Many Christians believe that if we live like we are supposed to, we can avoid—or at least minimize—suffering.
A related assumption is that life will, one way or another, inevitably turn out positive. This is the vague optimism that comes through in clichés like, “Every dark cloud has a silver lining,” or “It’s always darkest before the dawn.” A friend of mine calls it the “Little Orphan Annie philosophy”: “The sun’ll come out tomorrow.”
The Bible offers a different approach. Rather than assuring God’s children that life will be free from suffering, Scripture actually promises suffering.
The Apostle Paul, for instance, affirms in Romans 8 that suffering is a part of the believer’s life. He says this present time has sufferings (verse 18) and we groan under them (verse 23). Even creation (of which we are all a part) is “subjected to futility” and in bondage to corruption (verses 20–21 CSB).
The question for believers is not whether we’ll endure pain. That’s a guarantee. The question is how we’ll endure pain. Will we bring God our aching hearts in these moments or try to cope through some other means?
If you are walking with someone who is going through pain, take a clue from the Spirit of God: Don’t try to explain everything. You may be trying to explain what can’t be explained. Just sit with them. Weep with them as they weep. And pray along with the Spirit for them.
If you are in a season of pain, bring your pain to God. Bring it to others. Are you having a hard time seeing what “good” could come from your suffering? Be honest about it.
But whatever you do, take your honest laments to the one who understands them. If you are a child of God, he is doing something in your life. That includes your moments of pain. And while you and I would love to know the “why” behind our present suffering, God may only reveal that in eternity.
For now, what you’ve got to hold onto is the character of God. This is what the hymn writer meant when he wrote,
Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father. There is no shadow of turning with thee.
Thou changest not, thy compassions they fail not. As thou hast been, thou forever wilt be.
Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth, thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide.
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow; blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside.
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow: This is what is offered to you. When you can’t trace God’s hand, you can still trust God’s heart.
If you do not yet believe in Jesus Christ for salvation, you might be tempted to say, “Well, I like this hope; what a peaceful and comforting way to live.” But these things are offered only because of who Jesus is, and they are only true for us as believers because we have given ourselves to him.
If you have not given yourself to Jesus, this hope is not true for you. And, even more importantly, if Jesus is not who he says he is, none of this hope is true for anybody.
That’s the question you need to wrestle with: Is Jesus who he says he is? C.S. Lewis said (and I paraphrase): Don’t come to Christianity because it’s comforting. Don’t come to Christianity because it’s encouraging. Don’t come to Christianity because it’s relevant. Don’t come to Christianity because it’s exciting.
Come to Christianity because it’s true.
Only Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” (John 11:25 ESV).
Only he has overcome the grave. Only he can “make all the sad things come untrue”—not just in this world, but in your very life, too.