In a previous post, I discussed three misconceptions about suffering that were directly connected to the character of God: In suffering, God is not absent, nor is He silent. He does not deal in karma. This post will tease out three more rumors that specifically address the lack of hope we sometimes feel in suffering. Dispelling these rumors can restore our hope, even in the midst of our hardship.
Rumor 4: My suffering is meaningless.
I recently made a hospital visit and witnessed a family tell the chaplain to refrain from all “God talk.” A God who would inflict the depths of pain they suffered from was not a God they could believe in. God might place meaning and purpose in a sunset or a salary but definitely not in suffering.
The Scriptures may not offer detailed insight into the reasons for suffering, but they do tell us that we suffer with purpose, even when we can’t see it (1 Pet. 1:6-7, Rom. 5:3-5, Jas 1:2-4). Our God is still at work in the waiting, weeping and worst of times. The disciples didn’t see God’s plan on Good Friday and neither do we. But we have seen Resurrection Sunday, and this allows us to grieve with hope and purpose (1 Thess. 4:13). God is faithful to use the furnace of affliction to make us shine like Jesus Christ.
Rumor 5: My suffering is endless.
There are times when suffering is so persistent that it feels as though it will go on forever. And we rightly cry out, “How long, O Lord?” (Ps. 13). Like Job, we watch our circumstances go from bad to worse. Like the Apostle Paul, we go from shipwrecked to snake bitten.
My grandmother used to commonly echo the mantra, “This too shall pass.” It is sobering to think that eternal suffering only passes for the believer in Christ. This gives us an urgency to plead with those who don’t know Jesus to find reconciliation to God (2 Cor. 5:16-21). For the believer, however, our present suffering is temporary (2 Cor. 4:16-18). Jesus’ tears were temporary, and ours will be, as well. Jesus’ cross was momentary, as is ours. Jesus’ suffering and pain preceded resurrection, and ours will, too (Rev. 21:4).
Rumor 6: My suffering is undeserved.
When suffering comes, we often ask, “Why me?” This rumor is dangerous to our hearts because it incites self-pity and can lead us to think that God is unjust and unrighteous. Because of the Fall, suffering is universal to the human experience. As a pastor once reminded me, a faithful reading of the Bible will challenge us to ask, “Why not me?” In the Scriptures, we find that “all who desire to live a godly life will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12). “Through many tribulations you will enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). We’re also told to “not be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through…” (1 Pet. 4:12). Joseph is sold into slavery. Daniel is thrown to the lions. Hannah is barren. Ruth’s husband dies. David loses his son. Paul is beaten, stoned and shipwrecked. And that list doesn’t even include the trials and suffering of our Savior. If anyone is undeserving of suffering, it’s the perfect Son of God who willingly takes on our punishment so that we might know an eternity without suffering.
The Framework for Dispelling Rumors
Mamma Myrl, my grandmother, had a sharp mind, a giving heart and calloused hands from working in the yard well into her mid-90s. But things changed when she had a stroke. She lived the last year of her life in a nursing home.
The first time I went to visit Mamma Myrl, our redheaded niece, Hadley, had hurt her elbow. Hadley was crying, and when Myrl heard about it, she began to cry too. She then muttered these words, “We are going to get better, aren’t we? God can heal it. He cleans your inside. The past is gone. God is so giving; He gives us everything and He loves us, too.”
We need men and women in our lives like Mamma Myrl. We need people to weep with us, speak the truth of God’s Word to us, stop the rumor mill and drown out the lies with worship. Our God will restore all things—from little girls with scratches to elderly women with strokes. By the sufficient suffering of Christ, rumors about suffering are dispelled, and suffering itself is redeemed. Its time is short, thanks be to God.