Saturday, February 16, 2013

Five Bible Verses on how to Handle Suffering

Suffering is something that we as Christians go through daily. This is not a perfect world, not at all! So how should we react to suffering? It's good to know how to take it when God puts challenges before us. The Bible has a lot to say about. Let's take a look.

1. John 16:33
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world."
This verse tells us plainly that God gave us his word so that in the world we would have peace. Yes that's right, peace! We can have peace even during our suffering and struggles. If we enrich ourselves with the word of God daily, it won't matter what happens to us. We can actually have total peace. This peace comes from knowing, through and through that no matter what happens God is in control. It's knowing that even if we sin, we are forgiven through Jesus Christ. This passage in John also says "in the world you will have tribulation." It doesn't say that once we're saved it's all going to be meadows and flowers, nope! You will have tribulation. Expect this tribulation. So the passage is telling us, read my God's worse, and take peace from it. You will have troubles, but remember, God overcomes the entire world. So even though our trials and troubles seem so in our faces and real, remember, God is more powerful. Much more powerful! Infinitely more powerful.
2. Hebrews 12:11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
This passage in Hebrews is brilliant! It says so much in so few words! As a journalist I can truly respect that. It's saying that in the short term, maintaining discipline, like attending church, doing good things for yourself that you might not necessarily want to do is difficult. And it's not pleasant either. That was my experience when I made a big change and started doing things that were good for me. I didn't like it. I found it to be extremely uncomfortable. And as humans, we assume after the first two weeks it's always going to be that hard. And then we assume that such a lifestyle is unsustainable because it's so difficult and uncomfortable. The second part of this passage tells us that this discipline in the long term yields peaceful fruit. It yields righteousness to those who are trained by it. This is telling us that should we allow this period of forcing ourselves to do good things teach us. It's telling us that if we keep an open mind that it will grow within us and yield peace in our lives. From my experience, whether it's quitting smoking or exercising more the first two weeks are really really hard. And then after that it becomes like second nature, as long as we keep practicing it. After a few months, I start to love the change because I see the positives appearing in my life.

3. James 1:2-4 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
The dictionary defines steadfastness as "firmly in place." James is telling us that we shouldn't only not loath our trials, but we should welcome them and be excited for how they will change us! This passage refers directly to trials that test our faith. It's explained that by our faith being tested it grows, and we plant ourselves even deeper within it. The second sentence in the passage asks us to let our steadfastness grow, that we may become more complete from our trials. The word perfect is used, so yes, perfection is something to strive for.

4. 1 Peter 4:12-19 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. ...
This passage from Peter begins with telling us to not be surprised by the trials that come upon us. The word "fiery" is used, and this powerful word certainly seems to suggest extreme difficulty. It's asking us to not be confused when it happens to us! In fact it says to rejoice that we suffer as Christ suffered! The next sentence tells us we are blessed if we are insulted or ridiculed for Christian beliefs. Why? It means that God trusts you so much in your faith that he is testing you in it, and also using you as an example of how to live a proper life to unbelievers. It's telling us to rejoice because it means we have received the holy spirit. The next sentence is a great warning though, it tells us not to suffer because we have actually committed a sin. It's not something to be proud of if we're guilty of harming ourselves or others with our behavior. The last part of this verse tells us to not be ashamed and to bring glory to God through a proper Christian life.

5. 1 Peter 5:10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
So you're being tested right now. You've read through the four quotes above telling us to be peaceful, to be trained by good deeds, to be steadfast, and to not be surprised. But what comes next? Where is this trial going? It's going to end, eventually. You're going to receive new wisdom from the trial. You'll be restored, strengthened, and established once again. Trusting completely that God will restore us can take so much of the weight and emotion out of a trial or tribulation. But remember, if you're suffering because of your own sin, you'll have to end the sinning to escape the tribulation! This isn't easy to do. But God loves us, and if we pray for his help he will give it. This passage in Peter reminds us that it isn't by works or sacrifice that God restores us, it's by his grace. The perfect love of God forgives all, and restores us.