Making Sense of Suffering

Posted on August 27, 2009 by

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I am convinced that one of the greatest joys and inheritances of the Christian faith lies in making sense of suffering.

Existing as one of the most interconnected experiences known to humanity, it is in our shared familiarity to suffering that we are all joined to the adverse effects of human depravity and Adam’s sin. By God’s design, it is in and through our shared experience of pain that the hope and power of the Gospel is magnified, put on display in and through the testimony of His broken bride: the Church.

One does not have to wait long until the everyday drudgery of life bears witness to the brokenness of the human experience. It doesn’t take much and we again find ourselves pressed, persecuted, struck down, emotionally distraught. Numerous happenings unearth these emotions: a broken promise, an evil glance, an unfair illusion, a yell, a devastating phone call, death. While these and many more human sufferings may be universal, it is in the purposeful perspective and perseverance of the saints that the graciousness of God, the Gospel of Christ, and the power of Spirit bear witness to a new heavenly-hope.

The Christian’s great joy and inheritance lies in his or her capacity to have a God-enhanced perspective on the tragedies of life.

In his first letter, the apostle Peter took the time to remind scattered distraught Christians to “not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you, as though something strange were happening to you.” Our expectations of life must begin to be funneled through the realization that we are nowhere promised that life is meant to be easy and pain free. Once a person receives the grace of God to view their experiences through this lens, can he or she have the gift to look at suffering in a more clear and steady way.

Making sense of suffering lies not only in the Christians God-enhanced perspective that suffering is inevitable, but more importantly, in sufferings purpose.

James, the brother of Jesus, charged Jewish Christians to “count it all joy, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” In essence, James pressed this dispersion of believers to let the trials and sufferings of life “do their worst”, in order that, a watching world would witness a realized Gospel. Its pinnacle of purpose being in that more persons would experience and express trust and worth to the Sovereign Lord.

In order for the Gospel of Christ to remain powerful in the eyes of a watching world, Christians must be able to face the reality of pain and suffering, and not only face its torrents, but explain and express how one can stand amidst the storm. In fact, it is in the very act of enduring, persevering, and persisting that the most glorious demonstration of Christ’s Spirit is put on display. It is in this very state that we express our graftedness to the greatest suffering and the greatest sufferer of all time, the Suffering Servant, Jesus Christ. “But rejoice insofar that you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” This, Gospel-shaped display, testifies to the Christians call for exemplary dependence on the grace of God for the glory of God, while placing future hope in the day when all brokenness will be made new.

Christian, watching world, no doubt your suffering will be painful. See the pain for what it is: to make you rely more on the enduring grace of God. I pray that in the midst of your daily sufferings that you would find yourself more grafted and more reliant on the Sovereign God, the One who will be with you amidst your sufferings, moment by moment.

Relevant citations (1 Peter 4; James 1; Titus 2)

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Posted in: Theology