We do not like to suffer or hurt or feel pain. And, when we do, we wonder why it is that suffering has visited us. Why has this burden been placed upon our shoulders to endure for who knows how long?
C.S. Lewis, as he watched his wife suffer from the effects of cancer, said,
But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.
If you are suffering, or acquainted with suffering, God is shouting at you. He wants your attention. He wants you to turn away from whatever it is that has your momentary, superficial love and get back to loving him “with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind.”
Jonathan Edwards agrees. In his Religious Affections, Edwards describes the foundation of a true and genuine love for God. He bases his comments on 1 Peter 1 –
6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Based on this scripture, Edwards lays out four ideas for us as we suffer:
1. Pain and suffering is temporary. It is not eternal. It will pass. Yet, it’s okay to grieve, to wonder, to question while we trust in him.
2. God works through pain to purify our faith. Pain is never wasted and serves to turn our focus and attention to Christ. And, in the midst of our suffering, God is always present. He is not indifferent.
3. Suffering produces a trust and faith in Christ alone. There is a purpose in our suffering.
4. When we truly trust in Christ, and rest in him, there is joy that is inexpressible.
My pastor, Mike Lee, has told us that “you’re either in a crisis, about to be in a crisis, or you’re just coming out of a crisis.” So, expect suffering. Expect trials. Expect pain. Instead of yelling at God that the pain and suffering you’re experiencing is not fair, stop and listen to what God wants to say to you through this.