Our sorrows are all, like ourselves, mortal. There are no immortal sorrows for immortal souls. They come, but blessed be God, they also go. Like birds of the air, they fly over our heads. But they cannot make their abode in our souls. We suffer today, but we shall rejoice tomorrow. Charles Spurgeon
Suffering and sorrow will come to all of us at one time or another. We are broken, fallen people living in a broken, fallen world. Trials can tempt us to doubt God’s plan, God’s love, and His sovereign care. We can be plagued with questions such as:
- Is God mad at me?
- Does God love me?
- Does God see me?
- Has God left me?
The one thing suffering definitely accomplishes is changing head knowledge into heart knowledge. Pain, loss, and grief provide the pressure necessary to break open the seeds of truth sown in our minds that life may emerge taking root down deep in our hearts.
Oh, but this breaking open can be painful and confusing! God’s promises are powerful cords of hope during these times. When the ground gives way, they hold us up. Here are three things to remember in a season of suffering.
God will work all things for our good.
Suffering can cause us to question our standing with God and our relationship with Him. We believe that if God is pleased with us and loves us, He would never let anything bad happen to us.
God has never promised His children wouldn’t suffer, but we can be confident God will never let anything happen to us outside His plan to work all things for our good.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
The verse specifically says all things: every tear, every shame, every disappointment, every sacrifice, every pain, every betrayal, every sickness, and every disease.
I understand that in our darkest moments Romans 8:28 may not be the first verse we want quoted to us. This promise isn’t meant to whitewash the great hurts of this life or to simply make suffering easier to swallow, which is sometimes how it is used by well-meaning people.
Romans 8:28 is a promise that turns our suffering on its head. Suffering can touch the child of God, but it cannot have us. Just as the grave could not hold Jesus, suffering cannot hold us (Acts 2:24). Because we are hidden in Christ, (Colossians 3:3) His victory is our victory.
All evil against us, all sickness and disease, all hurt and disappointment, will work for our good. This is an incredible truth and a powerful anchor holding us firm in hope when the storms of life rage.
Suffering is the hardest when we can’t see how a particular trial or evil could be worked for our good, yet, that is how most suffering comes…without any immediate explanation. But, the anchor of God’s promise in Romans 8:28 is heavier than our heaviest doubts. It is stronger than the strongest storm.
He WILL work all things for the good of those who love Him in His perfect way and His perfect timing. When we can’t see the how or the why, we can trust in the God who keeps His promises.
Faith is deliberate confidence in the character of God whose ways you may not understand at the time. Oswald Chambers
Nothing can separate us from God’s love.
In Romans 8:31-39, God goes to great lengths to assure us of His steadfast love for us in Christ Jesus. Nothing, absolutely nothing, can separate us from God’s love.
- Not tribulation
- Not distress
- Not persecution
- Not famine
- Not nakedness
- Not danger
- Not sword
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35-39
This means suffering never comes to a child of God because of a failure of God’s love for them. Suffering also never comes to a child of God as God’s wrath against them.
If you have placed your faith in Jesus as your Savior, you are no longer under condemnation (Romans 8:1). God’s wrath against your sin has been fully satisfied in the finished work of His Son (Romans 5:9). There wasn’t a drop of wrath God held back reserved for you. If this were the case, it would infer a falling short on Jesus’ part.
God loves you so much He sent His only Son, Jesus, to live a perfect life of obedience in your place, to take God’s wrath for the sins you’ve committed (Romans 5:8), and to break the power of death over you by rising again (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). All suffering must be viewed through this lens of incredible love and mercy. It is finished, (John 19:30).
He who did not spare his own son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Romans 8:32
Whatever reason God has in allowing this season of suffering, it isn’t that He doesn’t love you or that He is pouring out His wrath on you. Those saved in Christ are saved to the uttermost and for all eternity.
Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. Hebrews 7:25
God is working.
The entire Bible is a record of God’s work in the world. The Bible isn’t a story about man; it is a story about God: what He has done, what He is doing, and what He will do.
As I study God’s word, I never get the sense that God is ever not at work, but as I study the lives of the men, women, and nations He worked in and through, I see that on earth there are seasons of waiting. God is working, but His plan is not arbitrary. In all things, there is a fullness of time.
Seasons of waiting are not pointless; they are faith-building. It doesn’t take any faith to believe God for that which one can immediately see. It takes great faith to believe God for that which cannot be immediately seen.
Faith-building seasons are important because we are told in Hebrews 11:6, And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
We cannot please God or draw near to Him without faith.
An answer to prayer may be immediate. There is nothing wrong with praying for God’s immediate intervention in our suffering. I have fasted and prayed for healing and deliverance.
Sometimes, though, God doesn’t immediately remove us from the valley of the shadow of death; He doesn’t immediately calm our storms. Instead, He tells us to be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10). Our hope isn’t in the mountaintop or in the placid sea. Our hope is in God.
Those who place their faith in the immediate receiving of gifts and answers will find their faith a slave of the gifts and answers. God wants our hearts to be secure in Him as our greatest treasure. Only then will our hope, peace, and joy be secure.
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Matthew 6:21
There are times when what God is working in us are things which cannot be seen (2 Corinthians 4:18). We may be focused on the thing which can be seen (the disease, the betrayal, the loss, the pain) but God is focused on something only He can see and through our seen physical trial, God is doing a great unseen spiritual work in us: a work of faith.
This is why Joni Eareckson Tada, an incredible woman who was injured in a diving accident as a teenager and has lived as a quadriplegic since, can count it all joy (James 1:2-4), not because the accident and disability in themselves are good, but because she has seen that God is working in her and through her the unseen miracles of faith that are greater than the miracle of physical healing.
Joni’s life and ministry are lavish with the miracles of God, even though she hasn’t experienced the miracle of physical healing…yet. Joni’s physical healing is coming. There will be no wheelchairs in heaven.
Everyone Jesus healed while He was on earth eventually suffered again and died. God’s ultimate plan wasn’t merely to physically heal fallen people for this fallen world, but to make spiritually dead people alive (Ephesians 2:4-6) and all of creation new.
Physical healing in this world is a wonderful gift, but it isn’t the ultimate gift. God made a way for us to be with Him, in His presence, not just physically healed, but spiritually healed, in a world without sin and death (Revelation 21:4-5).
How are the works of God being displayed in you?
In John 9, Jesus encounters a blind beggar. His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
Although we may never fully understand our trials and sufferings, there is one thing for which we can be sure: God desires that His works might be displayed in us.
- Have you made your trial sovereign over God or do you live in the reality that God is sovereign over your trial and that He will work all things for your good and His glory?
- Do you measure God’s love for you by your present circumstances or in Christ’s finished work on your behalf?
- Are you aware of the unseen things of faith God is working in you and through you, not in spite of your suffering, but right through it?
Our hope isn’t found in a life without suffering but in the words of Romans 8:18,
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed in us.