This issue of the Carolina Messenger presents studies surrounding suffering, from the Christian worldview.
Suffering is an inevitable part of life. Physical illness, disease, injuries, broken relationships, death, persecution, natural disasters, and wars; from the consequences of our own choices, as well as the choices of others; remind us that many aspects of affliction, pain and sorrow plague our lives here on the earth. Job said, “Man who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble” (Job 14:1, ESV).
We sometimes ask like Gideon: “Please, sir, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us” (Judg 6:13)? What should our response as Christians be to pain and suffering? We question, “Why me? Why now? What is God doing or not doing”?
Is there a more beneficial way for me to respond to suffering when it enters my personal life? Is there anything I can learn from it? Does my response to human suffering demonstrate faith? Does it demonstrate my love for God and Christ, or for Christ-like character? What about my commitment? My priorities? How can God use suffering in my life to help me, assist someone else, or, fulfill His purpose?
Brother Thomas B. Warren received an invitation to speak on a lectureship in 1963 on the subject, “Christ, Our Contemporary in Suffering.” Previous to this time, he had prepared a manuscript on suffering. It was well received and he continued to study and add to the material eventually publishing it into a book, Our Loving God: Our Sun and Shield. It has served as a meaningful study of suffering as a Christian.
In that volume, Dr. Warren observed the depth of loss Job experienced and how he still maintained his trust in God:
When one loses his possessions, he can usually gain strength and assurance from his children, his wife, his friends. If he still has his good health and his sense of his place and worth as an individual, he can gain strength and comfort from them and launch out anew. If one also loses (in addition to his wealth), his health, and his children, he can still grasp the hand of his wife, and the two may give strength to one another. But when Job lost his wealth, his children, and his health, his wife also failed him. If, after his wife had failed him, he had retained his good health, he might have gone on alone. A healthy body gives one a vitality of outlook which is difficult to attain when one is in ill health. But even after Job had lost everything upon which many human beings depend, he retained his faith in the one true living God (National Christian Press, Inc., Colleyville, 2003; 96).
Trusting God in times of suffering is the only avenue that will support our peace of mind and patient perseverance. Trust in our Heavenly Father will cause us to:
Accept suffering and not blame God. We must realize we may never understand “why” (Isa 55:8-9).
Acknowledge the inevitability of death. As Christians, we view with eternity in focus, not years on earth (Ps 90:10).
Always strive to be obedient to the Will of God. The perfect example of Christ is our pattern in the realm of suffering and obedience. “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him” (Heb 5:7-9). We have the choice to make pain and suffering a part of the process of growing our faith.
Jesus Christ trusted God the Father through His pain and suffering. “…When he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Pet 2:21-23). “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. O Lord of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you” (Ps 84:11-12)!
A special thank you to the writers of this issue. It is our hope that the content is beneficial to you or someone you know.