A woman was at work when she received a phone call that her daughter was very sick with a fever. She hurried to her car only to find out she had locked her keys inside. As she was about to give up, God sent a man who had just got out of prison to open her car with a hanger.
Sometimes in our effort to overcome suffering, help comes from odd places. In the book of James we are told to rejoice under the cross and to ask God for patience in our trials. The book tells us not to attribute our weakness to the lack of strength we receive from Christ but rather to respond to His Word with prayer and meditation and to get to work.
From early times to the present we have been asking why there is so much suffering in the world. As we review the terrible events that happen with the beheading of Christians and the police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, I imagine there was and is untold suffering going on. If God is our maker, why is there so much suffering? If God is love and compassion, why is there so much pain, death and destruction in the world? There does not seem to be satisfactory answers to these questions. But if you understand Jesus you will understand the answer. We suffer because there is no other way to grow spiritually. We suffer because only through suffering can we become aware. And awareness is the key, and believe it or not, there is a reward for suffering when we understand it.
There are two ways of understanding suffering. The first way to understand suffering is to see it as a blessing that brings alertness and awareness. What do I mean? I mean it is only after we suffer that we become truly aware of what we need to do to serve God better. The Bible says, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial.” Only those who have suffered and gone beyond the things of this world are able to persevere through suffering. Those who have not grown, they have to learn through greater suffering. Suffering through the same mistakes is learning the hard way. There is no shortcut. That hard way is greater suffering. Don’t protect yourself against suffering; rather on the contrary, move into suffering as fully aware as possible. Take the challenge, encounter it! You will grow through it. Try to transcend it, go beyond it. Become alert when you are in pain. The more alert you are, the more aware.
The second way to understand suffering is to see it as the favor of God. Hebrews 12: 6 says, “The Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” The scriptures say, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” To suffer is to live. Jesus on the cross is a symbol of the final suffering, the absolute suffering, of the peak of suffering. When Jesus was on the cross, at the last moment he wavered a little. The suffering was too much. It was no ordinary suffering, not ordinary bodily pain; it was anguish – not only physical, but deep psychological anguish. And the anguish was this: that suddenly He started feeling, “Am I abandoned by God? Why should this happen to me? I have not done anything wrong. Why should I be crucified? Why this pain? Why this suffering?! And He asked God, “Why?” He questioned. It must have been a very deep moment of anguish, when all the foundations are shaken and even your faith is shaken. The pain was so much – the humiliation of the whole thing. Then suddenly He became aware; at the moment of crucifixion He came to the perfect awareness. At that moment He went from Jesus to Christ– suddenly He took His place in the Trinity. When we understand suffering as a blessing and favor of God we are able to endure it and receive the “crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” Like the blessing and favor bestowed upon Jesus, in our moment of greatest despair, God does for us what we cannot do for ourselves and because we love Him, He will see us through anything.