Why only me? Why is this happening now? Where did I go wrong? Has God forgotten about me? These are some of the questions that often cross our minds when facing challenging situations or going through moments of pain. While no one within the human race desires or looks forward with anticipation to days of pain and suffering, it just happens that unpleasant experiences are inevitable in life, both for Christian believers and non-believers. After spending a couple of weeks on the Ten Commandments, and having covered the Biblical Doctrine of Tithing last week, our topical Safari theme this week is on Encountering the Joy and Pain of Suffering.
Without much belaboring on the subject, it is tantamount to understand and acknowledge that in order for the Lord God to carry out and attain His divine purposes towards mankind, and also obtain our attention, He uses suffering as one of the tools. That might sound ‘unfair’ especially to the body of believers who identify with God as a loving, caring and comforting Father. But again, even Christ Jesus, His only Son and our Lord, went through the worst kind of suffering to accomplish the work of redemption at the Cross! Our God is immortal, mighty and sovereign, and if we are to compare Him to our earthly loving fathers (or parents for that matter), we may get it all wrong. Indeed, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD (Isaiah 55:8).
Pain and suffering have been spiritually designed to shape and assemble our trust in our Maker. This implies that there is unspeakable joy in any form of pain and suffering that emanates from the Almighty God. On the same note, man-initiated pain and suffering is purely bound to cause havoc, loss, anarchy and Lord’s wrath. Better still, the right response to pain and suffering is required if the Lord’s purposes are to be realized on the same dimensions.
The Lord takes glory when we turn to Him often for counsel, help and thanks-giving. The forgetful nature of God’s people has been a major drawback in the relationship between man and God. The Israelites, for instance, complained bitterly to Moses in the wilderness after being brought out of the land of captivity. Worst of all, they abandoned their faith in God and transited to worshipping idols. Simply put, they dared the Lord in disobedience. Moses begged the Lord to forgive the Israelites. Even though they were eventually forgiven, they had to live with the consequences of their actions. Suffering compels us to begin trusting in the supernatural nature of God and not our own abilities, resources, intellects, or social status.
In their own, pain combined with suffering are not virtuous, neither are they symptoms of good deeds, upright walk with God, or holiness. How many of us have suffered due to our own follies? Besides, we do not necessarily gain any spiritual mileage from God when we encounter suffering. Christ circumvented suffering except in instances when He had to act in obedience to the Lord God who sent Him. “When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, no one can discover anything about their future” (Ecclesiastes 7:14).
The following are some of the questions worth asking ourselves when encountering pain and suffering:
(1) What is my response?
(2) How best should I respond to this bout of pain or suffering at hand?
(3) What lesson should I learn from this experience?
(4) Is the response validating my faith in God, care and love for other people, or exhibiting the character of Christ in me?
In addressing the dilemma of suffering this week, the Thursday and Sunday Safari Cohorts will dwell on the following key areas:
- The disturbing questions about Evil and Suffering
- The source and pain of suffering
- The joy of suffering
- Biblical perspective on suffering
- How should a Christian encounter suffering? (From the Safari Encounter 3 Learner’s Handbook, pp. 95-116).
May the Spirit of the Lord open your inner mind to understand and appreciate the biblical values brought about by pain and suffering. Have a joyful week ahead!