Suffering Will Harden or Humble You

I found out last night that one of my neighbors has cancer. He’s going through Chemo-therapy and it sounds like the doctors are hopeful, but your prayers for him are appreciated. I’d rather not share his name, but if you pray for Pastor Mike’s neighbor then I’m pretty sure God will know who you’re talking about 🙂

That conversation made me think about how suffering can either harden your heart or humble you. The great lie, especially for a man who’s still “in his prime,” is that we are in control. Suffering pulls the mask off our weakness so that our weakness is clearly visible to everyone, ourselves included.

What do you do when confronted with the reality of your weakness and lack-of-control? 

Do you shake your fist at God and say “How dare you!” Do you look through your tears and say “Why me?” I’m guessing it’s probably some combination of the two.

But in the midst of the hard questions that you may never have answered, are you able to say, “God, I don’t understand what you’re doing and why you’re doing this, but I trust you and I need you to be my strength?”

Ultimately, Christian suffering finds its hope and meaning through the cross of Jesus Christ. 

He who was innocent (Jesus) suffered for those who were guilty (you and me). We have hope because Jesus not only died, but conquered death.

If Jesus suffered, why do we think we won’t? Do we think a life of comfort is more appealing than a life spent following Christ?

The Christian trusts God’s control, not his own.

We don’t know all the answers. We know some… and we have partial answers to others. But we simply cannot explain why God does some of the things he does. What we do know is that he is good and we can trust him.

The humble heart does not cry out for God to follow our rules, as if God owes us something.

Lament, mourn, and cry out to God with your hard questions. God is not afraid of being challenged by you. He is not intimidated by your shaking fists. You are allowed to question him.

But remember your place. I recently read through the book of Job, where God finally responds to Job’s pleads for an explanation over his suffering (Job 40:7-14):

Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm:

7 “Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.

8 “Would you discredit my justice?
Would you condemn me to justify yourself?
9 Do you have an arm like God’s,
and can your voice thunder like his?
10 Then adorn yourself with glory and splendor,
and clothe yourself in honor and majesty.
11 Unleash the fury of your wrath,
look at all who are proud and bring them low,
12 look at all who are proud and humble them,
crush the wicked where they stand.
13 Bury them all in the dust together;
shroud their faces in the grave.
14 Then I myself will admit to you
that your own right hand can save you.

Here is my prayer for my neighbor:

Heavenly Father,
     In the midst of my friend’s suffering, be his strength and hope. Make yourself known to him and his family. In this time where death is so near, use this season of weakness and uncertainty to give them eternal life through Jesus Christ. Heal and restore him to health. Guide and bless the doctors and nurses who are caring for him and give them great wisdom and skill as they do their life-sustaining, life-healing work.
Give my friend and his family humble hearts, ones that lean into you when they see their weakness. Give them courage and honesty to give voice to their doubts and their questions, and guide them to your Scriptures as the fountain of Truth. And open for me a door through which I may be of service.
AMEN