If you are caught up in a storm of suffering
1. Be free to speak honestly and angrily about your suffering
The top sufferers in the bible always expressed their honest anger to God
Job:The arrows of the Almighty are in me…. God’s terrors are marshaled against me……What strength do I have that I should still hope? What prospects that I should be patient? (Job.6)My complaint is bitter; God’s hand on me is heavy in spite of my groaning. If I only knew where to find Him; If only I could state my case before Him and fill my mouth with arguments…….(Job23)
David:I dwell with You as a stranger ……. Look away from me that I may rejoice again before I depart and am no more (Ps. 39)
Jesus:My God, My God, Why have You forsaken me ?
2. But take your honesty and anger to God
Ps. 126 is helpful: Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.
Tears are seed, if you aim them right, you will soon get a harvest of joy. If you bottle them up – sit on your bag of tears – there can be no harvest of joy. If you cast indiscriminately to faithless ones – there can not be harvest of joy.(Tim Keller)
3. Beware of expectations leading to disillusionment
Bible sufferers’ normal response to suffering is usually more about God letting them down than about the suffering itself.
Martha:Her first words to Jesus when He arrived after Lazarus’ death Joh.11:21 “Where were You?”
Disciples :Woke Jesus up and said “Don’t You care if we drown” instead of” please save us”
In both instances they were actually more concerned about the sincerity of God rather than the issue itself . If you have a faulty theology of suffering, then when suffering happens to you, then you will find yourself with the double trauma of weeping about the thing that made you weep, as well as weeping with disillusionment in God, And you may sink under the double load.
4. Beware the myth that Christianity means no trouble
The suffering of believers is a major biblical theme:
Peter:Dear friends do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you (1Pet.4:12)
James:Consider it pure joy when you face trials of many kinds (James1:2)
Paul:Everyone who lives a godly life in Christ will have persecutions(2Tim.3:12)
Jesus:I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (Joh.16:33)
At this point you may observe a character called Christian myth enter and say:If I am a good Christian, God will not let bad things happen to me. If I tithe, read my bible, speak my faith, have Ps,91 bumper sticker on my car at all times, then I will live in perfect health, wealth and success.
Let’s put this myth to the test:It is actually pretty hard to find a biblical character that didn’t have some significant season of suffering.
Then, Christian myth says: “The reason you are suffering is because you are either sinful or lacking faith”. This is clearly a myth because there was of course a sinless One with perfect faith.. and He was a man of sorrows, acquainted with suffering. Do you see the illogic here? ‘I want to be like Jesus ‘ but I know that He won’t let bad stuff happen to me’.
CS Lewis:If you are looking for ease and comfort look for a bottle of port, not Christianity.
5. Understand the age that we are living in
Although we should prayerfully resist the attack of the enemy. Equally, we must not ignore scriptures that teach us that the ‘tough stuff’ is part of this present age we live in and lets long for what is to come:
Apostle Paul:When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: Death has been swallowed up in victory (1Cor.15:52-54)
Apostle John:Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth….He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away (Rev.21:3-4)
Present suffering feeds the glory of the next age:
6. Do not fear for God sustains us in seasons of suffering
In times of great suffering on earth there is always great support from heaven:
In fact there is a kind of God encounter that actually is only available through suffering. And those who dive in the seas of affliction bring up the rarest rearls.
7. Do not prematurely evaluate what God is doing in your life
All things work together for good for those who love the Lord(Rom.8:28)
Of this scripture Michael Eaton said: “When everything is going wrong actually everything is going right. Our sovereign God is orchestrating events for your good and His glory . He is ultimately working the good for the good and the bad for the good.
8. Do not doubt the character of God
John Piper:How can I believe when God is in control when something bad happens? It is hard, and we don’t make light of it. We don’t blow it off as act chipper. We hug. We weep with those who weep. And we embrace. But when the question arise – and it will arise, sometime sooner or later – as to were was God in all this, two things are essential :
9. Do not bow down to either of these idols
The idol of understanding:
‘Unless I make sense of this I will doubt Your goodness and sovereignty and I will not worship You’.
The idol of personal choice:
‘The issue of personal choice is now so important to me that I will let that deity determine where, what and how I live, rather than listening to God.
10 Respond worshipfully and thankfully
Sarah Edwards wife of Jonathan Edwardswrote to their daughter when Jonathan died in the mid-fifties: God has covered us with a dark cloud. Oh that we may kiss the rod that He lays on our back and not complain. The Lord has done it. God has helped me adore His goodness that we had your father for so long, but my God lives and He has my heart.
Job:The Lord gives. The Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.