All of us here have had lives that are not perfect. Stuff just goes wrong, we get sick or we struggle with long term illness, we had imperfect parents growing up or children or people in general hurt us or let us down. There are also those things like fires, floods, earthquakes, storms that upset our daily lives.
In my own life I have had many struggles… (this section included very personal testimonies of suffering and is not included on the website).
So as a family, and for me personally, we know that it is to suffer and go through hard times. My life could be described in two parts – the first part was pain, suffering and hopelessness, the second is to hope, healing and purpose.
Like the two pictures on the screen. The first part suffering looked like this. After coming to know Christ, my suffering looks more like this.
Everything changed for me when someone told me about Jesus. My life started to make sense and started to take a different course when I accepted Jesus into my life. It got a lot better.
Don’t get me wrong though, everything didn’t just suddenly become perfect and I did not suffer at all, it is just that God helped me through the pain and suffering. Many of the bad things happened in the last few years. So, I still know what pain and suffering is.
Today I want to tell you of seven ways God helps us in our times of pain and suffering. I hope they will help you and encourage you.
Point 1 – God helps us to understand why there is pain suffering
Genesis 3:1-7 – The serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the LORD God had made. One day he asked the woman, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?” 2 “Of course we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,” the woman replied. 3 “It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God said, ‘You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.'” 4 “You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. 5 “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.” 6 The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful, and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So, she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too. 7 At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So, they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves.
Genesis 3:16-17 – Then He said to the woman, “I will sharpen the pain of your pregnancy, and in pain you will give birth. And you will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you. ” 17 And to the man He said, “Since you listened to your wife and ate from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat, the ground is cursed because of you. All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it.
One of the biggest questions I had in the process of coming to faith in Christ is “Why could God let me suffer so much?” Like many people I wonder how a loving God could allow so much pain and suffering in the world. However, when we look at suffering through the lens of sin and the fall of man in Genesis 3, it helps us to understand why. When Adam and Eve were tempted by the serpent (Satan) and disobeyed God, sin entered the world. The perfect sinless creation with food, provision, shelter and protection was changed forever. Adam and Eve were cast out of paradise and pain entered their and our worlds. They had to work and toil over the land to produce food and there was pain in child birth. There was suddenly thorns, thistles, pain and suffering.
Before Christ and reading the Bible, I thought it was just all random chance. But after understanding the Fall, it helped to give me some background and context of suffering. This helped.
Point 2 – God is our refuge who promises to help us
Psalm 46:1 – “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”
Psalm 16:1 – Keep me safe, O God, for in you I take refuge.
God promises to help us. He is our ever present and our refuge and our strength. A refuge is a place you can go to, to get away. A place where you know help will be and you will find comfort. There are so many times in my life where I never thought I could go on, but by knowing God is helping me and my refuge got me through.
I find it interesting that the Hebrew word for refuge used in Psalms is makh-seh’. This means a place of shelter, refuge, hope, trust.
One thing that I have got better at as I have gotten older, is to allow God to be my refuge. Rather than soldering on, I allow myself to stop, feel the pain, and allow God to wrap His arms around me. This is why I took last week off, to allow myself time to grieve and allow God to comfort me. If you are going through something at the moment, I would encourage you to take the time to stop and allow God to be your refuge and strength.
Point 3 – God promises to never leave us
Hebrews 13:5 tell us that “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.”
Psalms 23:4 – Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for You are close beside me. Your rod and Your staff protect and comfort me.
Knowing that God will never leave me has helped. In the early part of my life through all the struggles of family life, terrible health and depression I felt so desperately alone. I felt like no-one really knew me and my struggles. Most of the people I loved either hurt me or died. But God promises to never fail me and never abandon me. God will never leave you either. He promises to be right by your side. Through thick and thin God is there and He is not going anywhere.
Point 4 – God says our suffering can have purpose
Romans 8:28 says “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.”
At the time our suffering does not make sense. It is just hard and seems unfair. But God tells us that He can use our suffering for good. I have lost track of the times that the things I have been through have helped others. I have lost track of the times when I have been able to help people diagnose diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis, people who are suffering depression, people who have come from broken families who have suffered abuse, people who have no hope for the future, the list goes on. Pain and suffering can have purpose in this life if we allow God to recycle our pain.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says, “All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. 4 He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”
God is the ultimate recycler. He can and will use our pain to help others.
Point 5 – God understands our suffering
Isaiah 53:2-5 – My Servant grew up in the LORD’s presence like a tender green shoot, like a root in dry ground. There was nothing beautiful or majestic about His appearance, nothing to attract us to Him. 3 He was despised and rejected–a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on Him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. 4 Yet it was our weaknesses He carried; it was our sorrows that weighed Him down. And we thought His troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for His own sins! 5 But He was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.
Jesus understood suffering. He lived amongst us. He experienced rejection for His people, separation from His Father, and the pain and suffering of the cross. We don’t worship a far off and distant God, we worship a Saviour who gave up His divine privileges and walked this earth amongst us. Philippians 2:5-11 tells us all about what Jesus did. It talks about how He left the glories of heaven to live amongst us and complete the work of salvation.
Point 6 – God promises to give us strength
Philippians 4:13 says, “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”
God promises to give us strength and there are times when we really need it. This is something that I have prayed for a lot over the years. Sometimes I imagine getting to heaven and seeing the things that I have prayed for most. Close to the top of the list will be “Lord give me help, I need strength to do this”. And God always does help. Somehow, I am able to do what I need to do.
I was reminded again afresh this week that the Apostle Paul said these words after he listed a catalogue of his trials and suffering. Beaten, shipwrecked, hungry, rejected, stoned by rocks and left to die. He did not say them from an island paradise, he said them from the harsh realities of life. The Lord gave him strength. The Lord gives us strength too.
Point 7 – God promises that suffering will not last forever
Revelation 21:1-4 – Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. 2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among His people! He will live with them, and they will be His people. God Himself will be with them. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”
God promises that one day we will live in heaven and there will be no more pain and suffering. No more sadness and no more death. No one will hurt us or abuse us. No one will cause us harm. We will be loved and accepted and experience perfect peace. This gives me comfort. This gives me hope. Jesus IS preparing an eternal place for us and His IS coming back for us (John 14:2). And in this place, there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. As I have said many times before, we will spend way more time with Jesus than we will in this life.
We can’t escape suffering, but God can help us make sense of it, comfort us and help us through. I will finish with the red-letter words of Jesus from John 16:33…
“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in Me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
- God helps us to understand why there is suffering
- God is our refuge who promises to help
- God promises to neve leave us during our suffering
- God assures us that our suffering has purpose
- God understands our suffering
- God promises to give us strength
- God promises that our suffering will not last forever