“O God, Creator of mankind, I do not aspire to comprehend you or your creation, nor to understand pain or suffering. I aspire only to relieve the pain and suffering of others, and I trust in doing so I may understand more clearly your nature, that you are the Father of all mankind, and that the hairs of my head are numbered” (Saint Francis of Assisi 1181–1226).
Suffering is an inevitable consequence of life. There is no easy answer to this question of suffering or why some people seem to have a particularly heavy burden of pain to bear. Walter Kaufmann wrote: “Faith in immortality, like belief in God, leaves unanswered the ancient question: Is God unable to prevent suffering, and thus not omnipotent? Or is he able and not willing and thus not merciful? And is he just?” Some day-in Heaven-we will understand everything fully: “Now we see but a poor reflection; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12 NIV).
We will all suffer at some time – as a result of sickness, a bereavement or some personal incident; because of war or injury; because of economic circumstances that has caused so many to lose their homes. And nature does not withhold its pain. Earthquakes, droughts, floods and bushfires cause people untold suffering. Australia and New Zealand recently remembered the landing at Gallipoli in the first world war where those combined services, the ANZAC’s, lost a generation on the battlefields of Turkey and Northern Europe. Much of the world is suffering because of the pandemic with many fatalities.
Suffering is one of the unavoidable passages in life. James doesn’t say IF you face trials, but WHENEVER you face them. He assumes that we will have trials and that it is possible to profit from them. The point is not to pretend to be happy when we face suffering, but to have a positive outlook because of what trials can produce in our life. James tells us to turn our hardships into times of learning. Tough times can teach us patience (see James 1:2,3). Because of the sufferings of Christ, Peter was prompted to write in his first letter: “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed……So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good” (1 Peter 4:11,12,19 NIV).
Remember that God is with you in the midst of suffering. We are not abandoned because God has said: “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5 NIV). Turn your eyes away from your situation and in faith turn to Jesus and thank Him for suffering and dying on the cross for you. Thomas a Kempis (C.1380-1471) wrote: “Accept suffering graciously. When you have reached such a point, all misery will seem sweet and you will relish it for Christ’s sake and think that you have discovered paradise on earth. As long as you object to suffering you will be ill at ease. Accept it, and you will find peace.”
Have a good week. If you are suffering now remember that Jesus did not come to explain away suffering or remove it. He came to fill it with his presence.
Pastor Ron Clarke
Optional Bible reading: 1 Peter 4:12-19.
This is one of a series of weekly messages of encouragement, now in its twenty-sixth year, originating from Gympie, Fraser Coast, Queensland, Australia. A companion Bible study page is available each week. To subscribe via email send to email@example.com with the words ‘Subscribe Word (or) Subscribe Word & Study’. Our ministry is free and emailing lists are confidential. Tell a friend or why not put a note in your church newsletter or pew sheet about this ministry – we welcome new subscriptions. Pastor Ron Clarke OAM Word for the Week Mbl.: +61 488 424 321see