Can You Trust in Suffering?
Several years ago, something happened that drastically changed my life in a very real, dramatic and devastating way. I knew then that it would have lasting effects that would just ripple through time. That event led to other events that have caused a lot of suffering in my life. I wish I could tell you that I have handled it with the utmost faith and victory but I have not.
Many times in prayer I have cried out to God concerning my suffering, asking the famous question . . . “why?” I have still not gotten an answer to that question. To be honest it has been so frustrating to try to figure out why people do what they do. I am a very analytical, logical person. Things have to make sense to me or it can drive me crazy as I contemplate the complexities of the whys and hows and what ifs. My wife tells me that I think too much and she’s not the only one I have heard that from.
Recently I was scheduled to preach at my church and I knew that I wanted to speak about suffering. There aren’t too many sermons that I have heard on suffering throughout my Christian life. Some of the ones that I have heard have been along the lines of God using the suffering to teach a lesson. I just cannot follow this line of thinking because Jesus, the exact picture of the Father, never caused anyone to suffer. Or, I would hear that if you are suffering it is because of sin in your life or you don’t have enough faith to overcome it. That, too, I believe is not correct theology.
I was sitting on my couch contemplating this message and why God allows suffering in our lives. I was thinking specifically why He wanted me to move to Oklahoma, which to me makes no sense for reasons I am not going to get into in this blog. Suffice it to say, I was wanting specific answers to which all I could hear was “spiritual crickets”. In other words, I heard nothing.
Then suddenly I had an impression that I knew the Lord was giving me. He impressed upon me that the goal of obedience was trust. He asks us to obey Him, especially when things don’t make sense, not because we understand the whys and hows but because we trust Him, His plan and ultimately His goodness.
That’s what got me. I realized that I didn’t always trust that God was good. I remember that I wrote about that here. I guess I have always struggled with the goodness of God. But I did understand what the Lord was saying to me.
He was asking me to trust Him through all that I have been suffering through, through all my questions, fears and doubts. He was asking me to trust Him that He is good, has a plan for this to all work towards my good and ultimately bring about restoration where things need to be restored.
The goal of obedience is trust. If I truly trust God then I will obey Him even when things don’t make sense. I won’t whine and complain about it either. I will not even ask for a “spiritual pacifier” to settle me down.
It’s amazing to me that Jesus had to learn obedience through the things He suffered (Hebrews 5:8). As I pondered on what the Lord was saying to me I realized that Jesus had to learn to trust God through the things he was facing. If he was fully human then the temptation to not trust God and find an easy way out had to have been on his mind. He had to pray through in the Garden of Gethsemene a total of three times before he could face the cross.
If trusting God was always easy then I am sure that Jesus would not have had to pray through three times.
So now I am faced with this challenge in front of me: am I going to trust the Lord and believe in HIs goodness even when nothing seems to make sense right now? Am I going to obey or complain? Am I going to man up and believe better days are ahead or am I going to constantly look back and live in the memories of yesteryear?
I want to man up. I want to trust Him with everything in me. I want to learn obedience through this suffering. It is certainly not easy. But then again, Jesus never promised an easy life, just an abundant life.
So I do not believe at all that God causes suffering in our lives, and I still certainly do not understand why He doesn’t always stop the suffering. I do believe that He is right there with us asking us to trust Him to bring about good through the suffering.
The question then is will you, will I, trust His goodness through the midst of our suffering?
You can hear the message I preached on this subject here.