On this episode of Theology Gals Ashley and Coleen discuss suffering. They talk about what Scripture says about the reasons why we may suffer, how we should respond to our suffering and how we can encourage others who are suffering.
(We had a couple technical difficulties during this episode. A hail storm hit Coleen’s home in Colorado towards the end of the episode and can be heard.)
There are many kinds of suffering. We face short term trials, and we can may experience very difficult and long term suffering.
While the Lord may discipline us for our good, suffering is not always the result of sin or discipline:
7 It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. 11 All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. Hebrews 12:7-11
In Hebrews 12 we see that even when the Lord disciplines us, He does so for our good, because He loves us, in the same way parents discipline their.
But we also know from Job and other places in Scripture that our suffering is not always the result of discipline.
It’s easy to assume that our suffering is a result of our sin, in John 9 the disciples assumed that very thing:
1 As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him John 9:1-3
This is an excerpt from an article by RC Sproul on this passage:
“However, the disciples made the mistake of particularizing the general relationship between sin and suffering. They assumed there was a direct correspondence between the blind man’s sin and his affliction. Had they not read the book of Job, which deals with a man who was innocent and yet was severely afflicted by God? The disciples erred in reducing the options to two when there was another alternative. They posed their question to Jesus in an either/or fashion, committing the logical fallacy of the false dilemma, assuming that the sin of the man or the sin of the man’s parents was the cause of his blindness.
“The disciples also seem to have assumed that anyone who has an affliction suffers in direct proportion to the sin that has been committed. Again, the book of Job dashes that conclusion, for the degree of suffering Job was called to bear was astronomical compared with the suffering and afflictions of others far more guilty than he was.
“We must never jump to the conclusion that a particular incidence of suffering is a direct response or in direct correspondence to a person’s particular sin. The story of the man born blind makes this point.”
There’s also teaching in some circles that suffering is due to a lack of faith. Some believe in regards to healing for instance, that the Lord withholds it because the sufferer has a lack of faith, but that is not Biblical. They also may believe that God promises us healing and wealth which also is not consistent with Scripture.
Reasons for Suffering:
Our suffering tests and prepares us & teaches us to rely on God
6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:6&7
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison 2 Corinthians 4:17
We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 2 Corinthians 1:8&9
We suffer so we we may be comforted by God and comfort others in their suffering
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort. 2 Corinthians 1:3-7
We suffer for our good
Suffering produces character and sanctification James 1:1&2 & 1:24
And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope” (vv. 3–4). – Romans 5:3-5
We suffer that we may know Him
But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Phil 3:7–11)
Other reasons for suffering:
We suffer because of the fall
To draw us to Christ
To help us gain an eternal perspective
For God’s glory
Comfort in Suffering
Remember that God is with you
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. Isaiah 43:2
The LORD is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit. Psalms 34:18
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1
The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe. Proverbs 18:10
Remember that the Lord’s love is steadfast
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23
Remember the truths in God’s Word.
The Psalmist finds himself in great distress or he feels far from God, but He is reminded of God’s loving-kindness and mercy, he holds onto what he knows to be true, he holds onto truth instead of what he feels.
Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again— my Savior and 6 my God! Now I am deeply discouraged, but I will remember you— even from distant Mount Hermon, the source of the Jordan, from the land of Mount Mizar. 7 I hear the tumult of the raging seas as your waves and surging tides sweep over me. 8 But each day the LORD pours his unfailing love upon me, and through each night I sing his songs, praying to God who gives me life. 9 “O God my rock,” I cry, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I wander around in grief, oppressed by my enemies?” 10 Their taunts break my bones. They scoff, “Where is this God of yours?” 11 Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again— my Savior and my God! Psalm 42:7-11
How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
3 Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
4 lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.
5 But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
6 I will sing to the Lord,
because he has dealt bountifully with me. Psalm 13
When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous,but the Lord delivers him out of them all. Psalm 34:17-19
Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Romans 4:7
Responding to our suffering:
Give thanks in suffering
Ephesians 5:20 tells us we should give thanks “always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” and 1 Thess 5:18 says to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
Even in our trials, we should be thankful, even counting it joy.
2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4
Rejoice in suffering
I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church Colossians 1:24
Romans 8:28 tells us that all things work together for our good for those who love God and are called according to His promise.
Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:8&9
I will greatly rejoice in the Lord;
my soul shall exult in my God,
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation;
he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. Isaiah 61:10
Pray in suffering
16 Rejoice always; 17 pray without ceasing; 18 in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! 5 Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7
Look to God’s Word in suffering
Scripture proclaims God’s sovereignty & His steadfast love. Even many of the above passages can offer hope in the midst of suffering.
Responding to the suffering of others:
Be there for them and love them
In times of suffering, having people who are there for me, to love me, listen to me, cry with me has brought so much comfort.
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Romans 12:15
Pray with and for them
Every situation is different, but one thing that we can always do is pray. Ask them if you can pray with them, tell them you’re praying for them.
Encourage them with God’s Word
I think wisdom and great care needs to be used in how we execute this. Reminders of God’s love and care for us are helpful.
Ask how you can help specifically.
Offer specifics; “Let me know how I can help you”, “Can I come clean your house or watch your children”, etc. Do things you know will be helpful like bringing a meal. Think of things which may help that person specifically.
Recommended Reading on Suffering:
A Place for Weakness: Preparing Yourself for Suffering by Michael Horton
Be Still My Soul by various authors
Being There: How to Love Those Who Are Hurting by Dave Furman
Suffering is Not for Nothing by Elisabeth Elliot (audio series)
Episode Music from Castle Pines
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