When someone we care about and love is suffering or we are suffering pain, anguish and turmoil ourselves, usually the first thing we ask is:
“Why God? Why must there be suffering? Why me? Why them? Why don’t you do something?”
There may be lots of reasons why we don’t know and never completely understand. I have found recently in reading II Corinthians as Apostle Paul shares openly and honestly on his personal struggles, sufferings, feelings of loneliness, despair and pain (that forever present thorn in his flesh); I am somewhat comforted and encouraged to know that someone with such a great calling of God upon his life to carry the gospel of Jesus Christ to the world, suffered and endured much hardship. Paul had many near death experiences that included shipwrecks, beatings and stonings and yet He knew well what he was supposed to do, he knew his calling and his purpose and he was determined to fulfill his destiny on earth. He was a man that knew God was always with him, never leaving Him alone in his sufferings.
The most profound messages to The Early Church are found in Paul’s letters. As a writer myself, I love that he sat with pen in hand pouring his heart out onto paper and corresponded with the churches encouraging and inspiring them to grow up, mature and become all that God had planned for them and then at times he reprimanded and corrected their wrong doings yet always in love. He poured his heart and soul into his letters, but the the one that touches my heart the most is II Corinthians, explaining his personal agony and sufferings.
To maybe better understand and shed some light on why we must suffer at times in our lives, I found that II Corinthians 1:4,9,11 tells us three reasons why. There are others, but these are what touched me.
1. Verse 4: Says “That through suffering, we may be able to comfort those who are in affliction…”
God often allows suffering so that we may be able to have compassion for someone else that is suffering a loss or illness and be able to minister encouraging, up lifting words and generous acts of kindness to comfort and bring healing to them in their time of pain. Let’s say you have suffered through the loss of a child and in burying your baby, the pain and emptiness left a void, an open pit deep in your heart, the agony and grief is so great, but moment by moment, hour by hour and eventually day by day you have miraculously made it through. Time has helped to lessen the pain, the memories are alive and you still have sadness associated with not having your child with you, but you have survived and are still breathing and living. That in itself is honoring the loss of your child. You are alive and remain and will continue to live on until you meet them again in eternity. Now, you know how someone else losing a child feels and you are able to empathize and touch them in a positive way, encouraging them to hold onto the memories, walk through the stages of grief at their own pace, but continue to breathe and live their life. Likewise, if you have suffered through depression, divorce, a debilitating illness, caring for a dying loved one, job loss, bankruptcy or homelessness; you feel synonymous with them remembering the pain you endured. You are able to be moved with compassion, sharing with them your story and who knows, maybe a ministry and outreach will develop from out of your suffering. Your testimony and sharing how you came through is vitally important and can bring the encouragement and strength someone else needs to continue on. Your life can be a living and healing testimony.
2. Verse 9: Suffering so “That we not trust in ourselves only….” God wants us to depend upon Him, to realize we can’t do it alone. We need Him completely. We also are part of a big family and we have many brothers and sisters, we need others too in our lives. We are reminded to not be prideful, thinking we are invincible and all self-sufficient, that we are the top of the totem pole needing nothing and no one beside us throughout our life. We are delusional if we think we are all powerful, almighty and can do it all on our own. Our fleshly strong bodies and our good looks now, grow old and fade and we eventually die, returning to dust, we are but a vapor here today and gone tomorrow, but it is our spirit man that lives eternal. When we are broken, crushed and at our lowest point in life, we always call out to God, when we need Him most. But we are dependent upon Him all the time, we need Him everyday, in every way and His grace and His mercies and His love are always new every morning for us. So often suffering a loss reminds us of that dependence upon Him.
3. Verse 11: Suffering so “That thanks may be given….” God wants us to be thankful, to have a heart of gratitude for the blessings in our lives. Often times we take so much for granted, forgetting what and who is really important and should be top priority in our lives. We think it will always be there for us when we want it. But suffering a loss often gets our attention to remind us of the great blessing and joy those things and special people are to us. Sad to say, but when something and someone is taken from our lives, we realize how important and how blessed we were. So be grateful today, we don’t have to lose it before we see the blessing right in front of us.
Suffering is part of living in a fallen world; a place where sin abounds, evil is rampant, people choose to do bad things in killing and hurting one another and satan goes about seeing whom he can steal from, kill and destroy.
BUT God is greater still and as we invite Him into our lives, our hearts, our homes, our relationships, everything that we do and say and we are thankful for all our blessings and we continually prepare ourselves for His Kingdom to be established here on earth even as it is Heaven and we pray that His will be done in all that concerns us; we can rest assured in Him, having faith that no matter what is going on and no matter what happens….. Everything is working out for our good. It may not make sense now, all the jagged and rough pieces just don’t seem to fit anywhere, they aren’t lining up, but they will eventually and we will look back and say, “Oh, that’s why!”
So, without the darkness; would we truly appreciate the light?
Without the storms; would we enjoy the sunshine as much?
Without the bitter, numbing , long chill of winter; would the sweet, warm, fragrant aroma of new life in spring be as welcomed?
Without the valleys; would the mountain summit be as exhilarating?
Without the dry desert places; would the cool, crisp, clean streams be as refreshing?
Without the tears and agony of letting go when we want to hold on; would the warm embrace of a long awaited reunion be as exciting?
Without losing; would winning be as sweet?
Without the heartbreak of a first love; would finding the one true love be as fulfilling?
Without walking through the shadow of death; would we value the cries of a newborn babies life as well?
Without tests; would we have a testimony?
Without trials; would we triumph?
Without evil; would we see the good?
Without pain; would we know what healing is?
Without suffering and loss; would we really understand how reconciliation and grace work in our lives?
I don’t think so!
Be encouraged, be strong and keep looking ahead! The very best in you is yet to be revealed!
Tonya F Henshaw
September 2, 2014