His Presence in the Suffering - Ardith Figgins

I don’t like to suffer. I do not like to see those I love suffer, nor do I like to see the suffering of those who are homeless, hungry, or caught up in situations of violence. Something in me rebels at that kind of pain in my life or in the world in general. I often find myself asking God to take away pain: the pain of illnesses, death, and hard circumstances. And yet, He often does not do that. So then I wonder if maybe that isn’t the way I should pray. Maybe God is doing a work in me or others through that very pain that will benefit not only those in pain, but the kingdom as well. I’m convinced God does’t want that pain in his creation either, but since it is there, He will and does use it for good. Should I stop praying for relief from pain? I haven’t. The solution for me is to continue to pray for relief from pain as my desire, but to put it in God’s hands to work in the situation in such a way that He will be most glorified, and then to pray for Him to give those in the midst of the suffering comfort, patience, strength, and an assurance of His presence as they go through the suffering.

But it seems to me there should be an easier way for me to enjoy God’s work in my life and even the fact that I have a life, than to go through suffering. I believe that was God’s desire when He created mankind, even though He knew we were going to mess it up. And there is where the problem lies. We mess up. Those around us mess up. Suffering is in the world because we mess up. God, by his grace, then comes in and cleans up our messes. He doesn’t ‘fix things.” He cleans things up. There is a difference. While Jesus was speaking to his disciples about His death, He said to them, “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world," (John 16:33b). Jesus still died; the disciples were still persecuted, but He “overcame the world.” He rose again, conquering death and making it possible to live in relationship with God in the here and now, as well as into eternity.

There is another kind of suffering though that can seem contradictory to Jesus’ promise in John 10:10 when he says, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” He also says in Luke 9:23, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”

This suffering too is a result of sin in the world, but it is specifically suffering caused by those who deny Jesus and try to make life miserable (sometimes that is a very mild way to put it) for those who follow him. In John 15:20 Jesus said, “Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” And in James 1:2-4 we read, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Abundant life carrying a cross daily! Really?

If suffering is inevitable, and following Jesus increases our suffering, what does it look like to “have life to the full” or to be “mature and complete, not lacking anything?” It is obvious it does’t mean a life of ease, or a life full of all the things we desire. We often make a serious mistake by indicating to non-believers that if they will just “get their lives right with God, everything will work out.”

Some of the things the abundant life looks like to me are:

May the God of Peace be with you through your suffering, bringing you life to the full!

Ardith Figgins
Volunteer | Hope City Church