by Shawn Brasseaux
It was certainly never fun to receive the tetanus shot, the flu shot, or the meningitis shot. We get so worked up about the pinch, it shifts our focus away from the reason why we got the shot in the first place—TO HELP, not hurt. We Christians should view our earthly trials and tribulations just as we view those immunizations. Of course they hurt, yet we are so pessimistic we tend to overlook the benefits that God will bring about. The “pinch” is but for a moment; the results are eternal.
You probably heard the erroneous idea that God promises the Christian a life free of trouble and suffering. On the contrary, the Bible confirms that we will heartbreak, sickness, misery, and death. “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12 KJV). God has not promised to insulate us from “immunizations” in our lives. God loves us, but we live in a fallen world filled with sin. Our suffering never originates from God; His permissive will allows us to suffer in this nasty world of sin and death.
As Christians, our suffering can originate from three sources: the devil and his minions, the choice of us and others making bad decisions, and the curse of sin and corruption. Man’s sin initiated suffering in the Garden of Eden: this brought about the curse, and both physical and spiritual death. As long as we are on this planet in this life, we must experience suffering, and there is no getting around that. Romans 8:18-25 KJV:
“18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
19 For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.
20 For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope
21 Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
22 For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.
23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.
24 For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?
25 But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.”
Even the Lord Jesus Christ was no exception: He suffered more than any man EVER has or ever will!
For a second illustration, think of a beautiful white pearl. From where does it come? On rare occasions, a grain of sand will find its way into the shell of a mollusk (an oyster, for instance), or perhaps a parasite is irritating an oyster inside its shell. As a defense mechanism, the oyster secretes layers of calcium carbonate, sealing off and encapsulating the irritant. Imagine that: the suffering of an oyster produces a magnificent pearl! Just like the painful immunizations are bringing positive results, the trouble that poor oyster experienced produced a beautiful, valuable gemstone.
“In order to appreciate the light, you must first be in darkness.” We appreciate God more when we are put into the predicament of needing Him more. If we lived perfect lives with no suffering, we would have no reason to rely on God to help us through our troubles because we would not have any troubles! But, God has a special purpose for allowing a Christian to suffer—read what the Bible says in Romans 5:1-5 KJV:
“1 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
2 By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
3 And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;
4 And patience, experience; and experience, hope:
5 And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”
God does not enjoy seeing us Christians suffer. Our parents felt pity on us as they watched us struggle and squirm in pain for that brief instant, but the immunization was for our own good. Likewise, the Lord knows that our endurance through hard times will mature us spiritually. When we suffer, we pray more and we study God’s Word more. Our inner man grows stronger, more aware of false teaching, and we feel a greater reliance on the Lord. We realize we cannot make it on our own strength; it is a daily reminder we must get (and do receive). And look at what Paul wrote in verse 3: glory in tribulations—rejoice when you suffer, because you know God is still in control, and He is giving you an opportunity to grow spiritually! We can endure all the suffering life will throw at us, because “Christ strengtheneth us” (Philippians 4:13).
Let us consider 2 Corinthians 4:7-11 KJV:
“7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.
8 We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;
9 Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;
10 Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.
11 For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.”
In conclusion, God does not take us to heaven the moment we are saved. Instead He leaves us here to grow and mature in Him. He uses us to witness to the lost world, to be His vessels, to be His ambassadors, to be His ministers of reconciliation. We grow in the Lord when we suffer in this present world. Look at 1 Corinthians 10:13 KJV: “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” God will help us bear the trouble in Christ!!
As we Christians, God can use us to reach out to the lost world that is suffering under the bondage of sin and death. The Lord utilizes our suffering to show the world how He strengthens us to endure our trials. When the lost world sees us suffering, they get the chance to see how Christ handles stress and trouble. Without your suffering, this would be impossible for the world to see.
Suffering is never pleasant, and perhaps you are going through a tough time right now. You may feel like God does not love you because He does not deliver you from your suffering. But again, those feelings we have are wrong because the crosswork of Christ proved that God loves us (Romans 5:8). The important thing to remember is to focus on the Lord: keep your eyes on Him, talk to Him, read and study His Word, and He will comfort you with His Word.
Even when the poor Apostle Paul suffered with his “thorn in the flesh,” God did not remove his suffering; instead, He comforted Paul, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9 KJV). This is exactly what God tells you today: “While I will not completely remove the burdens and troubles in your life, I will give you the strength and the grace to endure and triumph over them. It will be okay; I am in complete control of it all.”
“3 Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;
4 Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.
5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.
6 And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.
7 And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.
8 we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life:
9 But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead:
10 Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us;” (2 Corinthians 1:3-10 KJV).