Christians believe that God is sovereign in the affairs of life and death—no one or nothing is more powerful and absolute. This belief can help us find hope in times of trouble because God’s purposes are never threatened or thwarted by anything… not even suffering. Yet, let’s not confuse such confidence in divine sovereignty with a naive faith. Towards this end, two clarifications are needed.
First, despite a confidence in God’s sovereignty, we must not minimize the pervasive breadth and depth of suffering; to do so is to misunderstand the broken reality of our world. Second, belief in sovereignty cannot be an excuse to ignore injustice or passively accept all suffering as though it were God’s will to never avoid it. In this post, we are concerned with the kind of suffering we can’t avoid. With all this in view, what can we say about Christian suffering?
The Bible teaches that suffering is both part of our Christian calling as well as something from which God saves us (Philippians 1:29; Psalm 54:7). This paradox is the mystery of Christian suffering. So, whether in delivering us from our floods or sustaining us in our storms this is the purpose of suffering—to prove our faith. God wants us to know that regardless our circumstance, he is always enough.
I understand at first glance this seems like a superficial response, but think about it. If as Christians we affirm that nothing is more important than our relationship with God, then a strong faith is our greatest possession. If this really is true then our commitment to a growing faith must become our highest priority. The Apostle Peter similarly said that a mature faith is more precious than gold (I Peter 1:7).
I’ll be the first to admit. When I am in the throes of suffering, “finding a deeper faith” is not always on my radar. So for years, whenever suffering struck, all I usually got out of it was getting through it. What do I mean? How we choose to face suffering affects what we get out of it. If our goal is only to get through it then that is usually all we get. But if we learn to truly wait on God and ask him to show us how to better trust, then our faith grows—our greatest treasure expands!
Over the last five months, we’ve discussed how important holy desperation is for the renewing of our faith and restoring of hope. Regarding suffering, such desperation can motivate us to hold fast to our faith in difficult times. Hopefully, by now we can see how holy desperation is more than just an important idea—it’s a way of life. Next week, we start talking about how to build a lifestyle of holy desperation.
What Do You Think?
Can you identify with the temptation to simply get through suffering rather than actually growing through it? If so, what does “getting through it” look like for you?