Suffering is a fact of life.
Some people suffer more than others, but nobody is exempt from suffering. The bible says so, and universal experience confirms it:
“Man that is born of woman is few of days and full of trouble.” – Job 14:1
Suffering in a world made by a loving God is not easy to explain or understand.
Some have tried, however. The Stoics grit their teeth. The Optimists whistle in the dark. The Mind-Over-Matter types dismiss it. Until they break a leg.
None of these positions really help. But before we look at how the gospel changes suffering, let’s be clear about 3 things the gospel does NOT do:
1. It does not prevent suffering – Christians suffer like non-Christians do
2. It does not minimize suffering – the gospel is not an anesthetic – it does not numb your heart, your body, or your mind
3. It does not remove all pain – the gospel does not promise relief in this life
Then how does the gospel change suffering?
1. By taking it seriously – by pointing you to Christ on the cross who felt intense agony in his body (physical pain), who reeled from the abandonment of his Father while he was left dying (emotional pain), who writhed in fear and shed drops of blood in the garden (spiritual pain), who lived his life in sorrow and grief and rejection from the very people who were his kin (social pain).
2. By not telling you lies that your suffering will soon be over, that it’s just for a little while – how do you know?
3 questions to avoid that add to your suffering:
2. “What did I do wrong?”
3. “What am I supposed to learn from this?”
All three add to your misery. They make you turn inward instead of trusting God.
Instead, this is the question to ask when you’re suffering:
Q: “Where is God in my suffering?”
A: Right there with you.
How do you know God is there when you are in so much pain?
Because of the cross. It was there that Christ suffered all your pain.
Keep the big picture focus:
One day there will be an end to all your suffering. It’s the day of Christ’s return when he ushers in the new heavens and the new earth. And you’ll be there in a resurrected body that will never feel any pain ever again.
And that’s a promise.