“God never wastes a hurt”—Rick Warren
Have you experienced suffering? On the night before he died, Jesus prayed for his disciples and those who would come to believe in him as a result of their message. He knew that he was facing intense suffering, and that his followers would also suffer.
“I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. They do not belong to this world any more than I do. Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth” (John 17:15-19 NLT).
Jesus didn’t pray that life would be perfect for his followers. In fact, he stressed that we don’t belong to this world. He prayed that God would protect them from evil influences and that their lives would be made holy. When we face suffering like Jesus did, we need his perspective.
Life often feels like a roller coaster. One moment you’re up and in an instant you’re down, for what feels like an eternity. Those low moments feel like life is repeatedly punching you in the face, with no end in sight. In those moment of suffering we may to cry out to God, asking why is this happening to me! Eugene Peterson paraphrases Jesus’ response: “You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do” (John 9:3-5 MSG).
What a statement! Instead of getting caught up in the spiral of self-pitying why questions, look at what God can do with your circumstances. What can God do with our pain? Often in these moments God starts to break down walls of protection, selfishness, greed, pride—our independence. In our suffering we become dependent on Jesus, and the result is that our character becomes like his.
Just think—have you ever heard someone say they grew closer to God when life was free, easy and pain-free? The answer is probably never! Suffering is a tool that God uses to get our attention. It is meant to forge our trust in Jesus. Suffering makes us doubt our own abilities and forces us to trust God’s ability.
Suffering starts us on a path where our faith and commitment to God is strengthened; we rely increasingly on his grace. We create bonds with other believers as we lean on them; we build empathy for others. We learn to be thankful and start to believe in God’s unfailing love and goodness as we see his faithfulness through seasons of suffering. After that moment of suffering is over, we often see that our suffering was worth it.
Paul explained this refining process: “We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3-4 NIV).
Praying like Jesus when you are suffering means asking God to show you the truth about your suffering, to keep your heart from being influenced by evil thoughts, and to make your character more like his. He faced suffering head-on and embraced the pain because he knew what lay on the other side—glory. Because of this, when we are suffering, we can be incredibly hopeful for a bright future to come.
QUESTIONS FOR CONTEMPLATION
- How can I learn from what I am facing?
- How should I respond to this?
- Does my response display my faith and a love for God?
- Can God use this moment to grow me?
- Ask God to help you see where he is working.
- Ask God for grace to help you with your pain.
- Ask God to protect you from the enemy’s influence over your thoughts.
- James 1:2-4
- 1 Peter 1:6-9