaven affords and a name that is above every name, so that at the mention of His name every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth (see Philippians 2:8-11). Similarly, God has made wonderful promises to those who overcome the difficulties and challenges of life (See Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:12, 21; 21:7).

So in suffering, let us not quit! Let us focus on Christ and the prize ahead. After all, He is gone to prepare a place for us, and before we know it, He will be back to take us to be with Him for all eternity (see John 14:2-3). Even so Lord Jesus, come!