The Problem with Suffering, Part 4
RECENTLY, THESE WORDS WERE READ BY A COLLEAGUE OF MINE giving testimony to how God has used his suffering to shape his life in a good and powerful way. Paul Reid is a pastor at Hope International Church in Waltham, MA. He was recently diagnosed with a rare neurological disorder known as Fahr’s Disease. It is a progressive and degenerative disease, which among other things, leads to the loss of basic motor skills.
When my friend read the words of the Apostle Paul, I felt like I heard them with renewed clarity. Why? They were read by someone who was a living testament to the truth of these words. In fact, my friend even confessed that though this disease is debilitating and his future is uncertain, he wouldn’t rewrite the script of his life because of the way this disease has deepened his faith and enriched his relationships. In other words, his suffering has done a refining work in his life.
I listened to a sermon he preached on Job 2. In it he referred to the Council of Nicaea which met in 325 B.C. From this council came one of our most basic confessions of Christian faith, the Nicaean Creed. Paul pointed out that of the 318 delegates at Council of Nicaea, only 12 were whole in body. All the other delegates bore the marks of persecution and suffering for their faith. Some had lost an eye or a hand while others had broken bones or dismembered limbs. Reflecting on this, he noted that the character of the early church was of such that they expected suffering to be the normal experience of life and of faith. And then he said, “It seems only in the modern world we have come to expect something different than this.”
I think that is true when it comes to suffering in general. Not to minimize the struggle that suffering brings to our lives, at the same time, we need to recognize that suffering is not without meaning or purpose. It does have a redemptive and refining role in our lives.
Consider this famous poem by an unknown author.
When God wants to drill a man, and thrill a man and skill a man,
When God wants to mold a man to play the noblest part,
When he yearns with all His heart to create so great and bold a man,
That all the world should be amazed,
Watch His methods, watch His ways:
How he ruthlessly perfects whom He royally elects;
And with mighty blows converts him into shapes and forms of clay Which only God can understand,
While man’s tortured heart is crying and he lifts beseeching hands;
Yet, God bends but never breaks when man’s good he undertakes;
How he uses whom he chooses
And with mighty power infuses him,
With every act induces him to try His splendor out,
God knows what He’s about.
So take comfort, even when you don’t understand why you are facing whatever it is that God has for you. Know that it is not a waste of time or meaningless. Rather, God is producing endurance, character and hope. And remember, because of Jesus, hope does not disappoint.
If you are looking for an encouraging word in your own suffering, listen to Paul’s sermon on Job 2.
So there is an upside to suffering. In fact, it appears to me, that there are certain things – namely, endurance, character and hope – that are formed in us through suffering.
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