Christ-centered Reflections on Suffering
“When is this going to end?”
“I can’t take this anymore!”
“The pain is too much.”
Have you ever thought or verbally expressed any of these statements or something similar? Maybe words couldn’t express what was heavy on your heart so your tears did the talking.
Whether it be mental health challenges, financial setbacks, going through a painful divorce, grieving over the loss of a loved one, going through familial conflict, struggling with temptations, or any other hardship, it’s important to acknowledge the realities of suffering. Oftentimes we as the church don’t talk about this or disregard human adversity, but it’s important and necessary to acknowledge it. So what is suffering?
Suffering is experiencing a hardship that feels unbearable. It can be self-inflicted based on the choices we made, or it can be externally inflicted on us that we had no control over.
I would like to share a few biblical perspectives to think about when it comes to suffering in the hopes of providing your heavy heart with refreshment, as it has been refreshing mine the more I consider them.
To suffer is to endure. We often think endurance looks like overcoming. While that is the goal of it, endurance is technically continuing on through trials. If you’ve experienced hardship even for just one hour, you’ve endured. If it’s an ongoing hardship and you think it won’t ever end—you’re enduring. You’re suffering. Every minute you trudge on in your trial, tribulation, or temptation, is a minute of endurance. Continue to trudge on.
Suffer just for today
I’m realizing why God stresses “today” abundantly in His word. We tend to focus on the grievances of tomorrow and the next day, adding on more unnecessary burdens when we’re already struggling with TODAY.
It’s no wonder our Lord commands, “Don’t worry about tomorrow, tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34). So endure today, dear reader. Endure today, because yesterday was endured, and so was the day before. You’ve arrived at TODAY. And that’s what matters. This moment, right now. You’re here.
“Today is all I need.
Today is all I have.
Today is all I can handle” (Hodge, p. 13).
This very hour is the time to draw near to God to bring Him your troubles. “Behold, now is the time of favor; now is the day of salvation!” (2 Corinthians 6:2, BSB). God did not say wait a few hours, days, months, or years before coming to Him. He said “Today.” Right now, at this very moment, draw near and “cast all your anxieties to God because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
“Whatever struggles you might be experiencing, God’s promises endure in the changing seasons of life” (Smith, p. 96).
The paradox: joyful in suffering
Sufferings are unfortunately human reality because of this fallen world, but the Bible paints a canvas of a paradox that those in Christ can experience joy in their hard trials. To suffer is earthly, but to be joyful and thankful in the midst of it is heavenly divine because of our hope to be manifested when Jesus returns and eternal glory becomes the new reality.
Jesus is currently in the business of restoring and healing. We’re longingly awaiting the moment when death is swallowed by life (2 Corinthians 5:4); when tears, pain, injustices, hardships, and things likes these will be wiped away so that peace reigns forever (Revelation 24:4, cf. 7:17); when there will be “a new heaven and new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13). it’s possible for us as Christians to be filled with heartache and joy at the same time. This helps us to endure our suffering.
While Christ was being brutally crucified, He had joy for the results of His suffering—“for the joy set before Him, He endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2). He had us on His mind; our healing and restoration was His joy. So, He endured.
In the meantime, let reflections of the eternal, consummated kingdom permeate through the church of Christ. It’s time for us, as His people, to endure suffering and hardship together!
Christians who are suffering:
***Reach out for help, talk with someone. It’s OK to seek counseling and therapy. If you don’t yet feel comfortable with doing that, reach out to someone trustworthy to lean on.
***Know that you are not alone. It’s so easy to feel like you are. You’re also not alone in feeling that way, either. The apostle Peter acknowledged Christians suffering and who felt alone, so he wrote these words of comfort, “. . .stand firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers and sisters throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings” (1 Peter 5:9).
Christians who know someone suffering:
***Listen—not with the intention of giving your two cents, but with the intention to understand and give your presence.
***Don’t minimize their suffering by comparing other’s hardships to theirs. No matter your intentions, comparing suffering does not remove the challenges they’re personally experiencing at the moment.
***Bring them a meal or care basket. Don’t just say, “let me know if you need anything.” Try this instead, “I would love to bring a meal to you today. Can I come by at (insert time)?” Or just leave a care package at the door.
***Hug them, laugh with them, relate with them, pray with them, cry with them—be the church that Christ purchased with His blood. The church is not a building, it’s not a denomination, it’s not a hierarchy. It’s a blood-bought gathering of hurting people saved by Christ. The comfort He pours down richly on us should cause us to comfort others sincerely (2 Corinthians 1:3-7; Romans 12:15b).
Hodge, Charles. My Daily Walk With God. p. 13.
Smith, F. LaGard. Meeting God in Quiet Places. p. 96.