I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 6:33 NLT
In some parts of the Christian world today, pain and suffering are alien to believers. If one were to look into the relationship of the everyday believer with pain, you would find that it is one of disdain, avoidance and even denial. Surely, nobody enjoys suffering or wants to suffer. However, if we are to objectively consider the history of Christianity, we would discover that the records show tremendous and lasting pain experienced by professing Christians through the ages. Why then would we expect our Christianity to be pain and trouble free?
In the verse quoted above, Jesus told us to expect trials and troubles, pain and sorrow. It goes without saying that His words are true and will indeed come true, throughout all the ages.
Why do we go through pain?
The simplest answer I can proffer is that God allows it to be so. When a new born baby cries, it is for two reasons: the baby feels cold and deprived, as it has been involuntarily expelled from its warm and cozy abode to a strange, cold place where it feels threatened. The baby also cries because it has an urge to suck in air into its lungs for the first time ever, and it is a strange experience. It is a cry of complaint and a cry for help. But in its parents ears, that cry is a joyful one, a beautiful confirmation that their child is alive and healthy. If the baby were to come out and not cry, the parents would be unhappy, scared and if the baby never cries after medical assistance, the parents would be heartbroken.
When the ministry of Jesus was to begin, God the Father acknowledged Him audibly to the hearing of everyone there. The Holy Spirit descended on Him and thereafter led him into the wilderness to be tempted. He fasted in that wilderness for forty days and nights. That was suffering and pain. Also, when He was to die, He suffered on the way to Calvary. On Calvary’s cross, He bore pain that we cannot describe, to pay for our sins. Added to that was the pain of separation from God, when He cried, ‘My God, My God why have You forsaken Me?’ He endured that cross for us. We are also expected to suffer for His sake, not as a payback for our sins, but that we might be glorified with Him. A servant is not greater than his master.
“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. 21 But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me’ John 15:18-21
17 And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering’ Romans 8:17
In essence, the two verses above confirm the fact that our suffering is necessary and unavoidable. However, what are to suffer for?
‘But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a] busybody in other people’s matters. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this [d]matter’ 1 Pet.4:15-16
There is a difference between suffering as a Christian and suffering as a disobedient citizen.
Sometimes our suffering is just because we live in a broken world, where evil is predominant; where we lose loved ones to accidental death, sickness, adultery and the likes. A child gives in to drugs or goes missing. Robbers strike, an extortion takes place and crashes a business, a very important business deal fails to close, a friend betrays trust and any of the million things that could go wrong, do go wrong.
We must never lose sight of the fact that our suffering is never random and not without purpose. The One Who watches over us never slumbers nor sleeps. (Psalm 121:3)
God is our Father. He watches over us continually. (Matthew 10:29-31) Also, before we were ever formed, He knew us and had made plans for our lives. (Isaiah 44:2, 46:3-4, Jeremiah 1:5, 29:11)
You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed. Psalm 139:16 NLT
Everything we go through in life is pre-planned by God. Even when we go on a frolic of our own, He works it all together for our good and for His glory. We are His children. He looks out for us. Much more than we can ever lookout for our children, even though we do that diligently. Because He knows the end from the beginning, He has everything worked out. All we need to do is trust Him and call out to Him. Prayer then becomes the evidence of our faith, we pray because we believe He hears us and will answer us.
So, regardless of the various painful things that we go through, we must hold on to God, believing that He is the Master Planner and Pillar of our lives. He alone can do what is perfect for our lives. He is able to alleviate our pain and ensure that it does not last beyond what is necessary. Sometimes, He even takes away the pain. He is the One that uses our pain to mould us and conform us into the image of Christ, such that at the end of it all, we can sometimes see that it was all for the good, and we are better off. Sometimes we are not able to see this, sometimes the answers will be manifest only in heaven but we believe in Him and in His handiwork in our lives. After all, He is the One Who said ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love’ (Jeremiah 31:3) With His loving kindness He draws us closer to Himself day by day.