Suffering Shouldn’t Be Surprising
Christianity is NOT an exemption from suffering…
You would think that the personal experience of multiplied thousands of believers combined with over 2,000 years of church history would have convinced us of that reality by now. But for some strange reason, we still cling so desperately (and foolishly I might add) to the notion that once we come to Christ the rest of our years here on earth will all be roses, rainbows, and puppy dog tails. It’s tragic really. I’m not sure why the idea is so prevalent in contemporary Christianity but I imagine that part of it is our fallen natures. We want the easy path, the painless existence. Part of it is the tendency in this present church age to run to teachings that “scratch our itching ears.” We want to be told that it’s all good. We want to be told that faith is an exemption from tears, trials, and temptations. Couple that together with pastors who desperately seek the favor of men rather than the approval of God and you get the present result. The real tragedy is that the crucial issues of human experience are swept under the rug. Rather than dealing with suffering from a Biblical platform we blame those who find themselves struggling with trials for their lack of faith and push the hurting people to the far corners of the sanctuary.
Before we move to the really deep end of this discussion, why don’t we just let the Bible speak for itself on the matter:
- James 1:2, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,…” Not if. But when. And secondly, he addresses this to the brethren. Yep, that means fellow-believers.
- 1 Peter 1:6, “In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials,…” Necessary? When was the last time you heard a message on necessary suffering?
- John 16:33, “In the world you have tribulation,…” The speaker of this verse? None other than Jesus Himself. What does that popular bumper sticker say? Oh yeah… God said it, I believe it, that settles it.
- 2 Corinthians 4:16, “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us…” What a humbling statement when one considers Paul’s résumé. Next time you think you have it rough take a look at 2 Cor 11:23-33. Paul says that was light affliction. What?
- 1 Peter 4;12, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you;…” Don’t be surprised. And don’t think it’s strange. God’s children are not exempt from tough times.
I could continue but I think we all get the point. Trials, testings, temptations, and tough times are all par for the course. They should be expected, even anticipated. On this side of eternity we are going to encounter difficult and demanding situations. Death, pain, disease, tears, and suffering are part of this sin-fallen world. But so many of His children live in a land of make-believe theology. We are convinced that our righteousness (filthy rags at best) and a past decision to walk down the aisle somehow has placed us in a special category of exemption. We have trained ourselves to believe that bad things only happen to bad people. Unfortunately, it’s just not true. Adversity and suffering come to us all. Even Job realized this when he told his wife, “Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?”
Now, I know what some of you are thinking at this point. “Gee, what a hope-filled devotional!” (Sarcasm is hard to write but I can hear it in your voice :)) Hang on. I’m not finished. Look back at the opening verse to this blog. In Matthew 7 Jesus teaches about 2 different types of people. Both people built a home and both people encountered the same storm. The point of separation however was realized in two areas. The first distinction is that one person listened to the Word of God while the other ignored it. The second major difference? Once the storm had passed, the house belonging to the person who had listened and obeyed was still standing. I have told people for years that the storms of life will eventually find you. And if you are smart, you will do two important things in advance. Accept it. And prepare for it. Suffering will come. You are not exempt.
But suffering doesn’t have to be the final chapter in the story of your life. Be like the man who built his house on the rock. Realize that life is not gonna be all sunshine and summer. Night and winter comes to us all. Don’t wait until it is too late. Don’t wait until the storm is beating down the walls of your life. Get prepared today. Get in his Word and let His Word get into you. Obey what you know to be truth. Build your life on the firm foundation of faith in Christ. That way, when the storm does come, you won’t be surprised and neither will you be undone.